There’re moments in life in which appreciation simply cannot be thwarted, try as Life might.
Today has been the Greater Boston area’s first real taste of fall, a forty-degree recess that seems to cool not just the sweltering landscape, but burning souls as well. That stack of work piling ever higher? Crack open the office window and laugh as the breeze pushes papers across your desk. Stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, a nameless worker-bee in the mass exodus from the hive? Take a look beyond the overpass at the trees, all showing off their summer’s-end sunburns of red and yellow and orange. Finally home and having trouble sloughing off the day’s worth of stress?
Over the course of the last week or so I’ve been rereading Arthur Miller’s quasi-historical The Crucible in preparation to teach it. I had forgotten the density and poignancy of the play — Miller’s work is pretty much a head-on condemnation of our current power structure, criticizing the fact that it is based on racism, sexism, paranoia, religiously justified oppression and the process of othering.
Of course, I’m going to have to water down all of these ideas as I attempt to present them to a body of fifteen-year-olds who couldn’t care less. And while I abhor the concept of compromising sick ideas, I am willing to do so as long as I keep a promise to myself. No matter how little interest these teenagers show, I am going to ensure that they walk away from The Crucible knowing one thing for sure:
Giles Corey is the motherfucking man.
In true, historically-verified terms, Giles was an old-ass man accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. When you think of him, think of that bad-ass geezer who isn’t afraid to speak his mind or take a stand. In Arthur Miller’s words, “Giles Corey, eighty-three…He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful.”
According to Puritan Law, any man who would not plead either guilty or innocent to an accusation could not be tried in court. Giles refused to plead innocent because he didn’t want to subject himself to an unjust trial and he wouldn’t plead guilty because he wasn’t a goddamn witch. In such instance, the Puritan authorities would lay a suspect on his back and then place as much weight on him as required to elicit a plea (thereby justifying a trial).
But Giles never succumbed to the (literal) pressure. Subjected to this torture for days, Corey never issued a statement regarding the accusation of witchcraft. Elizabeth Proctor from The Crucible clarifies:
He were not hanged. He would not answer aye or nay to his indictment; for if he denied the charge they’d hang him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm. It is the law, for he could not be condemned a wizard without he answer the indictment, aye or nay.
In fact, the only words slipping out his mouth during the entire endeavor were “More weight.” Giles Corey is the definitive old-man bad-ass.
Found below are a campy recreation of Giles’ fatal pressing and the music video for Unearth’s Giles.