Crucible important things to know
- Miller wrote this play when America was under the influence of Senator McCarthy – 1950s post war fear of communism – House UnAmerican Activities Committee [HUAC]
- Miller was summoned before the court and demanded to tell of ‘so-called communist sympathisers’ he’d met at meetings [he refused to name any!]
- Artists, poets, playwrights, novelists, teachers trades unionists etc all suspected of harbouring communist sympathies
- Those who testified were allowed to continue their lives albeit under the watchful eye of the government; those who refused to confess or tell were imprisoned, had passports taken away, forbidden to travel, lost their jobs, unable to work, lost their homes and friends.
- The Crucible was written as a deliberate parallel or parable of that time when justice, freedom and the democratic process were forgotten in the hysteria of the fear.
What you need to know about life in Salem
- Disease, remoteness and regular skirmishes with the local displaced Indians caused hardship and fear.
- So did the forest which was hard to penetrate and reclaimed hard won land too quickly; e.g. it’s taken some years for John to make a living off his own land.
- The forest was also feared because within sheltered the displace Indians or as the church would have it ‘agents of the devil.’
- The church was feared for its swingeing powers e.g to cry ‘witch’ , or to demand punishment of those who did not keep its laws like attending services.
- They were used to reporting on each other any time someone did something they did not approve of.
- Bitterness, jealousy and suspicion were prevalent. All the accusers had something to gain. And all the accused had something to lose. Even if only their life.
- They were very superstitious.
- They did believe in witches and the devil – they had left behind a Europe in the grip of witch madness.
- Massachusetts was a theocratic state – i.e. the church was the power and government. After Salem the church’s power was broken.