The Crucible Coursework Essay
The Crucible was written in 1952 by the playwright Arthur Miller. It
is an allegory of the McCarthy ‘witch-hunts’ which occurred during the
1950’s. It was effectively the arrest and questioning of those
suspected of communist views or that sympathised with communists. The
USA was very suspicious of communists due to the Cold War between
itself and the USSR. Joe McCarthy, leader of the governmental
organisation, the Anti-Democracy Policy, headed the hunts. Arthur
Miller was himself arrested by McCarthy.
Miller was very irritated by this and decided that he wanted to
protest by writing a satirical play. To have his play shown on
Broadway he had to write an allegory based on his treatment and the
insanity of the ‘witch-hunts’.
The play is set in a fictional town named Salem in Massachusetts, USA
in 1692, a period of American history when people were strict
In Acts I, II and III we see a portrayal of local farmer John Proctor
as he becomes involved in the injustices and realises the stupidity of
the witch-hunts of Salem.
In Act I we are introduced to Reverend Samuel Parris, a corrupted
clergyman. He is insecure, bitter and paranoid about witchcraft
infecting his parish, giving him a bad reputation. We learn that he
has seen several girls dancing naked and casting spells in the nearby
woods, including his daughter, Betty, niece, Abigail Williams and his
housemaid, Tituba. Parris’ perversion could be seen as the
‘perversion’ of the autocratic 1950’s America.
We also briefly establish John Proctor’s relationship with Abigail. An
orphan, Abigail worked for him and his wife, Elizabeth as a housemaid
until Elizabeth discovers that they were having an affair, a serious
matter as this breaks one of the Ten Commandments. After being “put
out”, Abigail still yearns for Proctor, although he pays little
interest in her and goes back to living with his family.
In this Act though, Proctor is flirting with Abigail again, but then
refuses her his love.
This is the start of Abigail’s tirade of naming the women of the town
that she says are witches. When a woman is named, she can save herself
from hanging by naming another woman as a witch, therefore creating a
vicious circle of lies, revenge and selfishness.
In Act II Elizabeth is arrested after being named by Abigail as a
witch. Proctor’s profound love for his wife is evident here.
In Act III Proctor tries to ensure Elizabeth’s release by telling the
court of his affair with Abigail, therefore proving that she is lying
to take revenge on his wife. Unfortunately, Elizabeth, who is usually
truthful, lies to the court believing she is protecting John. John is
later on accused of being “the Devil’s man” by his new housemaid, Mary
Warren, a friend of Abigail’s, that is blatantly bullied into lying,
during Abigail’s pretence of Mary’s spirit attacking her as a bird,
which no-one can see except the girls. This...