Updated: Dec 22, 2020
The Crucible was written by Arthur Miller
The Crucible was written in America in the 1950s, but it's set in the 17th Century.
It's one of many plays written by Arthur Miller, a famous American playwright. We'll look more into Miller's work later, but have you heard of Arthur Miller? Do you know any of his other plays? Have you seen any of his works on stage?
The play is a tragedy - it has serious themes and the story follows the downfall of the play's main character, John Proctor.
It's also a historical drama, which means that the characters and action in the play are based on real people and real events.
We need to know the key features of The Crucible before we perform the play on stage. Aspects like the play's 17th-century setting and its genres might influence how the play is performed and designed.
The plot is based on real witch-hunts
The Crucible tells the story of witch trials in Salem village in America in 1692.
Although it's based on real events and real people, its a fictional account of what happened.
Miller chose to write about the Salem witch trials because they shared similarities with modern-day witch-hunts that were happening in America when he was writing (more on this in later lessons). Both sets of witch-hunts were motivated by fear and paranoia.
This is the play's subtext - it was too dangerous for Miller to criticise the modern-day witch-hunts directly, so he wrote about Salem instead and allowed audiences to make the connection.
Miller also used the Salem witch trials to make a wider point about how easily lies and fear can spread in any society.
It's a play about fear and intolerance
Many of the play's themes focus on how people behave and the consequences of their actions:
Fear - Miller shows that fear brings out the worst in people and causes them to lose common sense.
Intolerance - Anyone who doesn't conform to the Church's rules is seen as a threat to Salem's society. The play criticises Salem's religious intolerance, suggesting that it leads to lies and injustice.
Identity and reputation - Miller demonstrates the struggle between trying to maintain a good reputation whilst acting in a way that is morally right. This conflict makes it hard for characters to be individuals.
Envy and revenge - Seeking revenge and acting out a jealousy is shown to be destructive.