The play was written in the late 1940’s early 1950’s in cold war America at this point in time America was in a situation know as the “red scare” which was America’s fight against to the threat of communism (lead to Vietnam, Korea, the Cuban missile crisis etc… ). The main focus in the American household at this point in time was the fight of communism at home. This fight was headed by General Joseph McCarthy who decided to fight the communist spy’s on the home front they need to be exposed to the public. So every night General would address the public on the radio and read to them a “list of communist’s living within the U. S. “.
There is heaps of evidence to show that McCarthy could not have acquired such a list and that it was just a way of the government to keep the heat off there backs from the growing protests. Because of the scare more and more people protested against the government for them to do something about the communists infiltrating the country. So miraculously the government finds a list of the communists living in America and reveals it to the public… it all seems a little too convenient. Once this list is announced to the public there is absolute chaos as friend and neighbours are pitted against each other.
It was a time where you could shoot the postman and simply say he was a communist and get away with it. Thousands of people were carted off and thrown in overcrowded jails just because people thought they were communists. This also became an opportunity for people to get rid of there worst enemies and anyone that would cause them trouble just by tipping off the police that certain people were communists just to save themselves from being accused. And all of this was caused by the government trying to take the pressure of it self by lying to people. Key ideas the playwright was trying to get across
Arthur Miller the play write of “the Crucible” used the red scare as the basis for the play. The crucible is actually just a gigantic metaphor for the whole red scare and the effects it was having on the public causing mass hysteria. We obviously see this in play as the hole witch hunt began as a lie to get the girls of the play out of trouble by claiming that they had been bewitched and could name the people in the community who “had made a compact with Satan and written in his black book with there blood” (these were supposedly enemies of the girls).
This is just a metaphor for the government’s “list of communist’s” in which they labelled enemies of the government as well as the random members of the public, just to take the pressure off them from the people who wanted action. At the time people who spoke up against this regime were automatically arrested and labelled communists. So its not surprising that during the period Arthur Miller was labelled a communist and was thrown in jail for a short period of time. This is another main theme in the play.
Arthur Miller tries to express the fact that at the time of the red scare the people that spoke up against the mockery of justice and said it was wrong, were the people the government targeted. This is shown through the character of John Proctor who in the play goes against the system and is the only one who speaks out against the madness and because of this is eventually hanged for being a “witch”. Relativity to today’s society This was essentially what was happening in the U. S. (even though they weren’t being hanged).
There were smart people that were rounded up due to the fact that they were the ones that worked out what was going on and took a stand against it all. The theme of mass hysteria still can be related to today’s society with issues like Iraq etc. it can be related to Iraq because of the mass hysteria built up around weather or not Sadam Hussain (the Iraq dictator around the time) had weapons of mass destruction. The mass hysteria around the speculation of W. M. D’s in Iraq eventually lead U. S. and British Coalition forces to war.
Eventually it was found that there were no W. M. D’s and that lives had been lost due to mass hysteria and speculation which is what exactly happens in the crucible. First Performance of the play The plays first performance was on Broadway on January 22, 1953. The reviews of the first production were hostile saying it was pro-terrorist, anarchistic and that it was the work of “a no good filthy communist”. But a year later was performed again and for some reason had managed to separate itself from the pervious attacks and became an instant classic.