The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a Greek Tragedy

When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953, America was in a state of unrest. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were spreading fear and hysteria with their Communist “witch hunts.” Miller wanted to address the subject in a way that would not blatantly denounce the hearings, and with his previous knowledge of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, he created an allegory, and The Crucible was born. By examining the universality of the theme of the play and its tragic elements, it will be apparent that The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s greatest achievement.

The Crucible was not as instantly successful as Death of a Salesman because “its merits were at first overshadowed by the notoriety of its most obvious theme. The Salem witch trials of 1692, was distractingly applicable to what has been called the witch hunts of the 1950’s” (American Writers 156). However, The Crucible has survived and is constantly revived because “the play transcends mere topicality” (Matlaw 175). While the obvious connection between the Salem witchcraft trials and the “Red Scare” is apparent to anyone who reads the play with any knowledge of history, The Crucible is not only an allegory of America in the 1950’s, but a potential allegory for any time and any place because the themes of “betrayal, denial, rash judgment, self justification are remote neither in time or place” (Bigsby xvi). The power of the play does not lie in the political or social themes, but rather “a study of the debilitating power of guilt, the seductions of power, the flawed nature of the individual and of the society to which the individual owes allegiance” (Bigsby xxiv). The power of John Proctor’s guilt about his adultery drives ...

... middle of paper ...

...d of Proctor’s life is truly tragic.

The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s greatest tragedy. It is not merely an allegory for McCarthyism, but an allegory for all times. The play is also his greatest tragedy because of the strict adherence to the form of classical tragedy as outlined by Aristotle.

Works Cited

American Writers. Ed. Leonard Unger. Vol. III. New York: Scribner’s, 1974. 145-169.

Bigsby, Christopher. Introduction. The Crucible. By Arthur Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Matlaw, Marion. Modern World Drama: An Encyclopedia. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1972. 175-177.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Miller, Arthur. “Why I Wrote “The Crucible”.” Elements of Literature: Literature of the United States with Literature of the Americas. Austin: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 2000. 827.
Get Access