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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.
Introduction by Christopher Bigsby
- Happy that it is short
Personally, I do not like plays at all, and I still do not; however, I do like the plot and ideas behind the Crucible. I was met with mixed feelings about this book because there are many good and bad things about this piece.
The fact that this was a play does hold some significance in my not liking the Crucible. Plays require much more energy to visualize and see. I often found myself reading out loud every line trying to figure out what was happening. Also, without text, there is nothing to praise about Arthur Miller's skill in writing. Although there is a character that serves the narrator function in this piece, I like reading character actions in sentences rather than in quotation marks. The book also lacks a sense of imagery. Being a play, Miller gives a few sentences to provide a brief location or background. Descriptions are straightforward and just bland.
The storyline itself is great. Arthur Miller skillfully criticizes the paranoia that results from unwarranted superstition. I just love the complexity of the plot, with people accusing each other through petty bitterness and hatred. The Crucible illustrates a society with no emotional control. I also found some of the irony humorous, chuckling at the mention of having the minister's daughter be accused a witch. I loved the poignant ending that taught me an important value of being truthful. The plot had substance, but I think that it would have been better as a novel.The Crucible will be sufficient for a quick afternoon read, but nothing more than that....more info
- The Play and Joe McCarthy have Nothing in Common
Have not read the book or seen the play. However, in reviewing the item in light of the fact that the local High School is putting on the play, I am struck by a common theme many of the other reviewers have touched upon. That being some common thread between witch trials and Joe McCarthy. McCarthy was many things, many of them bad. However, the substance of his claims were far more right than wrong. America, including many high offices in the government, of the 1940's and into the early 1950's was substantially infiltrated by Communists. That fact is provable by records opened to the public after the fall of the USSR....more info
This book is truly a quick read, because it's really not long, and plays tend to be a quick read. I like the format, because it brings out each individual character, and puts each one on the spot, so I can easily delineate each character's tone as they conversed.
Described as a timeless classic, The Crucible provides everlasting insights that are not just clich¨¦d themes, but perceptive recurring themes that are demonstrated through mankind's idiosyncrasies. This book unearths essential themes that will stay in the history of mankind, due to its significance and accuracy towards human flaws. The fact that humans would selfishly perform acts of self interest at the expense of others in the midst of fear and hysteria has been repeated throughout history and will continue to be one of many human's shortcomings.
I liked how the book reflects what happened in reality. Mainly referring to the Salem witch trials and the Red Scare, The Crucible asserts that opportunistic people, who perform self-interest, immoral acts that saves their lives at the expense of others' is essentially wrong and selfish. Much like Abigail, many people from Salem have intentionally accused the innocence for witchcraft to sway the attention and blame, when in actuality, they are blameworthy.
At the peak of the Red Scare, many people, in hopes of being vindicated for wrongdoing, attacked innocent reputation, pretending to serve the community by finding the menaces, who in this case are the communists, of society, while, ironically, the accuser is actually the culprit. Because everyone was afraid of communists, some used that notion to their advantage to lock people, who had done wrong to them, a tactic that is wrong and immoral.
Since I have read Othello, I noticed a parallel between it and this book. That humans would selfishly perform acts of self interest at the expense of others in the midst of fear and hysteria is a theme, around which The Crucible revolves; this very theme parallels to that of Othello by Shakespeare, because both Abigail and Iago perform culpable actions just to find a scapegoat, who is supposed absorbs all the blame.
In The Crucible, Abigail understands her options, and the only way to sway all the attention that is imposed on her originally is to find a scapegoat, who eventually becomes John Proctor, who upholds a reputation and refuses to reveal his scandalous relationship with Abigail. Because Abigail is accused of witchcraft, the only way to survive is to use Proctor as a scapegoat, because she is certain that he will not refute that accusation, unless he unveils his adultery, which he avoids to keep his reputation clean. Abigail's opportunistic nature essentially saves her, but ultimately kills Proctor.
I did not really like the characters per say, but I really was intrigued by the fact that people do blame other people just so they could be vindicated. I look around myself, and I do see this as a universal theme. ...more info
- Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club.com
The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a great book to read with a mother-daughter book club. It provides an outlet to talk about issues the girls are covering in school, and to find out about how their perspectives differ from those of their moms. The issues of witchcraft and socially sanctioned violence against a targeted group seem eerily relevant to some of the things going on in our world today. This book challenged all of us to think about the most important things in our lives and what we're willing to sacrifice to achieve a higher cause....more info
- "It is no part of salvation that you should use me!"
