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MHS Library | The Crucible

About 'The Crucible'

The Crucible examines the witch hunts that took place in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. When he wrote it, Arthur Miller was already a successful playwright. The play also subtly refers to the 'communist witch hunts' in the USA in the 1950s.

The context of 'The Crucible'

During the 17th century in Salem, Massachusetts, there really were witch huntsvery much like those depicted in this play. Early settlers in North America had fled from religious persecution in England and other European countries but this did not make them more tolerant. They were very intense about religious purity. By modern standards we might call them religious fanatics. They were very intolerantof 'alternative viewpoints.'  (Source: BBC GCSE Bite-Size)

The Crucible. A play by Arthur Miller

"I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history," Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, "Political opposition... is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence."

WIth an introduction by Christopher
Bigsby. (Source: Goodreads)

Arthur Miller: parallels to today


Check out the 'logic' in this Monty Python scene

The Crucible - full film



1:58:15 Stars Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder.

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