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Arthur Miller was born in Harlem, New York on October 17, 1915. Middle class parents raised him, until his family lost everything during the wall street crash of 1929. Once graduating high school, Miller went on to attend the University of Michigan. In college he wrote for the student paper and wrote his first play No Villain. He also took courses with Kenneth Rowe who taught students how to construct their plays with an effect. Inspired by this, Miller moved back east and began his career, It didn't start too well for Miller his fist play in 1940 The man who had all the luck, became the antithesis of its title. Later his play All my sons. Had success on Broadway and won him his first Tony award for best author. His popular success is derived from Death of a salesman, which opened on Broadway in 1949. It had won him a Pulitzer prize, New York Drama critics award, and a Tony, In 1956 he left his first wife Mary Slattery. Soon he married the famous Marilyn Monroe. Later that year the HUAC refused to review his passport and called him in to appear before the committee- his play The Crucible. Which is merely an allegory of McCarthyism, Miller didn't comply with them. In 1961 Miller and Monroe divorced. A few months later he married Austrian photographer Inge Morath. His son in law is famous actor Daniel Day-Lewis. He died at the age of 89 in 2005.
Historical Information About Period of Publication
The Crucible was written during the era of McCarthyism (1950s) - a time during the Cold War when the House of Un-American Activities Committee met to determine if there were communistic activities taking place in various aspects such as government, entertainment, and military. In the entertainment department all types of writers had to confess if they took part in communist activities. Many who denied this notion, were taken for further investigation. Because the powerhouses of movie and television studios were scared of being considered disloyal, a "blacklist" was thus created. If people were seen as suspicious they were put on this list. The events going on at this time was known as the "witch hunts," a term that derives from the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 in which accusations were being made among the people in the community of being something they're not, this lead to an immense amount of confusion and tension was rising as well.
Characteristics of the Genre
The Crucible is a tragic drama. The protagonist (John proctor) is destroyed by a tragic flaw, and corrupt moral values, which leads him to an immense amount of sorrow. At the beginning of the play he is considered a hero, however the end of the play his true character is revealed, Superstitions are stressed greatly in tragic dramas. This play is also an allegory to McCarthyism and the Salem witch trials of 1692.
Taking place in Salem Massachusetts 1692, a young girl named Betty is lying in bed inert and no one knows why. In this puritan society life is centered on religion and superstitions. The society implies that anything negative is affiliated with the devil: witchcraft. Eventually, some young girls and a slave are caught dancing in the forest, which is seen as interaction with the devil. The following day there is a rise in the number of people getting sick that escalates the suspicion of witchcraft. The antagonist and selfish leader of the girls is named Abigail, alerts the others not to confess to the dancing. At this time she is left in a room alone with a man by the name of John Proctor, she had has history with proctor due to the fact that they had an affair. She attempts to entice him however fails to do so. Tension rises throughout the community as neighbors are not fond of each other and are getting irritated. A religious man named Rev. Hale talks to the girls and demanding them to tell the truth of what's really going on. First Tituba (the slave) confess and the other girls follow, as they list names of people who are allies with the Devil. Some time passes by and we are in the proctor household, which consists of John and Elizabeth (his wife). Elizabeth has remained loyal and persuades John to explain the affair between him and Abigail, to find out her true character. John is terrified and doesn't comply with her orders. Additionally, Marry warren is a servant for the proctors and she returns from court claiming that Elizabeth has been accused of witchcraft. Many other wives have also been convicted and john believes this is absurd so he beats Mary and orders her to snitch on Abigail. Now in court, Judge Danforth is having doubts about proctor and his validity and also states that Elizabeth will be killed after she completes her pregnancy. More conflicts rises when Abigail blames Mary for witchcraft thus, John must come clean about the affair with Abigail. Then, Elizabeth is brought in for questioning and she lies about the affair in order to remain loyal to John, the lying however doesn't work in their favor. After all that has occurred, John is accused of witchcraft to prove his name/innocence. John is put under arrest and Abigail flees. John confesses to Elizabeth and does not name any other affiliates and is executed.
Describe the Author's Style
Miller uses a third person objective point of view, doesn't directly address the audience.
The characters speak in a simple 17th century language.
Examples that Demonstrate Style
"Already taking a step backward:" (pg. 8)
"A psalm is being sung below." (pg. 24)
"Why, her eyes is closed! Look you, Ann." (pg. 13)
"I never saw no spirits." (pg. 107)
"Aye, sir, he have been searchin' his books since he left you, sir. But he bid me tell you, that you might look to unnatural things for the cause of it." (pg. 9)
"Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I'll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby. (Abigail in response) Aye, but we did. (John replies) Aye, but we did not." (pg. 23)
-John and Abigail
"My husband-is a goodly man, sir." (pg. 113)
"No, I cannot, I cannot stop my mouth; it's God's work I do." (pg. 115)
"I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John proctor. Not enough to wave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs." (pg. 144)
Significance of Quotations
This is the first time we see a reference being made to supernatural causes: Witchcraft, and activity with the devil. This is significant because the whole controversy is over witchcraft and actions regarding that notion. By doing this, Miller sets the outline for the play early, builds suspense, and provokes the reader to find out what occurs next. Also, Parris responds to this by denying the fact of an unnatural cause, and is anxious in regards to his daughter.
