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The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a Greek Tragedy

When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953, America was in a state of unrest. Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee were spreading fear and hysteria with their Communist “witch hunts.” Miller wanted to address the subject in a way that would not blatantly denounce the hearings, and with his previous knowledge of the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, he created an allegory, and The Crucible was born. By examining the universality of the theme of the play and its tragic elements, it will be apparent that The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s greatest achievement.

The Crucible was not as instantly successful as Death of a Salesman because “its merits were at first overshadowed by the notoriety of its most obvious theme. The Salem witch trials of 1692, was distractingly applicable to what has been called the witch hunts of the 1950’s” (American Writers 156). However, The Crucible has survived and is constantly revived because “the play transcends mere topicality” (Matlaw 175). While the obvious connection between the Salem witchcraft trials and the “Red Scare” is apparent to anyone who reads the play with any knowledge of history, The Crucible is not only an allegory of America in the 1950’s, but a potential allegory for any time and any place because the themes of “betrayal, denial, rash judgment, self justification are remote neither in time or place” (Bigsby xvi). The power of the play does not lie in the political or social themes, but rather “a study of the debilitating power of guilt, the seductions of power, the flawed nature of the individual and of the society to which the individual owes allegiance” (Bigsby xxiv). The power of John Proctor’s guilt about his adultery drives …

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…d of Proctor’s life is truly tragic.

The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s greatest tragedy. It is not merely an allegory for McCarthyism, but an allegory for all times. The play is also his greatest tragedy because of the strict adherence to the form of classical tragedy as outlined by Aristotle.

Works Cited

American Writers. Ed. Leonard Unger. Vol. III. New York: Scribner’s, 1974. 145-169.

Bigsby, Christopher. Introduction. The Crucible. By Arthur Miller. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.

Matlaw, Marion. Modern World Drama: An Encyclopedia. New York: E. P. Dutton

Essay on The Crucible: The Concept of Conscience

The Crucible: The Concept of Conscience

Conscience is the awareness of right and wrong. In The Crucible, the idea of conscience in strongly emphasized. Miller himself said,

“No critic seemed to sense what I was after [which was] the conflict between a man’s raw deeds and his conception of himself; the question of whether conscience is in fact an organic part of the human being, and what happens when it is handed over not merely to the state or the mores of the time but to one’s friend or wife.”

The idea of conscience in the play The Crucible is based very much on Christian concepts, firstly the idea of morality, or conscience of right and wrong, secondly the idea of the confession of sin, and finally the idea of guilt and penance for sins. Conscience, then, as an issue of morality, is defined very clearly at the start of the play. “…a minister is the Lord’s man in the parish; a minister is not to be so lightly crossed and contradicted” says Parris in Act One. Here it is established that theologically the minister, in this case, Parris, is supposed to be the ultimate decider of morality in Salem. The Church, in theocratic Massachusetts, defines conscience. Right and wrong is decided by authority, and the authority here is the Church. Law is based on the doctrines of the Church, and Salem is a theocracy.

“For good purposes, even high purposes, the people of Salem developed a theocracy, a combine of state and religious power whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any kind of disunity…but all organization is and must be grounded on the idea of exclusion and prohibition, just as two objects cannot occupy the same space. Evidently the time came in New England when the repressions of order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized.”

So firstly Salem was a place where the conscience of the people was strictly governed by the theocracy, and socially Salem was repressive. However, at the start of the book, we see that the people of Salem have already begun to strain under this strict idea of conscience, this repression. Abigail says to John, “I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretence Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes?

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