The Salem witch trials took place in one of the darkest times in American history. This series of hearings in county courts of colonial Massachusetts accused hundreds of men and women of witchcraft, with 150 arrested and imprisoned. The most famous of these hearings were held in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Twenty-nine people were tried for the felony of witchcraft. Of these, 19 of the accused were executed by hanging. Fourteen of these were women and five were men. Some of the accused died in prison and one man, Giles Corey, was crushed to death by stones. "The Crucible" is a dramatic account of the occurrences in Salem written by playwright Arthur Miller in 1952.
Playwright Arthur Miller wrote "The Crucible," a dramatic account of the occurrences in Salem during this time of mass hysteria. The 1953 play was an instant hit and won the 1953 "Best Play" Tony award. Miller wrote that the play was not written to be a factual account; it was a fictionalised version of the events in 1692. An underlying theme of the play is the parallel that can be drawn between the Salem Witch Trials and McCarthyism. In the early 1950s, led by Joe McCarthy, Americans were not accused of being witches, but they were accused of being communists. The Red Scare permeated the American psyche and Arthur Miller wrote this play to reflect both the mindset of the Puritans of Salem and those Americans who blacklisted their countrymen after accusing them of being communists.
Because Arthur Miller took liberties with the facts of the Salem Witch Trials when writing "The Crucible," the nature of people's involvement in the period in history is a bit skewed in his play. Notably, there are some key historical figures missing from "The Crucible" entirely. Cotton Mather was a prolific writer and New England minister who wrote on the morals of Puritans and how heathenism had infiltrated the lives of many New England residents. His writing was a spark which ignited the flame of the Salem Witch trials. Mather's role was completely left out of "The Crucible."
Procter and Williams
To make his play more dramatic, Arthur Miller included a love affair between married John Procter and former housemaid Abigail Williams. Procter, who is made to be the tragic hero of the play, is portrayed as a young farmer, but in reality John Procter was nearly 60 years old. Abigail Williams was 17 in the play, but was 12 in reality, so they could not have had the relationship which was used as a catalyst for the lies and slander that were told against John Procter. Williams is definitely the villain of the play as she accepts a poison to kill John Procter's wife Elizabeth.
A slave who was purchased in Barbados, Tituba worked for the Parris family. In the play, she is unmarried and is a major instigator in the witchcraft of Salem. In reality, Tituba had a husband, John Indian, who is not mentioned at all in the play. In "The Crucible," she was accused of leading young girls in a dancing rite in the woods as they communed with the Devil. This did not happen in reality, though she did confess to witchcraft. Accounts say that she was tortured and coerced into confessing.
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