Arthur Miller's The Crucible

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Arthur Miller's The Crucible

The scene of Hale's first meeting with the Proctors is a scene of high

drama. All great drama has a context and here the background is the

religious history of the New World at the end of the 17th century. In

1692, the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, was sent into absolute

turmoil. What we now know as the United States of America, but what

was then just English Newfoundland had only recently been settled by

the Europeans and the characters in the play The Crucible are among

the first few non-native generations to occupy the land. When the

settlers arrived there were no geographical boundaries or set plots of

land and, as a result, there were often land ownership quarrels. This

often led to vicious squabbling between the settlers, so Salem in 1692

was a place full of resentment. This sense of resentment is something

which Miller brings out in his play.

The British had restored their monarchy after the rule of Oliver

Cromwell, but still inhabited an era of religious extremism where

movements like Puritanism had adopted radical forms of Christianity.

The ideas upheld by these sects had travelled across the Atlantic with

the settlers and the inhabitants of Salem were living under a virtual

theocracy, where church attendance and complete social conformity were

vital. As well as becoming stricter in their religion. the English had

also gone through a time where many of the problems which we now would

explain scientifically would be blamed on "witches." Much of this can

be traced back to the earlier reign of James I (or James VI of

Scotland) who had been f...

... middle of paper ... to power would be a

'disaster', he did not inform the committee of the names of the other

people at the meeting. He wrote 'The Crucible' in order to highlight

the dangers of ideological zealotry of any kind, using the parallels

between the extreme prejudices of the late 17th century and that of

Cold War McCarthyism as his graphic illustrations.

In conclusion, if we consider this scene against the background of the

1950s McCarthy Communist 'witch trials', the audience would be well

aware of the parallels between the two eras each with their won an

all-pervading tension. They could identify with Proctor's tension, his

feeling of helplessness and his "angered" tone all of which make good

drama. Indeed this scene has a timeless dramatic appeal for anyone who

has ever suffered the unkind, unfounded prejudice of others.
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