The Crucible By Arthur Miller
crucible • A container made of a substance that can resist great heat, for melting, fusing, or calcining ores, metals, etc. • The hollow at the bottom of an ore furnace, where the molten metal collects. • A severe test or trial.
The setting and context • Salem, Massachusetts • Spring 1692
Actual setting and context • Washington, D.C. • 1950s • The “Red Hunt” or “Red Scare”
An obvious parallel • Salem, Mass. good Puritans look for others in town who may be communing with the devil. The hunt is on. • Washington, D.C. McCarthy looks for communists amongst us. The hunt is on.
An obvious parallel • Puritans accuse other Puritans of witchcraft. • Americans accuse other Americans of communism.
An obvious parallel • The accused are shunned in town, interrogated, blacklisted, and hanged. • The accused are shunned in town, interrogated, blacklisted, and put into jails.
Reminders about Puritanism • Religion is a personal, inner experience. • Humans are wicked by nature, and most are marked for damnation. • A chosen few can be saved through the grace of God. • Hard work and worldly success are signs of God’s grace. • Education is essential in order to read the Word of God.
Remember • Puritanism was about “purifying” the church. • This “purification” spread into many aspects of life. • Puritans became unpopular in England and they left for religious freedom.
A Puritan life • Simple clothes • Men run the house and make all decisions • Children are dutiful and obedient • Go to Church weekly, records are kept • No work on Sundays • Bible is law • No entertainment: dancing, theater, reading for pleasure, or Christmas
Remember • Puritanism is part of the Age of Faith. • Puritanism may not seem logical to modern people. • The Witch Trials really happened, but Arthur Miller has dramatized the events to entertain us, and teach us.
The basic plot • Young girls are dancing in the forest and are seen. • When the girls try to explain their actions they begin lying. • To save themselves they accuse others of witchcraft.
Witchcraft: fact + fiction • In Europe in the 15th-17th C. many were accused of witchcraft and executed. • This fear spread to the colonies. • The Church believed that the devil contracted with people and they signed their names in his book. • These people were then vessels for evil and would do the devil’s work.
Proof of Witchcraft • The testimony of another witch “I saw her with the devil!” • A common belief or accusation of people who lived with the suspected witch. • Cursing or fighting followed by mischief. • A devil’s mark, birthmark, etc. • The person contradicts himself/herself when questioned.
The penalty of witchcraft • Admit you are communing with the devil and you are hanged. • Don’t admit you are communing with the devil and you are hanged. • Say others are communing with the devil and you save yourself.
Payback • Since accusations of witchcraft are severe, many characters act on grudges. • Keep in mind that the purifiers aren’t always pure. • There are numerous issues involved in the accusations.
Salem Politics • Church and State are combined. • Judicial judgments are based on religious judgments.
John Proctor- the antihero • good farmer • decent Puritan • adulterer
Abigail Williams- the antagonist • Liar • Manipulator • Bully • Stays with the Reverend • Controls the girls