Text and CriticismBook - 1996
"I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history," Arthur Miller wrote in an introduction to The Crucible , his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria.
In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.
Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing: "Political opposition...is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence."
This Viking Critical Library edition of Arthur Miller's dramatic recreation of the Salem witch trials contains the complete text of The Crucible as well as extensive critical and contextual material about the play and the playwright, including: Selections from Miller's writings on his most frequently performed play Essays on the historical background of The Crucible , including personal narratives by participants in the trials and records of witchcraft in Salem from the original documents Reviews of The Crucible , in production by Brooks Atkinson, Walter Kerr, Eric Bentley, and others Excerpts from Jean-Paul Sartre's Les Sorci#65533;res de Salem , a "spin-off" of Miller's play, and three analogous works by Twain, Shaw, and Budd Schulberg Critical essays on the play, on Miller, and on the play in the context of Miller's oeuvre An introduction by the editor, a chronology, a list of topics for discussion and papers prepared by Malcolm Cowley, and a bibliography
From the critics
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“Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. They say he give them but two words. "More weight," he says. And died.”
"Because it is my name! Because I can not have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name!"
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Religious fervor meets conniving women, causes the Salem Witch Trials. Abigail schemes with the other girls to accuse other women of the town of being witches. In reality Abigail wishes to dispose of the wife of her lover. Many of the other women accusers have different motives. Those accused are ether hung or jailed, after no one is able to dissuade the judge of their guilt.
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