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The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible (original 1953; edition 2003)

by Arthur Miller

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10,188100282 (3.66)205
Title:The Crucible
Authors:Arthur Miller
Info:Penguin Classics (2003), Edition: 1, Paperback, 143 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller (1953)

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I wasn't planning on reading Arthur Miller's play The Crucible, but when our daughter Teresa was recently cast in the role of Elizabeth for her final high school play, I wanted to reacquaint myself with the story. I'm pretty sure it was assigned reading for me in high school, but I don't remember if I actually read it or not. Now that I've finished it, I can't wait to see it performed on stage. I was caught up in the story from beginning to end, and found it both unsettling and powerful.

Written in 1953 as an allegory of McCarthyism, The Crucible is a fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials around the year 1692. The story begins quickly and dramatically, and as the tragedy unfolds it's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. You know what's coming, but you can't do anything to stop it.

It's sad to say, but the issues The Crucible addresses are still relevant today, perhaps now more than ever. Christopher Bigsby writes in the introduction to the Penguin edition,

It was as an allegory of our times that Miller seized upon it, and though it was to be the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the House Un-American Activities Committee that seemed to offer the most direct parallel, he...recognized other parallels, in a war then only four years behind them, for the Nazis, too, had their demons and deployed a systematic pseudo-science to identify those they regarded as tainted and impure.

The Crucible shows us the extent to which our fears and hysteria can lead to tragedy for those who are regarded as "tainted and impure" by those in power. This is not a problem for only one political party or ideology. It is a temptation for all in power, whether religious or secular, male or female, conservative or liberal.

From the publisher:
One of the true masterpieces of twentieth-century American theater, The Crucible brilliantly explores the threshold between individual guilt and mass hysteria, personal spite and collective evil. It is a play that is not only relentlessly suspenseful and vastly moving, but that compels readers to fathom their hearts and consciences in ways that only the greatest theatre can.

If you've never read it, give The Crucible a try. And if you last read it in high school or college, it may be time for a reread. You may be disturbed, but I doubt you'll be disappointed. ( )
  nsenger | Mar 29, 2017 |
Great read for Tenth grade. This play is intriguing to high school students due to the witch trials within the story, but the themes presented are invaluable. The battle between choosing to protect one's integrity over one's reputation is the biggest theme within the play and is reflected in several of the characters. ( )
  alexishartline | Feb 5, 2017 |
I really liked this in high school and college. Now that I'm teaching it, I guess I don't feel as strongly about it one way or another. I can only hope that my students like it as much as I did. ( )
  beckyrenner | Dec 29, 2016 |
Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", written during the Red Scare, at a time when America was in a mass hysteria over the fear of communism, is about the Salem Witch Trials that took place in the 1600s. His plot describes the framing and execution of innocent people by their despicable neighbors. Ironically, the trials and framings centered on religion! Those who didn't regularly go to mass or didn't strictly follow the puritan beliefs were seen as working with the devil. In order to cleanse the community, witches were executed, except of course if they confessed their evil ways.

The play centers around teenager Abigail Williams and her scandalous affair with John Proctor, who is married to Elizabeth. When John broke off the affair, Abigail decided to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft. What followed was many accusations of dealing with the devil by many neighbors, commencing the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Those who wouldn't admit to this made-up crime were tried and hung, Those who confessed to the false accusation were spared their life, although their reputations were tarnished, Both Elizabeth and John Proctor are arrested, and both insisted they were innocent. John was about to sign a waiver claiming he did in fact make a deal with the devil, but stopped himself right before. He chose his pride and dignity over his life.

I found this historical fiction play beyond creepy. It was intriguing, somewhat disturbing, and I would definitely recommend it. I learned a lot about this unnerving time in history, and felt it painted a great picture of the dull 1600s in Massachusetts. However, if you are afraid of witches, spirits, or anything dealing with devil, I warn you to read at your own risk! ( )
  mattflem15 | Nov 8, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Arthurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Watts, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wood, E. R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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A small upper bedroom in the home of Reverend Samuel Parris, Salem, Massachusetts, in the spring of the year 1692.
A Note on the Historical Accuracy of This Play

This play is not history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian.
PROCTOR: I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.
PARRIS: There is a party in this church. I am not blind; there is a faction and a party.

PROCTOR: Against you?
PUTNAM: Against him and all authority.
PROCTOR: Why, then I must find it and join it.
PARRIS. Why could there not have been poppets hid where no one ever saw them?

PROCOTR. There might also be a dragon with five legs in my house, but no one has ever seen it.
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Arthur Miller's, The Cucible, is a play that is based on the tragic event in history of the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Presenting the themes of right and wrong, truth and decit, and prejudice and accepance, The Crucible causes its readers to reflect on their own morals and standards along with informing them of a terrible moment in America's past where many innocent people lost their lives. I really enjoyed this book; and the ideas and challenges it presents seem to be very valuable and insighful.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142437336, Paperback)

Based on historical people and real events, Arthur Miller's play uses the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence unleashed by the rumors of witchcraft as a powerful parable about McCarthyism.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:08 -0400)

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"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 in an introduction to The Crucible, 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 meets with diabolical malevolence."… (more)

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