In 1692, the Salem Witch Trials began when a group of girls were discovered dancing in the woods. These trials led to the death of nineteen men and women, one of them being Giles Corey. Arthur Miller discussed these events in his play, The Crucible. In the play, Giles reveals that he was principled, courageous, and determined. Giles Corey was very principled in this play.
Although circumstances did not turn out as he had hoped, he tried to do the right thing by asking the advice of the preacher when he suspected his wife of witchcraft. He went to Reverend Hale and asked, “What signifies the readin’ of strange books? (37) He did not realize that this would lead to her arrest and later death by hanging. Again, he made an effort to do the right thing; this time he was attempting to get Martha and himself out of the mess he had gotten them into.
He went to court with evidence to try to save her and the wives of his friends. Unfortunately, the court needed a witness to verify the evidence. Giles demonstrated himself to be principled yet again by not giving the name of the witness. He did not want to unintentionally send someone to jail again because he felt so guilty about the arrest of his wife.
He told the court, “I will not give you no name. I mentioned my wife’s name once and I’ll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute” (90). Finally, he showed himself to be principled by refusing to give in to the pressures of the court. He did not lie and plead guilty in order to save his life. He refused to give the court the pleasure of seeing another prisoner confess. Instead, he willingly gave up his life for a cause that he strongly believed in. Giles may not have been very concerned with moral issues previous to these events, but he was very principled during the time of the witch trials.
Giles revealed that he was a very courageous man through several different events. Before the trials even started, he proved himself to be courageous by standing up to important people in his town. He took John Proctor to court for publicly speaking against him and Proctor was fined. He also spoke out against Reverend Parris when Parris claimed that the church was not fulfilling their part of the contract. Parris claimed that he was not being paid enough and tried to use the fact that he was a graduate of Harvard to make himself look better. Giles’ sarcastic response was “Aye, and well instructed in arithmetic” (28).
When the trials actually began, he displayed courage by audaciously opposing the court. He ran into the courtroom yelling boldly, not caring how the judges responded to his dramatic entrance. Later, he was threatened with contempt of court. They asked for the name of a man who had evidence, but he refused to give them the name, bravely facing the charge of contempt of court. He could not have known at the time that this would lead to a most painful death. Finally, he showed his courage when he was willing to die in order to benefit his sons.
He could have pled guilty and saved his life. There was also the alternative of pleading innocent, and, although he would have still died by hanging, it would not have been as painful as being pressed to death. However, either of these options would have led to the confiscation of his land by the government. He did not want to die knowing that his sons would not receive their inheritance. Instead, “he would not answer aye or nay to his indictment… he could not be condemned a wizard without he answer the indictment aye or nay” (125).
Giles was courageous earlier in his life, but the Salem Witch Trials brought out of him a boldness he may have not even realized he had. In several ways, Giles was a very determined man, although some may have just considered him stubborn. When Giles went to court, he went in determined to save his wife and others. He refused to give up on them, no matter what happened. This could have partly been a result of his remorse since he had already unintentionally accused his wife of witchcraft. When he first arrived at the court, he went in yelling. He wanted to be sure that the court not only heard him but also listened to what he had to say.
At first, the court tried to make him leave, but Giles refused. Instead, he continued to struggle into the room where they questioned his wife yelling, “I have evidence for the court! Why will you not hear my evidence? ” (78) He did everything in his power to save his wife, refusing to surrender to the court. Later in the trial, he was finally allowed to give his evidence. The evidence proved that Thomas Putnam was accusing people of witchcraft just to get their land. He had a source that could verify it, but that source was too afraid to come in to testify.
When he gave the evidence in court, they said it was not proof because the source was not there to validate it. The court asked for the name of the man but Giles responded, “I cannot give you no name, sir, I cannot” (90). He was very adamant about not giving up on these two innocent people, despite the fact that he could go to jail for contempt of court. In addition, he showed determination when he would not enter a plea. There were probably several reasons why he refused to enter a plea. He did not want his land to go to the government, but to his sons. If he denied the charge they’d hang him surely, and auction off his property” (125).
He also may have thought that if he did not enter a plea then they would not hang him and he would not have to lie to save his life. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Finally, part of his refusal to enter a plea could have been because he was stubborn. He may have been determined to make this refusal to go against the court and make a stand. Giles was very determined, and he generally got what he wanted. His determination was admirable, because he never gave up, no matter what the circumstance.
The Salem Witch Trials ended almost as quickly as they had begun. Prisoners were released, excommunicated church members were allowed back into the church, and the government attempted to compensate the families of the victims for their losses. Unfortunately for Giles Corey, the end of these trials did not come quickly enough. A few months before the trials were over, Giles Corey was pressed to death. The Crucible does show, however, that the events of the last few weeks of his life demonstrated that he was a very principled, courageous, and determined man.