The Crucible, Part 1: Contexts and Allegory





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Published on Oct 27, 2014

Part one of a series on the background, context, literary elements, and characters of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. This lesson covers more of the historical and contextual elements than the literary elements.

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Below is the outline of the slides used in the lesson:

The Crucible, Part 1: Contexts and Allegory
Historical and Contemporary Contexts
1692—Salem Witch Trials

1950-1954—McCarthy’s “Red Scare”
Any story, poem, or other work of art that is highly, or even completely, symbolic or full of symbols
Usually symbolic of some psychological or spiritual journey or process
Salem, 1692
A series of accusations of witchcraft made by young women and girls in the village of Salem, MA

Salem, 1692
As the accusations and hysteria spread, judges were brought in to investigate
Salem, 1692
Hearings led to confessions to avoid hanging and accusations that led to hangings
This is the broad plot overview of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
Further Information on the Salem Witch Trials
America, 1950s
The Soviet Union had emerged as our main rival in foreign affairs after World War II
1950-1953—Korean War
Growing fear of Communism as a worldview in direct competition to America’s economic and political interests around the world
America, 1950s
Development of the hydrogen bomb
1953—Rosenberg Trials
1953—Soviets detonate their first hydrogen bomb
America, 1950s
1950—Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin claims that the State Department and other Federal agencies had been infiltrated by communists
McCarthy gains notoriety and political success through his accusations
1954—McCarthy accuses the Army of being soft on communism and is censured by the Senate and his popularity declines rapidly


Arthur Miller
1949—Death of a Salesman first performed
Miller’s second play to receive critical acclaim
1952—Miller’s acquaintance, Elia Kazan, testifies before McCarthy, giving the names of former communist collaborators
Arthur Miller
1953—The Crucible opens
McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee denies Miller a passport
1956—Miller testifies before the HUAC, accompanied by his then wife, Marilyn Monroe
Miller refuses to name former communist collaborators
Miller’s Allegory
Miller saw HUAC’s work and the witch trials as analogous to one another and wrote The Crucible as an allegory of his own day while preserving a fairly accurate representation of the trials
Next Lesson
Contextual and literary connections
Notes about American plays in the early 20th century
The dramatis personae of the play
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