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The Crucible - summary

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The Crucible was written in 1952, and is considered to be Arthur Miller's finest work not only because of the captivating story and impressive dramatic techniques but also because of the subtle parallels it draws with the events of the time. In the USA in the 1950s, the country was terrified of communism. This prompted the McCarthy era, in which anyone suspected of holding communist views or sympathies could suffer nasty consequences, including losing their job, or being excluded from certain places. The play is set in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts during the height of the mass hysteria surrounding witchcraft. At the start of act three, Martha Corey is accused of reading fortunes. In this scene, we get a good look at each of the court officials. Both Hathorne and Parris are desperate to be part of the proceedings. Hathorne repeatedly calls for witnesses to be questioned or held in contempt, only to be ignored by Danforth. This shows the audience that Hathorne's opinions mean nothing, but it also shows us the power Danforth wields, not only over the population of Salem, but also over his own partners. There are many moments in the play when Hathorne and Parris get ignored or disrespected by Danforth, but early on in act three Hathorne asks Giles Corey 'Are you gone daft, Corey?' ...read more.


Arthur Miller uses irony very well in this scene. There is irony when Danforth makes righteous remarks, and then he asks Giles Corey for proof of his claims that George Jacobs is innocent, when he can not possibly have any proof of his guilt. The use of irony in this scene is effective because it makes the audience see how absurd the courts and trials are. A similar result is achieved by Danforth's insistence that no innocent man should fear the court, and his constant links between fear and guilt show the audience his twisted view. The people in the town are scared of the court because they know that anyone could be accused and found guilty with no real proof, but in Danforth's eyes anyone who fears the court must be hiding something. Hale is now clearly trying to support Proctor, as he insists that a lawyer presents the case because he believes that Proctor will be unable to compete with the legal training of Danforth. When questioning Mary Warren, he gives her opportunities to retract what she has said. He asks her repeatedly if she was threatened by Proctor, and she says that she wasn't. When talking to Abigail and the girls, Danforth makes it known that he is very open to the suggestion that Mary Warren is lying, therefore he is putting the girls under very little pressure to tell the truth. ...read more.


John Proctor represents all the people who saw the stupidity of the situation but were powerless to stand up to it, for fear of being accused. Arthur Miller was one of these people, and may have even seen himself as John Proctor. The mass hysteria of the Salem witch hunts parallels the mass hysteria of the McCarthy witch hunts. An audience watching the play at the time it was written would have been unhappy to see how easily people can get caught up in a wave of hysteria, especially as it was happening for real. The Crucible was written to mimic the events of the time, however since then the play has taken on a more universal meaning. It shows how easily scared people are, and how fear can make people do drastic things. An excellent example of how this play is universally true is the similarities it has with the war on terrorism being fought now. In Britain, if a British citizen is arrested on terrorism charges, they can be held for up to 14 days without being charged. However, if they the accused is not a British citizen, they can be held indefinitely without being charged. This is an example of how hysteria, this time about terrorism, can cause people to take drastic measures. It is this universal truth that has brought The Crucible the fame and praise it has enjoyed. ...read more.

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