Publication Date: 1953
Publisher: Penguin Plays
Back in my school days I read and I’m pretty sure I liked Arthur Miller’s The Death of a Salesman so when I decided that I wanted to read more plays I immediately went for a Miller. The Crucible is is based on the Salem Witch Trials but it was written as a commentary on McCarthyism. I have spoken before about how interested I am in cults and what motivates someone to follow or believe in them. I feel like this play is centered on those same themes and is probably the reason I loved it so much. Cults, McCarthyism and the Salem Witch Trial all require people to willingly believe an idea, person, or thought and seemingly not question how authentic that person or idea is. In this play we see this clearly in the character of Abigail and her female friends. They were caught dancing, some of them naked, in the woods by Abigail’s uncle, Reverend Parris. The Reverend’s daughter, Betty, and her friend Ruth are now showing signs of hysteria. To stay out of trouble and also to get revenge Abigail “confesses” to partaking in witchcraft and starts naming other women who worship the devil. Obviously this story is more nuanced and detailed then what I just shared but it is a short play and I don’t want to ruin your experience with the story. I was completely captivated by the way the community of Salem believed these girls so strongly that they willingly participated in the murder of so many of their neighbors. I can completely understand the anger and frustration that Miller had with McCarthy and Congress that he felt compelled to write this story. It is a scathing critique on how destructive people can be when they hold all the power and think they are unequivocally right.