hung by neck or reputation


I cried at my community theater's production of The Crucible last night. It was well-acted and powerful, not just in it's literal story of the Salem witch trials in 1692, but in its implications to other times and places.

One of themes running through the play is that you could be convicted of being a witch by the authorities finding sins of omission in your life. And convictions in this play meant being hanged. The commandments are not memorized. You only attended church 17 times in the last two years.

Another theme was the supposed innocence of accusers. Young girls going into believable frenzies and saying that certain people were "sending their spirits to hurt them". Only a few questions asked of the accusers in contrast with the many asked of the accused. Dangerous territory, as you might imagine. Innocence needed proving, guilt was implied.

The only way out of a death sentence was a confession. Those were your options and that was it. As the male lead was being falsely accused of being a warlock by a scorned lover, he decided to confess, falsely, in order to stay alive and be with his pregnant wife and his children. At the last minute, once he realizes his confession is to be nailed to the church door, he tears it up and is led to the gallows. His wife never asks him to lie. She continually tells him to do what he feels he must. And so this man, along with an elderly saintly woman, is the final victim of the trials.

I looked over at my husband and asked what he would have done. Would he have given a false confession in order to live with me and the children until we were old and until he died a natural death? I would hang. I couldn't live with myself knowing I had lied like that. And then he added, as if to soften the blow, Sorry, baby.

Powerful, powerful stuff. And little did my husband know that he gave the answer I wanted.

6 comments

Heather | November 22, 2008 at 9:43 AM

Do you know if many accused people at the time just packed up and ran away? That's my inclination.

Heidi Ashworth | November 22, 2008 at 12:13 PM

I think running away would be just as bad as being hung. They lived pretty much in the wilderness at the time and there wasn't a lot of support outside of your community (how would you live?) I was watching a program about the Salem Witch Trials just the other day--it was so very sad. This same thing happened all over Europe for 200 years. One village in Germany burned 600 people--there were virtually no women left. Honor meant more to the people at that time (as well as reputation) than they do to our general society today which is why Bishop Burton's answer was so very special. (In my humble opinion though I haven't been too humble lately, have I? yikes)

Mrs4444 | November 22, 2008 at 3:07 PM

You both sound like keepers. :)

rach | November 22, 2008 at 9:39 PM

I agree - it'd be too hard to live with the lie. You're a deep thinker - I like that! Sounds like a great play.

Emily Chipman | November 23, 2008 at 11:15 PM

How great that you saw twilight at mid night you are so cool! no disrespect to the crucible just have Twilight on the brain.

LisAway | November 24, 2008 at 12:26 PM

I really need to get my hands on a copy of that play. I haven't read it since high school at which point all I got out of the stuff we read was "DEPRESSING!" Okay, not all, but that was definitely the theme and I didn't appreciate some of the works like I should.

I cried in this post. Real tragedy.