Arthur Miller's masterful play explores the consequences of greed, envy, vengeance, extremism, and hypocrisy run amok. It is set in Salem during the infamous witch trials, but could easily translate to other times in history (Robespierre's reign of terror during the French revolution, McCarthy's Communist hearings, etc.). Miller shows how the witch trials took flight and gathered speed and power until they nearly consumed the whole of Salem. He also shows how the officials in charge refused to hear evidence contrary to their purpose so as not to lose face publicly by standing down. Through the story of John and Elizabeth Proctor, a couple caught in the center of the firestorm, the tragedy of the trials is made abundantly clear. In a futile attempt to save his wife from the machinations of Abigail Williams (the young girl Proctor had had an affair with, and who kicks off the accusations with her friends to get Elizabeth Proctor out of the way so that she can be with John), Proctor fights the system by challenging the court to see the motives behind the accusations. His attempts to bring reason into madness are met with the insistence that if he is not with them, he is against them (which should sound eerily familiar to anyone with a television set). After Proctor himself has been accused of colluding with the Devil and sentenced to death the officials in charge become determined to use him to validate their holy terror. If Proctor, a popular and well-liked man in town, were to lie and give them a confession that he had conspired with Satan it would legitimize all of the hangings that went on in the public eye. Giving a false confession would save Proctor from hanging and allow him to live to see the birth of the child Elizabeth is carrying -- but can he go through with it? Miller's multilayered play is a classic for the ages -- a truly timeless work of drama that is every bit as relevant today as it was when it was first produced in 1953 (at the height of the McCarthy hearings), and which will most likely prove relevant in another fifty years as well. That is a sad statement for humanity, but a credit to Miller for his perceptive eye and his courage to capture it so eloquently. Perhaps with the example set forth in "The Crucible" we can learn from the past, and not be doomed to repeat it....more info
- Playing Tituba
When I was up at Cambridge back in the olden days when there were only three women's colleges and men's colleges were single sex, I tried my hand at acting and ended up joining an "indie" production of "The Crucible. By "Indie" I mean that it was not produced by either the of the two drama societies the Amateur Dramatic Club and the Mummers, nor by a college drama society. It was instead produced by this second-year student and performed in a church and performed by people who answered an ad in Varsity. That was how I got into it.
I probably got the part of Tituba because I am Chinese and they didn't have a more authentic applicant. I also was a member of the ADC. What we did have was the up and rising freshman actress to play Abigail Proctor. We happened to be reading English at Griton in the same year. She was a much better actress.
But one thing that really struck me when I was reading this play was how it was basically the McCarthy Treason trials and Miller's take on them. I didn't know about the trials first-hand but I was certainly aware that they had happened and the kind of hysteria behind it.
Having said that, I also did not think that Miller was trying to portray Salem, Massachusetts when those trials took place. Gone from the picture in spite of the presence of a minister is any sense of the religious fervor and fear which also played a significant role then. This went beyond orthodox political thinking. I don't think that we ever quite got the crying-out scene right, but I don't think there was all that much guidance either. And actually, looking back now, I am not so sure that the rest of the cast were quite as aware of the McCarthy trials as perhaps they should have been. Certainly they were never mentioned at any rehearsal I ever attended. And the copy we used was not footnoted or anything, nor did it have an introduction.
All this indicates to me that Miller's play did not travel all that well, as is the case with a few others I have read. Not "Death of a Salesman" though.
That little production did all right though. It was also the last time I acted in Cambridge. I didn't figure there were going to be too many opportunities for a not-so-wonderful Chinese actress (of course I didn't think so then) and started working for the newspaper rather more seriously. But I still have the play, and I read it again every so often.
Okay, so all sorts of historical details are altered for the sake of character drama, but so what? It does not change the fact that this is one heck of a great play that offers it all: romance, betrayal, psychology, murder, and more, all set in a sleepy little Puritan town obsessed with witches that has become the victim of the "games" of a few young girls.
While I would hardly recommend it to someone going for deep facts of the Salem Witch Trials, this still draws on historical characters and does an excellent job of portraying them as real people. You feel for them, even the ones you hate.
"The Crucible" is well-named as the pot that heats everything up, and Miller takes minor events and shows how they become the tragedy that was the witch trials.
This is an incredibly powerful and important story that teaches messages as the drama entertains. ...more info
- morals? What morals?
