by Arthur Miller An Introduction
Contents • Arthur Miller – Biography. • The Salem Witch Hunts • Why did Miller Write “The Crucible”? • McCarthyism • Main Themes of “The Crucible”
Arthur Miller - Biography • Arthur Asher Miller (October 17, 1915 – February 10, 2005). • Miller was an extremely important American playwright, writing a wide variety of plays, such as The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman, which are still studied and performed worldwide. • He was also well-known for receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and for being married to Marilyn Monroe.
The Salem Witch Hunts • “The Crucible” is based on the Salem Witch Hunts • These are a series of events that actually took place in Salem, Massachusetts, in the USA in 1692. • The witch hunts began when a group of girls, dancing in woods near Salem, fell ill. • The highly religious society suspected the illnesses were the result of witchcraft, practised by people in Salem who they believed were worshipping the Devil. • These suspicions gave rise to a flood of accusations of witchcraft. • By August of 1692, nineteen people had been convicted and hanged for witchcraft.
1876 illustration of the courtroom in Salem; the central figure is usually identified as Mary Walcott.
Why did Miller write “The Crucible”? • In the early 1950s (when “The Crucible” was written), the USA was in the middle of a period of intense anti-communist suspicion and persecution. • Arthur Miller was personally a victim of this suspicion, as were many other playwrights, actors, directors and important members of the entertainment industry, such as Charlie Chaplin, Orson Wells and Dashiell Hammet. • Much of this fear was brought about by what we now know as McCarthyism. • Miller was so concerned about McCarthyism that he wrote “The Crucible” as a way of expressing his concerns about it. • Miller saw a lot of similarities between McCarthyism and the Salem witch hunts that took place over 250 years earlier. A 1947 comic book warning of the supposed dangers of a Communist takeover.
McCarthyism • McCarthyism is a term describing the intense anti-communist suspicion that existed in the United States from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. • It is named after Joe McCarthy, a US senator, who was at the front of a campaign to unmask the Communists and Communist sympathisers that he believed were plotting to undermine the country. • Throughout the course of his time as a senator, McCarthy led a series of special committees that attempted to root out Communist sympathisers in the United States. Senator Joe McCarthy
The McCarthyism Game! You are accused of being a communist! Are you a communist? No Yes Are you prepared to name some other people that you know are also communists? No Yes • Jail sentence of up to a year. • Fired from job. • Career ruined. Lenient sentence for cooperating.
The Witch-Hunt Game! You are accused of being a witch! Are you a witch? No Yes Are you prepared to name some other people that you know are also witches? No Yes Death by hanging!
Spot the Similarities You are accused of being a communist! You are accused of being a witch! Are you a communist? No Are you a witch? No Yes Yes Are you prepared to name some other people that you know are also witches? Are you prepared to name some other people that you know are also communists? No No Yes Yes • Jail sentence of up to a year. • Fired from job. • Career ruined. Lenient sentence for cooperating.
Main Themes • The battle between good and evil. • The effects of hysteria. • The abuse of power. • The importance of a person’s reputation • The importance of an individual’s conscience.