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Copy of The Crucible - introduction and background
Transcript of Copy of The Crucible - introduction and background
Introduction, context and background
The Crucible was written in
, and first performed in 1953.
Miller's ideas were heavily influenced by the political situation in America at this time.
It was, however, set in America in
Puritanism + America in the 1690s
1915 - 2005
What is Puritanism?
The beliefs and practices of Puritans - a group of English Protestants who in the 16th and 17th centuries promoted strict religious discipline along with simplification of aspects of the Church of England.
What were their beliefs?
They saw pleasure or luxury as sinful, and disapproved of frivolity. For example, dancing and acting were forbidden, and they eliminated musical instruments from their church services. Early Puritans disapproved of Christmas celebrations. Celebration was outlawed in Boston from 1659.
Puritans believed that secular governors are accountable to God to protect and reward virtue, and to punish wrongdoers.
Puritans believed in demonic forces (as did almost all Christians of this period) and witchcraft.
Interior style of a Puritan church
Women were typically not permitted to speak in church. Order in the family fundamentally structured Puritan belief.
The essence of social order lay in the authority of husband over wife, parents over children, and masters over servants in the family.
Authority and obedience characterized the relationship between Puritan parents and their children. Proper love meant proper discipline; the family was the basic unit of supervision. A breakdown in family rule indicated a disregard of God’s order.
The Salem Witch Trials
one of the most famous cases of mass hysteria, and has been used in political rhetoric and popular literature as a vivid cautionary tale about the dangers of isolationism, religious extremism and false accusations.
Modern day Witch Hunts?
What is the definition of a witch hunt?
A witch hunt occurs any time a group of people persecutes another group unfairly, usually blaming that group for larger problems.
Think of examples of “witch hunts” during the 20th century—such as the Holocaust, the McCarthy trials, and the Japanese internment camps. What comparisons can you draw?
Use these websites to find out more
Salem Witch Trials
Nineteen accused witches were hanged on Gallows Hill in 1692:
George Jacobs, Sr.
One accused witch (or wizard, as male witches were often called) was pressed to death on September 19 when he failed to plead guilty or not guilty:
Other accused witches died in prison:
(As many as thirteen** others may have died in prison.)
**sources conflict as to the exact number of prison deaths
An example of a death warrant:
(Death Warrant for Sarah Good, Rebecca Nurse, Susannah Martin, Elizabeth Howe, and Sarah Wilds)
To Goerge: Corwine Gent'n High Sheriff of the county of Essex
Whereas Sarah Good Wife of William Good of Salem Village Rebecka Nurse wife of Francis Nurse of Salem Village Susanna Martin of Amesbury Widow Elizabeth How wife of James How of Ipswich Sarah Wild wife of John Wild of Topsfield all of the County of Essex in thier Maj'ts Province of the Massachusetts Bay in New England Att A Court of Oyer & Terminer held by Adjournment for Our Severaign Lord & Lady Kind Wiliam & Queen Mary for the said County of Essex at Salem in the s'd County onf the 29th day of June [torn] were Severaly arrigned on Several Indictments for the horrible Crime of Witchcraft by them practised & Committed On Severall persons and pleading not guilty did for thier Tryall put themselves on God & Thier Countrey whereupon they were Each of them found & brought in Guilty by the Jury that passed On them according to their respective Indictments and Sentence of death did then pass upon them as the Law directs Execution whereof yet remains to be done: Those are Therefore in thier Maj'ties name William & Mary now King & Queen over England &ca: to will & Command you that upon Tuesday next being the 19th day for [torn] Instant July between the houres of Eight & [torn] in [torn] forenoon the same day you Safely conduct the s'd Sarah Good Rebecka Nurse Susann Martin Elizabeth Howe & Sarah Wild From thier Maj'ties goal in Salem afores'd to the place of Execution & there Cause them & Every of them to be hanged by the Neck untill they be dead and of the doings herein make return to the Clerke of the said Court & this precept and hereof you are not to fail at your perill and this Shall be your sufficient Warrant given under my hand & seale at Boston th 12't day of July in the fourth year of Reign of our Soveraigne Lord & Layd Wm & Mary King and Queen &ca:
What does this map suggest about the reasons for the accusations?
Miller's choice of subject matter was influenced by his concerns about the dangers of the anti Communist fervour in the US and his critical attitude towards the House Un- American Activities Committee (HUAC).
McCarthyism + America in the 1950s
Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Bolshevik party in Russia was inspired by the 'Communist Manifesto' by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engles and became the first Communist leader in Russia.
A system of government which seeks to abolish ownership of property and create a classless society.
Everybody is equal - everyone owns means of production, no poverty, no upper classes...
Communism as practised by Lenin (and, for example, Chairman Mao in China) sets up an authoritarian government, with the best goods and services for those in power.
'Production' is the ultimate goal (things which are made in factories or on farms) and as such the Arts suffer.
Governments are often paranoid and insular, and they form a secret police force to squash any possibility of revolution.
Summary - why was America so afraid of Communism?
The founding beliefs and values of American culture centre on ideas of
freedom, individuality and capitalism
. Communism goes against the right to free speech, the right to property and the right to freedom of religion. It removes the basis of the American Dream (to aspire to make a better future for yourself).
After WW2 was over, the US was confronted by Soviet successes and a growing Western economic crisis. US officials moved to expand the containment policy of Russia. In a secret 1950 document NSC-68 they proposed to make their alliance systems stronger, quadruple defense spending, and convince Americans to fight this costly 'cold war'. It could be argued that they wanted to portray Communism as wrong and dangerous to help with the control of the USSR, as they were too powerful for the US's comfort.
The Crucible's enduring appeal: ideas that can be relevant to any society in which there is intolerance, persecution and sanctimonious denunciation.
The paradigm has shifted from a fear of communism to a fear of terrorism.
Directing the play in 2006 Dominic Cooke saw parallels to 'Bush and Blair generating hysteria over terrorism and the frightening rise of Christian Fundamentalism in the US.'
From Methuen Drama Student Edition of the Crucible.
Commentary and notes by Susan C. W. Abbotson.
The HUAC held dramatic public hearings across the country to investigate and expose Communist activities in government, education, entertainment, labour, and other fields of American life.
What is a crucible?
Peter T. King, a Republican, described Islamic fundamentalists as 'an enemy living amongst us'. As Chairman of the United States House Committee on Homeland Security, he holds hearings on the 'radicalization of American Muslims'.
Cuban Missile Crisis - Kennedy and Krushchev
In this 1950 speech McCarthy explains his rationale for making his 'accusations of disloyalty'.
Identify some of the many rhetorical devices he employs:
Now access eStream to watch the film 'Good Night and Good Luck', written by and starring George Clooney. Using original footage and this film gives an insight into the media's reations to McCarthy's 'witch hunt'.