This book is first and foremost a test of morals.
Is it ok to kill other people if the evidence against them is not sound?
Is it ok to kill them at all?
How do you decide who will live and who will die?
These are the questions that make up the majority of this book.
The Crucible is set during the time of the Salem witch trials in Massachusetts in 1692. During that time, many women were hung under the assumption that they had dealings with the devil and had practiced witchcraft. In The Crucible, Arthur Miller depicts the constant struggle between the Lord and Satan. This universal theme is also seen in Steinbeck's East of Eden with a struggle between good and evil.
This has an allusion to the biblical story of the War in Heaven between Lucifer and God in order to steal God's throne. This biblical allusion summarizes the entire play in one sentence. People believed that women could be possessed by the devil and ordered to do witchcraft. If the women did this, they were turning their backs on God, as Lucifer did. After the war in heaven, Lucifer lost and was banished to Hell where his name became Satan. The people of Salem, Massachusetts believed that it was Satan, the devil, which inhabited women's souls. The play also symbolizes a struggle between good and evil, as does the war in heaven. The war was a struggle between God, good, and Lucifer, evil. Also, the characters in the play have to constantly decide whether they will be on Satan's side or on God's.
Put your own moral sense to test here.
Let you be the judge of who should live or die and see if you could do it.
As everything in society comes tumbling to the ground, who will be the people that are still sane and who will be the ones that betray their so called "loved ones"? ...more info
- Prompt service
Daughter needed it for a project for an accelerated class. It came in time and she was able to complete her assignments with a new book....more info
- An extraordinary play -- about McCathy"s witchhunt
My wife and I first read this play about 35 years ago and we saw it performed (separately)in lackluster productions.
In May, 2006 we saw in London "The Crucible" as performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It lived up to exceptional reviews, including the first ever six star maximum awarded by TimeOut's theater section.
Some plays read better than they ever perform. Others perform better than they read. Others are equal. This is a play that reads and performs well, but a theater production is extremely demanding, if for other reason the number of actors required. The RSC had the requisite numbers and quality.
Miller was quite open about the play's symbolizing of the McCarthy era of smears, innuendos and attacks that ruined the lives of many innocent people. Miller made it clear that his play was fiction that was loosely based on the Salem witch trials.
The play is also about human character -- how revenge, jealousy and other motivations sometimes bring out the worst. In the 50s, few played much attention to the allusions to the Puritans, who had no tolerance for other Christians, much less other faiths. For them, as the play says, you are either with us or you are against us. A familiar refrain. Well performed or well read, the play is thought provoking. But your mind must be open to at least consider putting yourself honestly into Miller's shoes and his era.
There is a reviewer who condemns this play even while admitting he has never read it or seen it performed. He is only concerned with imposing his point of view. What he contends is that McCarthy was more right than wrong and that there was no witchhunt because there were communists -- and some in government. It's a popular theme among McCarthyism deniers
Condemning a book or play you know nothing about is akin to book burning -- or witch hunting.
Witch Hunt is defined as "an attempt to find and punish people whose opinions are unpopular and who are said to be a danger to society" My Webster defines "the searching out and deliberate harassment of those (as political opponents) with unpopular views." Miller got that right and the revisionists of facts get it wrong. From the earliest days, witch hunting has never really been about witches, but those who held those unpopular views or lived differently.
You could get to be a "fellow traveler" by speaking to the wrong people. Most American communists had quit the party in disillusionment well before McCarthy came along. McCarthy in his "Crucible" style kangaroo court went after people anyone who could give him a headline. He gave no due process or fairness. It was about confessions and naming names in a Soviet-style show trial. Which is strange for a man who and other right wingers in Congress who succeeded in overturning the conviction of the SS troops responsible for the Malmedy Massacre. It was all in character.
McCarthy won his first local election by smearing a respectedl jurist. And then, exaggerating his own war experience, he smeared Sen. La Folette as a draft dodger even though LaFollette was 46 when Pearl Harbor was attacked. McCarthy requested a DSC he almost certainly did not deserve (similar to LBJ's Silver Star). And he claimed to have flown missions (in varying numbers) when he was actually a desk bound intelligence cipher. And then he saw opportunity as a demagogue on the communist threat identified by George Kennan in the "Long Telegram."
