Written by the famous United Stated playwright Arthur Miller, ‘The Curible’ is a 1953 play that sought to dramatize, as well as fictionalize the trials of Salem town’s witchcraft trials. Written as a fable of McCarthyism when the then Salem, Massachusetts senator, McCarthy termed the period as ‘twenty years of treason’, the democratic administration of the time had silently harbored and supported communists within the American government. Out of fear, America falls prey to the absurd changes introduced by McCarthy, entering into an era when rationalization was overruled by fear, and analogous to that in Salem.
Staged in 1963 in Salem, Massachusetts, drama unfolds at the abode of Reverend Parris. His daughter, Betty, is apparently gravely ill. The night before, the reverend had spotted his daughter with his niece and black slave dancing in the woods, in a manner commonly associated with witchcraft. Unable to determine the cause of the illness, the local physician leaves Parris questioning his niece, Abigail, as well as Tituba his slave on their apparent involvement in witchcraft; to which they both vehemently deny. It is not until another couple, Ann and Thomas Putnam visit their home, and confirm that Tituba, is indeed a member of an occult, in which she consorts with spirits of the departed. The plot continues to reveal an illicit affair that had occurred between Abigail and one John Proctor, in whose home, she had worked; and whose wife, Elizabeth, was also apparently ill. The Reverend Hale, a renowned witch expert from the neighboring town arrives. Together with Reverend Parris, they aggressively question Tituba, who under pressure confesses her involvement with witchcraft. Uncommon of the times, Abigail’s leadership emerges as she not only frightens others, but takes advantage of her prowess.
In similar circumstances as ‘The Crucible’, today’s society is still reminiscent where fear overrules the rational mind. Leaders in high places in the society, such as government offices, are unable to act freely due to the subversive environment in which they must first put into consideration. In more liberal terms, society is unable to function objectively due to the factions that are behest to bring about ‘witch-hunting’ of those that are liberal. From this play, Miller utilizes the McCarthy logic, illustrating how within the offices of power, those who usually are opposed to the populist sentiments to be communists. Subsequently, as has been played out many times within political circles, public officials who dare criticize the government of the day, will usually find themselves soon on the defensive side against charges of belonging to a ‘Communist Conspiracy’ against the government.
The crucible is a novel piece of art that portrays minimal symbolism, while portraying significant themes that are usually the fundamental and frequently universal concepts investigated in literary works. The theocratic society in which the play is set in extrapolates modern society in which official policies are usually championed by officials held in high esteem, or pursuant to the canonization of certain power strongholds.
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