The Crucible, Arthur Miller: Historical Background

Introduction and Historical Background: The Crucible

Introduction to the Author of The Crucible

Arthur Miller, born on October 17, 1915, in Harlem, was the son of Polish immigrants Isidore and Augusta Miller. After graduating from high school in New York in 1933, Miller applied to several universities but was not admitted. He possessed multiple talents and worked various odd jobs, including hosting a radio program. Eventually, he was accepted into the University of Michigan, where he studied journalism and served as the editor of the Michigan Daily.

Miller's writing career spanned over sixty years, during which he produced twenty-six plays, a collection of short stories, travel journals, a novel, and an autobiography. Many of Miller's plays explore social issues or depict individuals struggling against societal forces.

The Crucible, written by Miller in 1953, sheds light on the witchcraft trials that took place in Salem, focusing on the themes of paranoid hysteria and the struggle of individuals to uphold their ideals and convictions. Miller also adapted the play into a screenplay for the 1996 film version of The Crucible.

Major Works of Arthur Miller

  • No Villain, 1936
  • Honors at Dawn, 1937
  • The Great Disobedience, 1938
  • The Golden Years, 1940
  • The Man Who Had All the Luck, 1944
  • All My Sons, 1947
  • Death of a Salesman, 1949
  • The Crucible, 1953
  • After the Fall, 1964
  • Incident at Vichy, 1964
  • The Price, 1968
  • Fame, 1970
  • The American Clock, 1980
  • Elegy for a Lady, 1982
  • Some Kind of Love Story, 1982
  • The Ride Down Mountain Morgan, 1991
  • The Last Yankee, 1993
  • Broken Glass, 1994

Introduction and Historical Background to the Play The Crucible

Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, was inspired by the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, during which the United States government sought to identify and eliminate potential communist threats. Miller's play exposes the inconsistencies and injustices of the Salem witch trials, drawing parallels to the contemporary political climate of McCarthyism.

The Crucible revolves around the discovery of a group of teenage girls dancing in the woods, attempting to conjure spirits. Rather than facing severe punishment for their actions, the girls avoid consequences by accusing others of practicing witchcraft. This irony highlights how false accusations led to mass paranoia and created an environment of terror and fear, where anyone could be deemed a potential witch. The cycle of doubt, accusation, imprisonment, execution, and conviction perpetuated itself, resulting in the hanging of nineteen men and women by the end of 1692.

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