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Transcripts from the Salem Witch Trials: A Re-enactment

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Assignment: On October 6-9, each group will be responsible for presenting in dramatic form one of the actual transcripts (listed below) from the Salem Witchcraft trials.  Each group should present a brief introduction to the person or case before enacting the interrogation of the accused.  You will probably want to assign parts: one person gives the introduction, one acts as the accused, and the rest act as accusers and judges. If you wish, you can assign one person to talk about the process, or to sum up these ideas when we discuss all the presentations as a class. 

Think about these questions when preparing your presentation:

  • By what logical or rhetorical strategies did the accusers seek to make their case? 
  • What strategies did the accused use to defend themselves? 
  • How did each respond to the other's remarks? What emotions do you see reflected in the words?
  • How did each side attempt to use Biblical or theological authority to bolster its position? 
  • How did significant words such as "covenant" and "book" shift meanings? How did common objects, animals, or actions become transmuted into "evidence"?
  • In exploring background material on each person, what evidence did you find that issues of class, race, or gender affected the outcome of the trial or the accused's response?
  • What evidence in the testimony might have accounted for some of the people being executed and some being spared?

The examination sections themselves are quite short, so you may, if you wish, choose to present an additional piece of testimony from the cases of these people. 

You can find the transcripts at the University of Virginia site:

October 6
Susannah Martin 1.Katie Weber
2.Sara Becker
3.Morgen Flowers
4.Sarah Johnson
Rebecca Nurse 1.Robin
2. Larissa
Martha Carrier 1.____________________________
Bridget Bishop  (Second Version) 1.Jennifer Paluck 
2. Erin Kunkel
3. Hannah Wood
4. Crystal Bale
October 9
George Burroughs
Mary Wolcott's testimony against George Burroughs
Tituba (Second Examination) 1. Kristan Seemel
2. S. Wiest
3. Liz Hanley
4. Ryan Nordlund
John Willard 1.Kim Morgan
2.Danielle Sanders
3.Ben Lyman
4. Ann Mitchke
Giles Corey. (Note: Corey refused to testify and was pressed to death by stones placed on his body.  See the accusations of several witnesses and this letter to Judge Samuel Sewall to reconstruct his case.  1.Christy Quevedo
2. Meliah Thomas
3.Katy Harris
4. Daniel Wessman

Sites for Research

  • See the extensive bibliography on witchcraft compiled by Jeffrey Merrick (U. Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and Richard M. Golden (University of North Texas) Booth, Sally Smith. The Witches of Early America. New York: Hastings House, 1975. BF 1573 B 66
  • Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum. Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974. BF 1576 B6
  • Boyer, Paul, and Stephen Nissenbaum, eds. Salem Village Witchcraft. Northeastern, 1993.
  • Demos, John. Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft And The Culture Of Early New England. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.
  • Hansen, Chadwick. Witchcraft at Salem. New York: Braziller, 1969.
  • Hoffer, Peter Charles. The Devil's Disciples: Masters of the Salem Witchcraft Trials. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1996.
  • Karlsen, Carol F. The Devil in the Shape of a Woman: Witchcraft in Colonial New England. New York: Vintage, 1987. BF 1576 K37 1989.
  • Rosenthal, Bernard. Salem Story: Reading the Witch Trials of 1692. New York: Cambridge U P, 1993.
  • Starkey, Marion L. The Devil in Massachusetts. 1949. Reprint. New York: Anchor, 1989.

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