Mass hysteria can be defined as a condition in which a large group of people exhibits similar physical or emotional symptoms, usually stemming from fear or anger. In order for it to be called mass hysteria, the symptoms must be completely pervasive throughout the whole society. The Salem witch trials are often thought of as a simple case of epidemic hysteria, yet this was not the case. The witchcraft trials of Salem village were perpetuated because of other circumstances rather than hysteria.
In order for mass hysteria to be proven and indicated, most if not all of the people of a certain area should be in fact â€œhystericalâ€. However, not everyone in Salem bonded himself or herself to the idea of witchcraft. A large amount of people saw witchcraft as blasphemy, unfeasible, and contrary to common sense. These people often did not speak out against witchcraft until it was too late. The men and women who supported the existence of devilish pastimes held much more clout in the courtroom, and could accuse anyone of being a witch. The mere idea of no one being safe struck fear into villagersâ€™ hearts. Such villagers who denied the existence of witchcraft had no power during this time period, and tried to maintain a low profile for fear of accusation.
Certain villagers of Salem used the pretense of witchcraft and its laws to fulfill their own personal agenda. Often people accused other people solely on the basis of greed, envy, and revenge. Land disputes from many years past created bitter rivalries within the village. Hatred that previously lay dormant was awakened once again. When the witchcraft trials were started, many people saw this as a way to seek revenge against someone who wronged them in the past. These accusations created by means of personal vendetta reflect a methodical, conscious act of the ruinations of others, which is contrary to mass hysteria.
Salem village was a Puritanical settlement that lay in the colony of Massachusetts.