The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Primary Source Set

Inspired by the House Un-American Activities Committee and the McCarthy trials of the 1950s, Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, a play set in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts during the height of the mass hysteria known as the Salem witch trials. What did these two events nearly 250 years apart have in common? Both the hunt for communists in the 1950s and the hunt for witches in 1692 seemed to be provoked by hidden agendas, iniquitous motives, and little factual evidence. While Miller based his play on the historical accounts of the Salem witch trials, using the names of the people involved, it is a work of fiction. In order to appeal to theatergoers, Miller makes a love triangle the driving force behind the hysteria. However, the play retains Miller’s message about what happens when checks and balances are overlooked, fear becomes the driving force behind accusations, and people are guilty until proven innocent. This primary source set includes photographs, transcripts, text documents, and footage that provides context for thematic elements within The Crucible.

Additional resources for research

  1. Why Arthur Miller Wrote “The Crucible,” PBS American Masters.
  2. Arthur Miller, "Are You Now Or Were You Ever?", University of Pennsylvania.
  3. Senator McCarthy, McCarthyism, and the Witch Hunt, Cold War Museum.

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