The movie, Three Sovereigns for Sarah, and the essay, “The Witches of Salem Village” by Kai Erickson, are informative works depicting the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Both of the works give psychological interpretations of a society torn apart by class, jealousy, and religion. The trials resulted from a climate of repression, religious intolerance, and social hierarchy combined with fanaticism and the oppression of women.
Three Sovereigns for Sarah gives a good interpretation of the actual events that happened during the Salem Witch Trials. When a person views the movie, the person is able to see the emotions of the people who were involved. The viewer is able to see the look of agony of the accused and the tormented faces of their families after the accusations. From viewing the movie you understand how adults could be fooled by the afflicted children’s antics. It makes you feel disgusted towards the children that are afflicted because they seem to show no remorse towards the horrible actions taken because of their testimony. In some ways the viewer feels sad for Ann Putnam Sr. because of her inability to act mature when it comes to the fact that she acted just as childish as the afflicted children. Her actions of accusing innocent men, women, and children just because of ancient land disputes seemed to prove just how juvenile she was.
The movie shows the viewer how Salem had a fear of different religions, other than Christianity. The Puritans of New England, during the time that the Salem Witch Trials were held, were very strict about the way they lived their lives. They wanted to make their lives pure, so they had no lightness in their lifestyle, and no humor. The movie depicts how the children were taught to read and write by the Bible. The colonists went to church frequently because they felt that this was the right thing to do because God wanted them to. Their Meeting House had no altar and any art of any kind was prohibited because it was thought that it would be a distraction in the process of learning about God. The men and women were separated on either sides of the room so that they would not distract one another. The movie shows that people who owned more land were permitted to sit in the front of the church, while people of lesser importance sat in the back or stood up. In Three Sovereigns for Sarah you can see that the girls who started the witchcraft hysteria are standing in the back, which meant that they were of lesser importance in the community.
The lives that the young girls lived seemed to be so boring that anything would make it better. This is why Tituba became such an important person in the trials. She was the slave of Parris’ that showed the girls of the village the art of Voodoo. Voodoo became interesting to them because nothing in their lives was interesting. From what Tituba taught them, they came up with the accusations that the spirits of the accused were torturing them. During the trials, this was called “spectral evidence”. Twenty people died because of their accusations. Nineteen people were hanged and one person was pressed to death. Three of the accused people were Rebecca Nurse, Mary Este, and Sarah Cloyce. These three women were sisters. Rebecca Nurse and Mary Este were hanged because the afflicted girls accused them of witchcraft. Sarah Cloyce was going to be hanged but she spent a year imprisoned instead. She was eventually released, and given three sovereigns for herself and each of her sisters. The sovereigns cleared her name and her sister’s names of witchcraft.
The essay, “ The Witches of Salem Village”, by Kai Erikson, is also a good depiction of the Salem Witch Trials, but you don’t feel the same sympathy towards the characters as you do in Three Sovereigns for Sarah. “The Witches of Salem Village”, tells the reader what was going on in the time that the trials were going on. Erikson gives the reader a brief description of the trials and tells of the actions that the girls took when they chose each person that they accused of witchcraft. He provides the reader with testimony given by the accused and