The movie is based on the play which, itself, does not pretend to be 100% accurate. Even today no one knows the exact reason why the events at Salem took place the way they did. There is no doubt that there was some personal animosity involved, and a strong desire to take over land belonging to other people. The lifestyle was very, very restricted which was, without a doubt, very difficult on the young people of the village.
Why only the young women were involved is unknown. Whether they were just doing what they did to get attention, whether they had some kind of chemical in the food they ate (corn ergot is mentioned), or whether it was something else that caused them to behave the way they did is unknown.
The situation in Salem must be considered in relation to the European witch craze and trials where many died. About 85% of those killed were female. The exact number killed is unknown, with numbers having a very wild range. The lowest figure is around 50,000 or so. The highest figure for those killed as witches is around 9 million. In both Europe and Salem the old and the misfits were targeted. Personal grudges were very possibly involved.
The movie shows how easily the adults believed that the girls were being attacked by something evil. Tituba, the black slave, was an easy target for accusation. The behavior of the girls during the trial was pretty much as actually described. The stoning to death of the one man was as described in the records.
Winona does a good job playing the leader of the girls and the rejected would-be lover of one of the males of the area. It's a good movie about a very dark time in our history.
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