The Crucible: social context

The Crucible: social context

Historical and Authorial Context

  • “The Crucible” is a historic play by Arthur Miller written in 1952, set during the Salem witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1692.
  • It is important to understand that Miller wrote this play as an allegory to the political climate of his time, specifically the Red Scare and the McCarthy trials in the U.S, where people were accused of communism.
  • Miller uses the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for the ‘witch hunts’ of his own time, showing the dangers of mass hysteria and societal pressure.

Society and Social Hysteria

  • Focusing on a small, Puritan community, the play highlights social hysteria and the danger it can cause. The mass hysteria in Salem leads to personal vendettas, social divisions, and manipulation.
  • Despite being set in the 17th century, the play has significant relevance to any era as it deals with themes of fear, power, truth, and conformity.

Beliefs and Society in Salem

  • The Puritan society believed deeply in the devil and witchcraft as real, palpable evils in the world. Their theocratic rule meant any challenge to their beliefs was a challenge to law and society.
  • It’s crucial to recognise that in the Puritan society of Salem, social standing matters. Reputation is incredibly significant and there’s no separation of church and state.
  • Women’s rights and perspective were limited in this society, reflected by the witch trials where majority of the accused are women.

Prejudice and Discrimination

  • Slavery and racial prejudice are other social contexts in the play, reflected through the character Tituba, who is a slave from Barbados. Her character is often scapegoated, reflecting the racial prejudice at the time.

Themes and Social Context

  • The social context of “The Crucible” is directly tied to its themes of truth and justice, power and authoritarianism, society versus the individual, and of course, fear and hysteria.