The Crucible “America claims to be a country of diversity, of religious and cultural freedom, when in actuality, we often hate, persecute, and eventually destroy what is different”
Arthur Miller 1915-2005 • One of the most well known and critically acclaimed American playwrights • Got into a lot of trouble with the government for writing The Crucible • Due to this, he was denied a passport and was not allowed to leave the country • At one time, was married to Marilyn Monroe
Historical Context • Witchcraft hysteria & trials were frequent in 16th & 17th Century Europe • 1692 Salem, Massachusetts • In Salem, 100 people were imprisoned and 19 were hung • Four more died in prison and one man was pressed to death • The accusations were started by a group of young girls who claimed that witches were sending spirits to pinch, stab, and suffocate them
Historical Context • The people of Salem began to accuse one another out of fear of being accused themselves • Others took advantage of the opportunity to accuse their neighbors for personal gain or revenge • The only way to avoid being hung was to confess guilt and give the names of other “witches” • The 20 who were executed simply maintained their innocence, refused to confess, and would not name others
Historical Context II • McCarthyism & the “Red Scare” • It has never been illegal to belong to the communist party, but communists have always been hated by U.S. establishment • From 1947-1956, many people of liberal political views were forced to testify before the “House Un-American Activities Committee” • Many people were accused of being “Un-American” and black listed, which meant they were not permitted to work
Historical Context II • Many people chose to “sell out” and accuse other people to avoid being black listed • Some courageous people pointed out that it is against the First Amendment for the government to inquire into a citizen’s political affiliations • They refused to answer questions or name others and were thrown in jail • Miller wrote The Crucible during this time as a criticism of society’s tendency to “witch hunt” • For writing it, he was accused of being a Communist himself and called before the Committee
Themes • Intolerance—Those who were “different” in Salem were not tolerated…are things any different today? • Mob Mentality—This occurs when individual thought is replaced by group thought and everyone just goes along with the crowd, no matter how absurd the crowd may be • Reputation—Like us, many people in Salem were motivated by what others thought of them or said about them • Narrow Mindedness—Seeing things only in black and white and as good or evil is a dangerous way to look at the world
Read Miller’s Prologue on pgs. 830-832 • What type of person is Rev. Parris described as? • What types of “entertainment” were not permitted in Salem? Which social gathering was permitted? • What job did the two man patrol carry out? • How did the Puritans view the land around them? • What does Miller mean when he says “They believed they held the candle that would light the world?” • How did some members of Salem take advantage of the Witch Trials for personal gain?