Rating: 4 out of 5
So sorry I didn’t blog yesterday, but I’ve been so busy attending school, working, and learning Japanese. I won’t probably post as frequently this semester. I’ll try to continue with Masterpiece Monday the best I can, and hopefully I’ll post one more time a week. I’ve been getting a steady increase of traffic since I started my blog, so as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing!
Anyways, this past weekend I taught another SAT class, and one of the masterpieces we discussed was The Crucible, a play written by Arthur Miller in 1952. This play revolved around a group of girls who had been accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials.
17-year-old Abigail Williams is the devious perpetrator behind this whole fiasco: she was a maid for the Proctor family and had an affair with husband John. Believing that John loves her, not his wife Elizabeth, Abigail is determined to have Elizabeth executed for witchcraft. Unfortunately, a bunch of other people are dragged into her plans, including John’s friend Giles Corey who is pressed to death with stones.
Most people who have read this play know that it’s an allegory for McCarthyism, since Miller himself was questioned for allegedly being a communist after The Crucible was performed. Many of Miller’s colleagues were also accused, including his close friend and director of his play Death of a Salesman, Elia Kazan.
What I love about The Crucible is the timelessness of its themes. Lives can be ruined because of rumors, which is why this is a great play to read in high school. No one knows gossip like teenage girls, so The Crucible offers a perfect opportunity for teachers to caution their students about the consequences of all that “he said, she said.”
I also appreciated Miller’s devotion to his research. He traveled to Salem to write, and used actual figures during the trials, such as Giles Corey. In addition, the play’s Cold War allegory provides two history lessons in one piece of literature. Success!
The only con to The Crucible is that even though it narrates events from hundreds of years ago, it’s a tragic reminder that people still believe in supernatural notions like witchcraft, possession, and exorcism. How many people have committed horrendous crimes and justified their actions by claiming that the devil made them do it? Whether they’re fundamentalist or mentally ill, this finger-pointing to invisible spirits is extremely dangerous. And if you argue that these incidents are few and far between, note that 20% of Americans still believe in witches (Gallup 2005). Clearly, religious paranoia exists over 300 years after the Salem Witch Trials.
I highly recommend this play, as well as the 1996 film with Daniel Day-Lewis as John Proctor and Winona Ryder as Abigail. Hopefully, I’ll be able to read more of Miller’s work this year, as he deservedly holds the title of one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century.
Favorite Quote: “Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”