How does Act One of ‘The Crucible’ prepare the audience for the rest of the play?
The paranoia surrounding communism in America around the time that the play was written caused serious problems for people working in the arts and many writers including Miller were called in front of committees, overlooked by Senator McCarthy, to give evidence or confess to ‘un-American’ behaviour. Prosecuting for ‘un-American behaviour’ was a bizarre way for the American government to stop the threat of communism from breaking under the pressure from many countries around the world to revolt against capitalism and join the communist regime. As a result, many careers ended as they could not get jobs because of rumours they were communist sympathisers.
Arthur Miller had studied American witchcraft in College, but it was not until later on in his life that he stumbled across an uncanny link between 2 eras of History. The 1940’s McCarthyism he was currently living in and the events of the Salem witch trials.
In the 17th Century rumours of witchcraft were common and many psychosomatic sufferers, as well as people not suffering from mental disorders, were executed or prosecuted for witchcraft because in those times it was believed that if behaviour wasn’t normal then the devil must be to blame. This happened in Salem, rumours quickly spread that the strange behaviours of Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam were due to witchcraft and the false testimonies of Abigail Williams and her friends caused 20 innocent men and women to hang and many others to be prosecuted.
A key theme of this play and possibly the main reason behind the belief that Satan’s presence was in Salem in 1692 is the power of religion. The minister is the head of the village, his position is one of immense power and therefore his views have heavy influence on the way the town thinks. This religious hypocrisy evident in Salem is something that modern day people, especially in American and England, aren’t used to...