Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

Ideal for student research and class discussion, this interdisciplinary casebook provides a rich variety of primary historical documents and commentary on The Crucible within the context of two relevant historical periods: the Salem witch trials of 1692 and the "Red Scare" of the 1950s, when the play was written. The play is a testimony to the inherent dangers Miller sees in any community seized by hysteria. The Salem witch-hunts, which Miller uses to illustrate such a community, were echoed more than 250 years later in the hunt for subversives during the "Red Scare" of the 1950s. The authors provide literary and dramatic analysis of the play, comprehensive historical background, relevant documents of the periods, and questions and projects to help students in their understanding of The Crucible and the issues it raises.

Excerpt

On the evening of January 22, 1953, after the curtain came down on the opening Broadway performance of Arthur Miller The Crucible, the author walked into the lobby of the Martin Beck Theatre in New York City to mingle with friends and other playgoers who had come to see this, the fourth Broadway production of a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. The mood he encountered there scarcely gave him cause to celebrate, however, for, as Miller explains in Timebends, his autobiography, "In the lobby at the end, people with whom I had some fairly close professional acquaintanceships passed me by as though I were invisible" (New York: Penguin, 1995, 347). To make matters worse, Variety, the show- business newspaper regarded as the bible of the theatre district, listed The Crucible among the year's prominent flops, and several highly respected reviewers, to whom many playgoers looked for guidance, panned the play. One of the most respected theatre critics in New York, George Jean Nathan, excoriated the play in the April edition of Theatre Arts, criticizing it for being a play with little emotional warmth, its impersonal characters having as their only function to propagandize about the U.S. Senate hearings then in progress. As a sermon, he said, it was acceptable, but not as drama. Walter Kerr, another key critic, writing for the New York Herald Tribune, also panned the play and the production, claiming that . . .

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