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Humanties The Archetype for Subsequent Trial Examinations Discussion

Humanties The Archetype for Subsequent Trial Examinations Discussion


Witch or Wit: A Defense Against the Supernatural

The extract that you are about to read is from Cotton Mather’s Wonders of the Invisible World.  Cotton Mather, the court reporter at the Salem Witch Trials, transcribed the depositions of the accusers against, in this case, Bridget Bishop, one of the first woman accused of witchcraft. Bridget was ultimately hanged on June 10, 1692.  All in all, 19 individuals were hanged (15 of which were women), and one man was “pressed” to death making a total of 20.

As we move into the Enlightenment, or the “Age of Reason”, I would like to see you apply your “enlightened”, logical, 18th century approach to accusations based on supernatural explanations as applied to events and phenomena from earlier, less scientifically enlightened eras.

PROMPT: Your assignment is to act as Bishop’s defense lawyer (feel free to play the role in your writing) and are tasked with writing rebuttals (discredit the testimony) against three of the testimonies presented at the trial and getting her out of the noose, so to speak!  

Based on close study of the Testimonies by the Accusers of Bridget Bishop (open attachment below), and through a bit of research into the times (click “Background” link below), you will present a “case” and argue against three (3) of the testimonies of the Accusers by attempting to logically explain away the supernatural events (witchcraft!) and provide naturalistic, and reasonable explanations or probable alternate scenarios (you aren’t allowed to just make stuff up!), explanations, and motivations for these events and accusations specifically targeting Bridget Bishop as the cause and with witchcraft as the means. 

You might take into account:

Bishop’s personal history and interactions as suggested by the testimonies

social and religious issues and prejudices

economic factors

psychological aspects

For example, in one testimony it is stated that an “invisible demon” detached a piece of wood from the wall and threw it across the room–You might ask, “how can one see a “demon” if it is “invisible”, or, in the testimony of Deliverance Hobbs about a “diabolical sacrament of bread and wine”, might be a Catholic taking of communion, something of which Puritans severely disapproved–religious intolerance? … and so forth. 

Consider: What might some of these people have to gain if Bishop is convicted?   Also, why did women make up the vast majority of those accused?  Besides blatant inequality and misogyny, what other circumstance might make women more prone to these accusations?

Tryal of Bridget Bishop -Testimonies-1.pdf

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