‘The Crucible’ was written in 1953 by the American playwright, Arthur Miller. It is a historic play, which takes place in the little theocratical Puritan town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. However, Miller wrote the ‘The Crucible’ not simply as a straight historical play detailing the Salem witch trials; the play in truth serves as a political allegory based upon the scenario in America throughout the Cold War in which Miller wrote the play.
The allegorical story relates back to the Salem witchcraft trials and connects them to their modern equivalent in Miller’s time, the McCarthy trials.
Just as the people in Salem believed that witchcraft threatens their village, many Americans during this time saw Communism as a danger too. Arthur Miller himself was hired front of the committee, when he declined to offer the names of pals who might have thought in Communism he was fined for contempt of court. The political ‘witch hunt’ of McCarthyism ends up being clear in Miller’s play, which was composed to illustrate how fear and hysteria mixed with an environment of persecution might end tragically.
The Salem witch trials occurred from June to September of 1692, during which time nineteen men and women were hanged, consisting of a man called John Proctor, at Gallows Hill near Salem, while another male was pressed to death. Numerous other people were accused of witchcraft and many more suffered in prison without trials. The disaster demonstrates how over imaginative minds can cause disastrously unjustified consequences and represents the town as a paradox as generally Puritans were very spiritual and never dedicated sins as like as those that went on during the time of the witch-hunt.
The real word, ‘crucible’, has a couple of meanings. It can be a container which is able to resist heat; a melting pot, this might be a pot in which all of the characters in the play merge individuals. It also has a connection with witches, as this melting pot might symbolise a cauldron. It can be the hollow at the bottom of an ore heating system, representing the hollowness and dishonesty of the villagers in Salem. As a result, the title does not immediately make the audience think that John Proctor’s death be inescapable as the villagers of Salem are represented as being hollow and shallow so are expected to voluntarily confess to witchcraft if it suggests that their lives will be spared. To reinforce the theme of religion, the word ‘crucible’ can indicate the bearing of a cross, which associates with a crucifix.
In the Act, the significance of religion is immediately introduced as John Proctor is illustrated as being a very sinful guy as it is exposed that he has not been at Sabbath just recently, this was a serious issue as religious beliefs was so important to the Puritan society and he is for that reason believed of witchcraft. Proctor declares that there is no requirement to go to church, for he feels Reverend Parris is too obsessed with hell and never mentions God anymore.
Parris warns that there must be obedience or the ‘church will burn like Hell’, but Proctor asks if he can speak one minute without discussing Hell. This reveals how deeply religious Proctor is and likewise offers a glimpse of goodness in him as he cares for his household as he says ‘I never knew that I should account to that male for I come to church or remain at home. My better half was sick this winter season’. This likewise shows that Proctor is an individual, as he does not go with the majority of the town by not dealing with the Sabbath day. He dislikes hypocrites; ‘he had a sharp and biting way with hypocrites’, and even appears to dislike the hypocrisy of religious beliefs although he had a deep spiritual belief in God.
John Proctor is introduced as being severe, unkind, and exceptionally powerful. This does not make his death foreseeable, as he seems to be an obvious sinner. His insensitive nature is displayed in the way that other members of the town of Salem are frightened of him, ‘afraid of him and oddly turned on’, and more significantly it is revealed by the heartless treatment he provides Abigail Williams, a previous servant of his household. Proctor patronises her by calling her a ‘child’ and as Abby is fairly unknown at this moment, we can relate to her as she is a around our age. Abby is certainly deeply in love with him as she is exceptionally flirtatious and speaks passionately and to him; ‘tauntingly’, however Proctor is numb and aggressive towards her, this is shown in his actions; ‘setting her securely out of his course’, ‘beginning to anger’, ‘do you search for a whipping?’ and ‘shaking her’.
This makes the audience disrespect him and empathise with her. Abby talks of the affair she had with Proctor, it is this affair that seems to be the driver to the witchcraft accusations, as it appears to be the reason why Abigail starts condemning people of witchery and the key element that begins the witch hunt. She is very sensual and attempts to seduce him by stating ‘I am awaiting you every night’ but he just specifies that he will ‘cut off his hand before he will ever grab her again’. His dismissive actions further produce the audience’s disgust towards him and make the audience sympathise with Abby, as she seems a victim, ‘John, pity me, pity me’. However at this point in the play, Proctor’s real personality has actually been concealed underneath the outer look of a harsh, unethical, insensitive male which does not make the audience think that his death will be inescapable as when confronted with the allegations of witchcraft, the audience feel that he would easily confess to them if it would result in him protecting his life.