The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson

The Witchcraft of Salem Village by Shirley Jackson

Author:Shirley Jackson [Jackson, Shirley]
Language: eng
Format: epub, pdf
ISBN: 978-0-307-77988-5
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Published: 2011-02-01T16:00:00+00:00

The sensational aspects of the examination of Rebecca Nurse did much to overshadow the very brief examination which immediately followed hers. Dorcas Goode, daughter of Sarah Goode, was questioned for no more than a few minutes before being sent to join her mother in prison on suspicion of witchcraft. Dorcas occupies a unique position in the history of Salem Village witchcraft. She was not quite five years old.

The constable held little Dorcas in his arms during her examination, and Judge Hathorne made little attempt to question a child obviously unable to understand more than a fraction of what he said. Ann Putnam, Mary Walcott, and Mercy Lewis accused Dorcas of biting and choking them. When a sudden doubt swept the audience, as it did to those who glanced from Dorcas’s tiny hands to the strong solid throats of Ann and Mary and Mercy, the girls screamed further. Little Dorcas was even now sticking pins into them, they yelled. And indeed the pins were found—very lightly inserted—just where the girls insisted that Dorcas had come in apparition and put them. As a result, five-year-old Dorcas joined her mother in prison.

* * *

Once Rebecca Nurse and Dorcas Goode had been condemned as witches, there was no reason for the afflicted girls to hesitate in naming anyone else. For a court which could condemn to prison a religious old woman and a five-year-old child upon the evidence offered by the girls could be relied upon for any absurdity. The people of the village, however, were more reluctant. The condemnation of Rebecca Nurse had worried a good many people and angered many more. No one dared to defy the court and the afflicted girls upon the question of witchcraft itself, but the family of Rebecca Nurse was aroused, and doubts of her guilt were being openly announced.

At this point the people came to meeting on the following Sunday to find that instead of Mr. Parris they were to hear a visiting clergyman named Deodat Lawson who was noted for the violence of his sermons. Mr. Lawson arrived in Salem Village with a good sermon already prepared, and within a few minutes after his arrival was visited at Ingersoll’s inn by Mary Walcott, who fell into a fit at the sight of him. Her attendants explained to Mr. Lawson that the fit was caused by the extreme fear he inspired in the witches who tormented her. This horrible experience so unsettled Mr. Lawson that he retired to rewrite his sermon, to make it more emphatic. The result—which he delivered in the Salem Village pulpit on Sunday morning—was so eloquent that the sermon was printed and sold not only in Massachusetts but in the whole of New England and, finally, in England.

Mr. Lawson told the unhappy Salem Villagers in the most graphic terms that their sins had brought this great plague upon them. “Your sin will find you out,” he told them. “You shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and doomed to those endless, easeless, and remediless torments prepared for the devil and his angels.


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