In the Crucible each act can be analysed as a series of scenes, each having its own tone and climax all leading up to the powerful curtain. The play emerged from a true story. It was based on the Salem, Massachusetts Witch Trial in 1692, which links in with Miller’s era, were ‘witch trails’ was known as McCarthyism in the 1950’s. At the time there was a modern day witch hunt in America. Instead of hunting the witches, ‘Free thinkers’. People who had individual thoughts were accused of disloyalty and communist sympathies, which often resulted in loss of their jobs.
The people of Salem were Puritans- descendents of the Pilgrim Fathers, who arrived in America from England in 1690 because they wanted a stricter way of life with regard to their religion, people were extremely religious. There are many parallel links between the two ages such as the accusations and trail laws. The play starts off in a small room which symbolises the narrow mindedness of the community. The three scenes; five, six and ten all lead up to the powerful climax, through structure, language, character and the social history.
It is important for the audience to understand the historical background, and understand what living in Salem, Massachusetts was like in the seventeenth century. Their lives consisted of working, eating, sleeping and praying. Any kind of enjoyment was prohibited. This meant that singing and dancing was forbidden and seen as an interaction with the devil. People of Salem believed in witchcraft, and in 1692, many people were accused and hanged because of this. People incriminated each other, both neighbours and friends.Order now
This shows that although on the surface, society appears united, cracks were beginning to emerge. The audience reaction to the seventeenth century of the Puritan lifestyle would be one of shock and disbelief. However this can be related to McCarthyism in the 1950’s. In the 1950’s the Cold War was taking place, during this suspicion arose between the ‘free thinkers’ and communists. In order to protect themselves, just as in The Crucible, they blamed others to get out of trouble.
The Crucible was inspired by Millers’ experiences of the 1950’s. It was Senator Joseph McCarthy who created the hunt for communists. The similarities between the Crucible and McCarthy’s’ accusations of the 1950’s were denounced. Without proof or evidence the inciting of fear and suspicion would lead in the 1950’s to the eventual break up of families and friendship as people accused each other of disloyal acts against America, which links in with The Crucible. This was to lead to America becoming permeated by paranoia and scepticism.