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The Crucible (1953)

by Arthur Miller

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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12,190131340 (3.65)228
"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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» See also 228 mentions

English (124)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
Overly didactic. ( )
  AldusManutius | Jul 5, 2020 |
THANK you, English class. Also, watching the movie at the same time didn't hurt :) ( )
  piquareste | Jun 3, 2020 |
uses Salem trials to criticize McCarthyism
  ritaer | May 30, 2020 |
A lightning-strike of a play; one of the rare modern classics that not only meets but surpasses its fêted reputation. Arthur Miller's The Crucible dramatizes the infamous Salem witch trials, and it works as a historical interpretation of that fiasco, but it also has a frightening contemporariness.

The parallels can be seen not only in the McCarthyism of Miller's time (surely the intended target, and courageously targeted), but in our current 'cancel culture' of shout-down grievance and groupthink ("Is the accuser always holy now?... the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law" (pg. 72)). Even if the reader lacks a political interest, they will no doubt see analogues of the likes of Abigail Williams and Samuel Parris in the history of their personal life, particularly in the malicious politics of the schoolyard or the office environment. (Alas, John Proctors, or even John Hales, seem to be much rarer.)

This contemporary vitality is not modishness; in fact, many will no doubt find The Crucible unwelcome, as it holds them to a higher moral standard. Rather, the vitality comes from Miller's acute understanding of human nature. He identifies the sort of mind-death that is to be found in dogma and ideology and social climbing, but he also acknowledges chance, fear, envy, jealousy and pique, as well as the indulgence of a corrupt system towards those with more money, higher emotion or lower scruples. Due to the faults (both resolvable and irresolvable) in the human condition, small things catch fire – in the play as in life – and become an inferno of hysteria with alarming rapidity. It's believable; we know there's always a good turnout for a hanging.

The play is infinitely flexible, never becoming brittle or broken, because the "predilection for minding other people's business" is not only "time-honoured among the people of Salem" (pg. 14), but is among us in every era. In The Crucible, all our "old pretence is ripped away," and we are "what we always were, but naked" (pp74-5). It was never about religion, just as it is never about ideology now (though condemn those things too); rather, the "afflicting spirit" (pg. 95) has only ever been hysteria and ignorance and, among the true exploiters, a malicious self-interest. The accusers of Salem use the same crutch as the Spanish Inquisitors, but they are also the same as the McCarthyites and the lynch mobs and the contemporary 'activists'.

Miller's great achievement in the play is not only in recognising this, but in dramatizing it against the background of the unfortunate; the struggle of John and Elizabeth Proctor, for example, which shows the tragedy of the good people being wracked by honour, where the bad are only wrecking-balls. One of the great advantages of art, which The Crucible excels at delivering, is that the immediacy of the injustices and the tragedies and the examples, both good and bad, can be brought to us, and at a heightened pitch. Whereas, with history or discourse – or life – one must wait tens if not hundreds of years until, belatedly, "the worms declare his truth" (pg. 126). ( )
1 vote Mike_F | May 2, 2020 |
First read in Sept. 1966. I did not know the history or understand the significance, nor did I appreciate the integrity of the characters. Rad today, as an adult I see the play's place in history and its magnificence. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 124 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Miller, Arthurprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bigsby, ChristopherIntroductionsecondary authorsome 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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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
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.
Haiku summary
Brulez les sorcières! Elles mentent, désirent et trahissent... Pendez tous les hommes!

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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