RR2 - Naina Vohra The Reading of Drama Essay #5 15 October...

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Naina Vohra The Reading of Drama Essay #5 15 October 2007 Ritual Gone Wrong Girard states that, “the surrogate victim [of a ritual death] plays the same role on the collective level as the objects the shamans claim to extract from their patients play on the individual level – objects that are then identified as the cause of the illness (303).” The surrogate victim is used in a ritual in order to “purify violence, according to Schechner and Girard. This idea meshes perfectly with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible , in which characters such as Rebecca Nurse, Giles Corey, and John Proctor serve as surrogate victims, such that the court of Salem may prove that they are fighting against the presence of “the Devil.” In Salem we are able to see the effects of several rituals that have gone wrong because of this need to “purify” violence, including the court system, the religious system, and the social structure and norms of the town. Prior to the witch-mania that gripped Salem in 1692, the courts were a symbol of structure and establishment, much like they are today. Even modern Americans rely on the justice system in order to ensure that disorder is handled reasonably, in accordance with the phrase that was pounded into everyone’s brain as a sixth grader learning the Bill of Rights – “the right to a fair trial.” This system worked perfectly (we can assume) in Salem up until the witch-hunts began, when suddenly, instead of being a symbol of steadiness and justice, the court became a vehicle through which hysterical teenagers controlled the town. What, then, caused this drastic transition from fair trials to reckless arrests and executions? When a crisis such as the one in Salem in 1692 occurs, the resulting panic is often
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only calmed by the presence of an authority, and the knowledge that that authority is taking measures to ensure safety and progress against said crisis. Simply put, if the courts didn’t take action, it would make them look bad. Judge Danforth said as much himself, claiming that if he were to pardon or postpone John Proctor’s hanging, it would be a sign of weakness. Unfortunately, the court of Salem was so desperate to take action that it wound up being swept away by the hysteria and revenge of teenage girls. The point is
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RR2 - Naina Vohra The Reading of Drama Essay #5 15 October...

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