In February, 1950 he waved a list of people who he said were communists who in the State Department. A review is no place to recount basic history of who our WWII allies were -- or that Churchill, a devout anti-communists needed the Soviet Union against Hitler as did we. There were real problems. In 1946, the State Department itself prepared the list of security risks McCarthy eventually waved around. Most of them were dismissed as security risks, not as Communists, but for other reasons, i.e. sexual preference, alcoholism, bankruptcy, etc. McCarthy got the names from a Senate report done years before. Some had been guilty of having a contrary view on China, citing the corruption and weakness of Chiang Kai-Shek. McCarthy's, who attacked gays, could not have passed the security standards due to his own sexual preferences and alcoholism.
McCarthy leveled the charge of helping the communist agenda against General Eisenhower, President Truman, FDR, General George Marshall, Secretary of State Dean Acheson and many other great men who were staunch anti-communists. In fairness to McCarthy, he did some of his worst smears while drunk or close to it. He would drink with reporters, then feed them their stories. Anyone looking at the old film can see that he was frequently intoxicated -- and his performance on the Murrow See It Now, was not only smear but out of control. Easy to see in Good Night and Good Luck. No one could damage McCarthy in the end as he did himself.
Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican conservative, strongly condemned McCarthy in her Declaration of Conscience speech in June of 1950. Others joined her, but most were afraid. Eisenhower, who had despised McCarthy for years, did not respond until McCarthy went after the Army. McCarthy targeted political opponents, e.g. Sen. Millard Tydings was tarred by McCarthy's committee with a faked photograph of him with a Communist. He smeared a Connecticut Senator who questioned his actions. Even J.Edgar Hoover had to wash his hands of him. So the smears continued until 1954 when the Senate finally censured McCarthy for conduct unbecoming his office.
McCarthy did no good and damaged the U.S. counter espionage program. It was in any event Richard Nixon who pushed the Alger Hiss case -- before the election when McCarthy discovered ?ommunism was his ticket. Other major cases involving communists, for good or ill, were accomplished before McCarthy came along.
The climate of fear and division McCarthy engendered was perhaps Stalin's greatest victory. The McCarthy hearings called those who would make a good show confession-- or provide a list of names already given. Artist and writers and bureaucrats who had done nothing feared for their jobs for youthful indiscretions, or knowing a wrong someone -- or for nothing at all. McCarthy not only stifled dissent, he cast a pall over American intellectual life more in line with Stalin than the US.
Carl Foreman, who co-wrote the script for "High Noon" and co-proiduced it, is an example of those forced into exile (to Britain). As it happens, High Noon, once wildly condemned by the right, is one of the most requested film for presidential viewing. Reagan loved it. So did Lech Walesa, who cites use of its imagery, i.e. the movie poster of Gary Cooper, in Poland's first almost-free elections. Why? As Walesa said in the Wall Street Journal: "Cowboys fight for justice, fight against evil, and fight for freedom, both physical and spiritual." Some conservatives now rave over its depiction of duty and courage.
So too, is The Crucible about core American beliefs of nothing going along with the crowd, joining the lynch mob. The unpopularity or even complete wrongness of some views does not make it correct to punish people for having those beliefs. If you want to criticize it, first you have to see the play and understand it....more info
- The awful price of "extremism in the pursuit of liberty"
Just as 'High Noon' shows the courage of a man who refused to cut and run from great danger, 'The Crucible' is usually regarded as an allegory which attacks the 1950s intolerance of anti-communist zealots.
Perhaps it is much more. Liberals get a warm fizzy feeling over Miller's portrayal of fundamentalist religious persecution run amok; but, this limited acumen ignores the terrible "engine" of such persecution - - - the American adversarial judicial system.
The play portrays hapless victims accused of imaginary evils and then convicted by a judicial system based not on truth, justice or mercy but on the absolutes of guilt or innocence. No mitigation is allowed. In Act III, Deputy Governor John Danforth states, "But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there is no road between."
It's the same idea used by President George Bush to justify whatever he wants to do, always of course within the law and within the Constitution, in his War on Terror. Likewise, Gov. Danforth in 'The Crucible' always acts within the law. Miller asserts all power corrupts, and the power to kill someone corrupts absolutely.
It sums up the essence of the play; our court system is either win or lose based on adversarial confrontation. It's origins are in ancient "trial by strength" rituals. It was thought God would not allow the guilty to triumph, and so victory was considered proof of absolute innocence with no room for doubt. In Act IV, a plea to delay the executions a week was rejected by Gov. Danforth because, "Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died till now."
