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The Crucible

The only play of Miller’s not set in the present day, ‘The Crucible’ is in many ways the most universally and perennially topical of them all. Its concern is with singlemindedness that has become fanatacism, with religion that has either hardened into bigotry or degenerated into self-indulgence and hysteria, and with the inhumanity of man that has always haunted Miller’s imagination. Its New England setting and its central warning - see what happens when men salve their consciences by transferring to higher authority their responsibility for moral decisions - seemed to give it perculiar relevance into the political situation in America when it was written (1953), but its implications are much wider. McCarthyism is not the only form of authoritanarianism to which Proctor’s protest in this play might be directed: “Is the accuser always holy now?”; nor was seventeenth-century Salem the only community in which all normal, rational evidence has been for a time either high-handedly disregarded or high-mindedly misinterpreted.

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