When we reach this quote, we come to realize that Abby and John both had an affair, however they are going to lie about it. As the play is somewhat developed at this point, their true characters are being shown. Abigail is the antagonist, and John is the protagonist. This is just the foundation of the lying that continues in the play.
Currently, we are in the courtroom and Judge Danforth is investigating if Elizabeth is a witch, and if John Proctor committed lechery. Elizabeth remains faithful to her husband because she lies for him, claiming that he is a good pure man and did not have the affair with Abigail. She is dishonest to the court, which makes it worse for Proctor who is arrested. This is tragic because Abigail whose evil traits prevailed, and resulted in destroying their marriage.
This is an ironic statement made by Abigail because truly she is a cynical young girl, and has no religious morals. However, in this case she says her work is for God. It is interesting how impractical puritan society was it at times, especially under pressure. This reveals the true meaning of the title The Crucible. Many of the spectators in court are blind and naÃ¯ve, this crafts the further events we anticipate in the play.
As we approach the last few lines of the play, Proctor will be executed on behalf of clearing his name. He alludes to the common notion of waving a white flag to surrender, which shows us that he has some moral values and is somewhat diligent. Many looked down upon him, which shows how corrupt their society was in regards to everyday life.
Role in Story
The town's minister
Slave from the Barbados, belongs to Parris
Young girl associated with Abigail and dancing.
Thomas Putnam's wife
Servant for the Putnam family
Servant for Proctor's
Nurse and wife.
Farmer and husband.
Minister and witchcraft expert
John Proctor's wife.
Clerk for court.
Powerful man and husband of Rebecca.
Giles Corey's wife
He thinks highly of himself and strives to protect his reputation. He does whatever it takes for people to like him.
Follows Abigail's directions and practices witchcraft, dances in forest.
Attracts attention because she is very sick and initiates the rumors of witchcraft
Destroys the marriage between John and Elizabeth Proctor, by having an affair with John. She is pure evil and causes chaos
Stands by Abigail and her witch-hunt actions.
Most of her children didn't live past one day, her daughter is sick and she believes the devil is involved in the community.
Purchases land from those accused of witchcraft.
Loyal to Abigail and stays by her side until the end.
Ordered by John to expose Abigail but she comes up short.
Ashamed of the affair with Abigail, but in the end tries to save his wife from her.
People respect her and her decisions in the community, praised but becomes a victim.
Died from stones.
Has good intentions to assist Betty, but provokes chaos and suspicion.
Finds out about the affair and removes Abigail from her home.
Clerk during the trials.
Goes against Thomas Putnam
Mediates over trials
Whoever is scared of the court, he says they are guilty.
Abigail accuses her first of witchcraft
No important role
Troubled by reading books, doesn't confess.
Over confident, religious, selfish
Obedient, clueless, abnormal
Young, weak, vulnerable
Cynical, selfish, loose, dishonest
NaÃ¯ve, scared, anxious
Anxious, religious, superstitious
Materialistic, obnoxious, unpleasant
Faithful, stealthy, manipulative
Simple, dominated, nervous, submissive
Quiet, tough, unfaithful, perplexed
Trustworthy, experienced, old
Practical, moral, underdog
Religious, confused, bitter
Faithful, poised, devoted.
Sweet, religious, influential
Bitter, corrupt, ignorant
Restless, blinded, rough
Broke, unfortunate, useless( sarah good)
Smart, used, divine
The play takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. The setting shifts from a house, to a courtroom. Also, the Forrest is mentioned.
Significance of Opening Scene
First, we are in the bedroom of Rev. Parris's daughter Betty who is very ill and lying inert. No one knows why and thus people assume that witchcraft is taking place. The people of Salem are anxious to see what will occur next. A young girl named Abigail is evil and she manipulates others to protect her. Eventually chaos and tension rise at the same time and their society becomes destroyed.
1.) Supernatural causes/Witchcraft- This shows terror and corruption in society. If a person is even assumed of doing something non- religious, they are evil; which morally demolishes a society.
2.) Books- They symbolize intelligence, yet it looked condemning and sinful.
3.) The crucible- Implies that under great pressure, people panic and their true beings are revealed.
4.) Cows- When the cows roam the streets it symbolizes the confusion of the people and the hectic time they are going through.
5.) The Forrest- Implies evil and disturbing actions that the girls committed.
Significance of Closing Scene
At the end, Proctor confesses for his sins and does not confess any other names. He stands up for himself and believes that he is doing the right thing, claiming there is good in him. It shows us that their society is backward, and filled with no logic.
Possible Themes/Topics of Discussion
Character (reputation) "It must come out-my enemies will bring it out. Let me know what you done there. Abigail, do you understand that I have many enemies?" (pg. 10) - Parris
2.) Dishonesty- " Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I'll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby. (Abigail in response) Aye, but we did. (John replies) Aye, but we did not." (pg. 23)
-John and Abigail
3.) Religion- A psalm is sung below. The words "God" "Hell", "prayer", "Bless" , and "Devil" are used repeatedly to imply that religion is the center of puritan life.