The Crucible by Arthur Miller Background information REVIEW
fact vs. Fiction Arthur Miller’s The Crucible tells the story of the Salem witchcraft trials. He took a historical true event and fictionalized it for the stage (it’s a play). Some details have been changed; he used artistic freedom to make the story fit for his purposes, so everything in the play is NOT historically accurate.
Hints as to Why Miller wrote the play. . . • Arthur Miller wrote the play right in the middle of the "Red Scare" during the 1950’s. • Throughout this time, America was overwhelmed with concerns about communism
Senator Joe McCarthy • Senator Joe McCarthy • believed that communists were taking over the US government • can be blamed for starting the Red Scare. • He took advantage of people’s fear and concerns about Communism and made a public accusationthat more than two hundred communists had infiltrated the United States government.
His accusations were investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), an anti-Communist organization • Eventually his accusations were proven untrue and he was censured (scolded) by the Senate • HOWEVER his actions started a “witch hunt” and many people suffered
McCarthyism • This turned into McCarthyism - the paranoidhunt for communists • It was most difficult on writers and entertainers • Some had their passports taken away • Others were jailed for refusing to give the names of other communists • The trials were well publicized & destroyed careers with a single unfounded accusation
If they admitted even to sympathizing with the communists, it was demanded that they give up the names of anyone they knew who was involved in "un-American" activities. • Congress issued punishments to those who refused to do what they wanted. • In all, 320 artists were blacklisted, and for many of them this meant the end of exceptional and promising careers.
Blacklisted • When people are blacklisted, it means that they are put on a list of individuals and organizations which have been singled out as deserving some sort of denial or punishment • It is assumed that they deserve such treatment because of their behavior, in this case, being Communist or sympathizing with Communists
Singing like a canary. . . • Arthur Miller saw cowardice up close. • Several of his friends and colleagues admitted to having communist sympathies and named otherswho shared their politics. • They had reason to fear for their careers since witnesses who did not cooperate with the committee could expect to lose their jobs.
When Miller himself was eventually called to face HUAC, he refused to give up names of others. • He was found guilty of contempt; his career was severely affected. • He lost potential screenwriting jobs, and groups such as the American Legion protested when his plays were produced.
Lasting Effects • Afterwards, Arthur Miller symbolized the nature of the “Red Scare” in his play, The Crucible – except in the play, people are accused of being witches instead of communists • Arthur Miller died on February 10, 2005 at the age of 89. • McCarthyism is now a term used to describe the making of accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence
The Connection:Life in the 50s. . . • People thought that there were communists hiding everywhere (like people thought witches were everywhere in the 1600s). • They thought that they were doing the right thing to find the communists and get rid of them. • They thought that the communists wanted to overthrow the US government.
Did Joe McCarthy really believe this? OR • Was he trying to take revenge on people he didn’t like? Arthur Miller believed the latter (which explains his characters’ motivations in The Crucible)
crucible There are two definitions for the word “crucible” • a container made to withstand severe heat • a severe test or trial
Miller uses this concept to describe Salem in 1692. • As accusations of witchcraft inflamed the community, many otherwise decent people were “tested” and lost their moral bearings. • Neighbor denounced neighbor, family and friends betrayed each other, and men in positions of authority abused the public trust.
Puritans • In the 1600s, Puritans felt as strongly about religion as Americans felt about politics in the 1950s • They feared the devil and witches like we feared communists.
PURITANS • When they came to America, they wanted purity, but instead became caught up in a hysteria over the existence of witches. • They had been persecuted in England, but they persecuted each other during this hysteric time.
Characters • John Proctor (main character) hasn’t been attending church on a regular basis and seems to pose a threat to the authority of those in charge. • Goody Osborne convicted partly because she can’t remember the Ten Commandments.
Some facts about the witchcraft trials • Most of those accused were women. • Some were without family and this made them easy targets. • They were people who did not fit in with the mainstream for some reason. • They were people who others might WANT to get rid of
The Witches One of the ways most witches were accused was with the use of “spectral evidence.” A “specter” is a ghost or spirit. You could say that you saw someone else’s spirit with the devil, or in your room at night hurting you, or even flying around the courtroom, and that testimony would be accepted as evidence. The court would believe that whosever spirit it was, that person was obviously a witch.
Why were they Really accused? REASON 1: Differing neighborhoods Scholars have noted significant differences between the accused and the accusers in Salem. Victims lived to the south and accusers lived in the northern part of the village. * Perhaps they were just in different cliques or social groups?
REASON 2: Money/Property In a number of cases, accusing families stood to gain property from the convictions of those they accused. Those who were accused were generally better off financially * Perhaps the accusers just accused the wealthy people out of jealousy or because they wanted their money
REASON 3: Debate Also, the accused and the accusers generally took opposite sides in a debate that had split the Salem community before the outbreak of hysteria. Some people took part in replacing the old minister of Salem (they forced him out). There were generally the accusers. Those who were accused of witchcraft generally supported the old minister * Perhaps the accusers were holding a grudge against those who supported the old minster
The Divide ACCUSERS • Lived in the North • Less wealthy • Hated former minister VICTIMS • Lived in the South • More wealthy • Supported former minster
The conclusion that many scholars draw from these patterns is that property disputes and congregational feuds played a major role in determining who lived, and who died, in 1692.(no actual witchcraft) Bridget Bishop "I am no witch.I am innocent.I know nothing of it."
Bystander Effect Most of the town's residents were simply silent bystanders to the injustice being perpetrated. If they spoke out against false accusations, they risked becoming targets of suspicion themselves.
Remember • It’s almost impossible to realize the power of religion in this society – they GENUINELY believed this stuff was real • Witches were a real threat and danger in the Puritan mind. Not a joke to them. • Setting – surrounded by wilderness – they were taming the land, yet danger was all around physically and spiritually
After the witchhunt • By the time the witch hunt ended, nineteen convicted witches were executed at least four accused witches had died in prison, and one man had been pressed to death. • About one to 200 other persons were arrested and imprisoned on witchcraft charges. • Two dogs were executed as suspected accomplices of witches. http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SAL_ACCT.HTM
The Allegory • A story with a symbolic meaning used to teach a moral or principle • The Salem witch hunt in the 1690s symbolizes the communist witch hunt in the 1950s • While pointing out how ridiculous the witch hunt was in Salem, Arthur Miller was REALLY criticizing the Red Scare and the ridiculous hunt for communists
While watching and reading • While watching the film • Pay attention! No sleeping or talking or doing other work • While reading • Follow along and pay attention!! – There will be quizzes on every scene we read! • Sign out a book and reread at home if you do not understand what is going on when we read in class
Sources • http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SAL_ACCT.HTM • http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=27 Selected images: http://www.law.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/salem/SAL_PHO.HTM