Definition of a crucible : A severe test or difficult challenge
Bibliographical information: Arthur Miller Arthur Miller: 1915-2005 Common theme of his plays: morality vs. pressures from society or family The Crucible was published in 1953 The Crucible draws comparisons between the Salem witch trials in 1692-1693 and the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. (Senator McCarthy claimed that the State Department had been infiltrated by Communists in 1950) In 1956 Miller was summoned as part of the McCarthy trials and refused to implicate his friends. He was tried and convicted of contempt of Congress. In 1958 his conviction was overturned.
Historical Information Salem (New Jerusalem) was founded in 1626 by the Puritans November 1689 Samuel Parris named the new minister of Salem January 20, 1692 Abigail Williams and Elizabeth (Betty) Parris begin behaving strangely February 29, 1692 First accusations and arrests for witchcraft (first arrested are Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osborne – all of questionable character) May 1693 Governor Phipps pardons those still in prison for witchcraft January 14, 1697 the General Court orders a day of fasting and soul-searching for the tragedy at Salem. Judge Samuel Sewall publicly confesses error and guilt. 1697 Rev. Parris fired as minister in Salem 1702 The General Court declares the 1692 trials unlawful 1752 Salem Village is renamed Danvers
Miller’s key literary techniques Authorial intrusion: the author interrupts the action of the play in order to give the audience extra information, often from Miller’s life or the audience’s current social experience Direct characterization: Miller’s sidebars offer specific information about characters and their actions Allusion: this technique is used to emphasize his theme of morality vs. social pressure with historical and social allusions
Dramatic license – the play is based on information that Miller researched from primary documents, but some details and characters are altered and much of the dialogue was created by the author. Miller did make some changes for the sake of the story and to make the play fit on stage. Ex. Abigail is 17 in the play, but she was 11 during the actual witch trials in Salem. Metonymy – referring to something closely related to the actual object as a way of referring to the object itself Miller refers to all individuals who stand up to the inadequacies of society as Proctors Miller strove to be accurate with each character’s personality. He used his characters to represent a type of character found in nearly every society (archetype).
Rhetoric – the effective use of language; the art and logic of a written or spoken argument. This art utilizes a well-planned presentation of facts and ideas in clear, persuasive, and attractive language. Note that the language used in the courtroom scenes in Act III and IV are driven by rhetoric and spectral evidence as opposed to hard evidence.
Dynamic character - a literary character that undergoes an important or dramatic change Tragic hero – a character who is destined for downfall, suffering, or defeat Metaphor – a figure of speech in which two unlike things are compared, usually for emphasis or dramatic effect. Note: Be sure to look for and identify key literary devices and techniques used in the play. ANNOTATE the literary devices, so we can discuss them in seminar and you can analyze them in your written responses. You are required to include textual evidence and explain the literary devices used in the text in every analytical FRQ for this course!