Sound familiar? We are now told that a withdrawal from the War on Iraq "must cast doubt upon the sacrifice of them that died till now." Miller is very clear in portraying the corrupting power of government: Never admit a mistake, regardless of the cost to the innocent.
As the play ends, one condemned man is urged to sign the false confession he has just spoken. He responds, "You have all witnessed it; what more is needed?"
Why sign? One preacher explains it has nothing to do with guilt, innocence or mercy, instead it is solely because "the village must have proof that - - -"
The man responds, "Damn the village! I confess to God, and God has seen my name on this! It is enough!" He tells the governor, "You are the high court, your word is enough!"
But judicial rules reject God. Mercy is not by God's truth, but only by the lie demanded by the court. There is no interest in truth, justice, guilt, innocence or mercy. The man refuses, because personal honour means more than arcane rules. He explains, "Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How can I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!"
The court refuses. Justice, says Miller, is not truth or fact; it depends solely on court rules. 'The Cruicible' uses real events from 1692 to illustrate the basic weakness of an adversarial judicial system. It applies today, as much as to the McCarthy era.
This is a play for today. It applies to our procedural-bound courts, to religious fundamentalists and to intolerant political extremists. It shows what happens when government officials believe "extremism in the pursuit of liberty is no vice." It applies to us, now.
- Very well written
The Crucible, one of Arthur Miller's best, and most well known books, is based off the Salem witch trials.
John Proctor, a middle aged farmer, is in a town run by the local preachers. Abigail Williams, a 17 year old girl, gets the town to follow her, after accusing many of the town leaders, of being witches. Something happened between John and Abigail, and it obviously hurts John. John tries to stop Abigail, while keeping his secret underwraps dduring the trial.
The play is pretty short, aroung 150 pages, and is in a somewhat old-southern language, so the reader should understand it before reading.
I highly recommend this to any play reader and any avid reader.
"He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him."...more info
- The Crucible, a fun piece of work.
The Crucible is a great book. Since it is a play, the book is relatively short. I believe that most readers can finish this book peacefully in an afternoon. The plot revolves around the historic events of the Salem Witch Hunt and how one person can start it all. This character, by the name of Abigail, is fiery and very cruel. The way she treats the people around her is astounding and reprimandable. I spent most of the time, trying to express my anger over her actions to John Proctor. The historic base of this novel provides a sense of interest to readers and the plot is quite rudimentary but exciting. It is exciting because of the hysteria and complicated values that run through this play. Though I am instructed not to spoil...I will not discuss the plot but rather the tone of the play in question. Because it is a play, the voice is perhaps unique to every individual reader. You have to read out the lines to live out the plot and characters. Overall, this book astounded me because it provided a ficticious swing over history and really sparked my anger over Abigail. Arthur Miller does a fantastic job doing this.
This was written to honestly give my opinions over this play. ...more info
- A heretical view
What was Miller writing about in this play? Was it an examination of the psychological and social phenomena that led to the Salem witch trials? If so, it failed, because the story departs too much from historic fact and thus changes the motivation of the protagonists. Miller makes Abigail older and Proctor younger than they were in reality, and makes them erstwhile lovers, which they never in fact were. So Abigail is motivated by the jealousy and resentment of a spurned lover. Another character is motivated by a desire to seize the property of the victims. Although greed and the settling of old scores no doubt played a part in the terrible events of 1692, they could not have been the whole story. Deeper and broader religious forces must have been at work to bring about the execution of 20 innocent people. The Crucible does not enlighten us on what those forces were. That play remains to be written.
The conventional interpretation is that Miller was really writing about the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings, and likening them to a witch-hunt. This too is problematic. Miller draws the parallel in the notes in this book and elsewhere, but never explicitly states that it was the real, prime theme of the play. And once again, the essentially domestic and personal themes of the play do not shed light on the political forces that shaped the McCarthy hearings.
What is clear is that the play stands as a dramatic tour de force. It is a gift to actors, being one dramatic, emotional crisis after another. So, if it lacks the intellectual density that Miller said he aimed at after his success with Death of a Salesman, it has the dramatic force to keep it a perennial favorite in theaters. It has one weakness dramatically, and that is an excessively large cast, particularly in the first scene, where all the entrances and exits in Betty's bedroom are rather ludicrous.
The Penguin Classics edition has a good introduction by Christopher Bigsby and incorporates notes by the author. It also includes - as an appendix - Act 2, Scene 2, which is omitted in most productions.
the book was ok, its used bud if just need to read it its perfect....more info