Number of Pages: 143
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Release Date: 1953
“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 of 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 with diabolical malevolence.”
Plays have never been my favorite form of writing to read. Too often I find that they lack the descriptive prose that I enjoy, and it’s much more difficult for me to picture in my mind what is going on in the story. Ii think that plays are meant to be performed, not silently read in a classroom. But this play is about a subject that i find absolutely fascinating: the Salem Witch Trials. Needless to say, I had mixed feelings when I discovered that we would be reading this play in my American Literature class.
If you know anything about the Salem Witch Trials, then it’s likely that you may find this play bothersome. As far as historical accuracy goes, The Crucible is definitely off the track. The reasons of why people were first accused of being witches are very different in the play from how they actually were in real life. Ages are different, events happen out of order, and on and on. I know that this is a work of fiction, but personally I just couldn’t get past the many historical inaccuracies that this play contained. The plot itself was also fairly simple, and I didn’t think there was anything really clever about it.
The best part of this play for me was the underlying historical significance behind it. Although this play is about the Salem Witch Trials, it can be viewed as a commentary on the Red Scare. The fear of communists and bombings that Americans felt in the twentieth century, particularly following World War II, is similar to what the colonists in Salem felt during the witch trials. Reading it with this in mind made it a bit more bearable.
Overall, I was not thrilled with The Crucible. I think I would definitely have enjoyed it more if I saw it performed rather than simply reading it. I might give it another go in the future, but for now I think I’ll move on to other things.
My Rating: :0) :0) 2 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: It depends. If they were a fan of plays in general, then I probably would. Otherwise, I don’t think so.
Have you ever read this play? Did you like it more than I did? Let me know in the comments section below!