"The Crucible" - Background on McCarthyism and Witches


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"The Crucible" - Background on McCarthyism and Witches

  1. 1. Arthur Miller
  2. 2. This is the basis for ArthMiller’s screenplay, TheCrucible. Who wasexecuted, why?
  3. 3. 1. Abstract – adjectiveConsidered apart from concreteexistence; theoretical2. Allegory – nounThe representation of abstractideas or principles by characters.
  4. 4. Most of those accused of being witches werewomen.Many were healers, and used plants to heal people.Many were without family, and this made them easytargets.They were people who did not fit in with themainstream for some reason.
  5. 5. The Witches Sabbath, painted in 1606 You are going to explore this painting on the next page.HTD68835 The Witches Sabbath, 1606 by Frans II The Younger Francken, (1581-1642), Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK, (Out of Copyright)
  6. 6. Skull – The skeleton of the head. These were often used in paintings as reminders of death and the afterlife. Could they provide a link with the dead and spirits from beyond the grave? Q. What are the skulls lying on? Q. What has been put with them?Consider how superstitious people were at this time.
  7. 7. Remember how important religion was at this time.
  8. 8. Skull – The skeleton of the head. These were often used in paintings as reminders of death and the afterlife. Could they provide a link with the dead and spirits from beyond the grave? Q. What are the skulls lying on? Q. What has been put with them?Consider how superstitious people were at this time.
  9. 9. Witch Somebody who practices magic (in this case ‘dark’ forms of magic. It was thought at this time that witches were sometimes accompanied by a a devil or ‘familiar’ spirit. Lots of witches together are called a coven.Do you expect Q. What do you find strange abouta witch to look the two witches at the front of the like this? picture? Q. What do you find strange about the appearance of this witch ?
  10. 10. Cauldron A large round pot made of metal which is used for boiling food. Cauldrons could also be used for mixing potions….Q. Can you link this with any other part of the picture?
  11. 11. WitchWhen people think of witchesthey tend to think that they will be female. Men were also accused of witchcraft. A male witch issometimes called a Warlock – a wizard or sorcerer.Q. Are all of those present within this painting female?
  12. 12. A Familiar This was thought to be an evil spirit that had taken on the form of an animal Familiars could even look like common pets! Q. How many creatures can you see in the picture? Q. Describe some of these creatures.A Spell book Contained incantations, chants and spells
  13. 13. Sprites Supernatural beings or the souls of people. They cansometimes take on a ghostly appearance. Levitation Rising into the air using supernatural powers.Could this be a reference to Doctor Faustus (made famous in a play by Christopher Marlowe in 1604)? Ask your teacher about this.
  14. 14. Witch Tests and TrialsWitch examinations often involved looking for a witch-mark.This was supposed to be where familiars sucked blood fromthe witch.Sometimes large pins were pushed into the witch-mark. If theperson did not cry out in pain (or if she did not bleed from the wound!)she was a witch.Other witches were ducked or thrown into water with theirhands tied. If they sank (and drowned!) they were saidto be innocent and if they floated they were guiltyand hung or burnt.
  15. 15. One of the ways most witches were accused was with theuse of “spectral evidence.” If someone said they had seenthe accused with the devil in a dream, or that the accusedhad visited them in the night, or had hurt them, it wastaken as evidence that the devil was at work. 20 executed Between 175 to 200 imprisoned
  16. 16. How did it start?In 1692, several girls in the village of Salem, Massachusettsbecame intrigued when a West Indian servant told them stories ofmagic and voodoo from her native land.Bored and restricted by the oppressive Puritan life, thegirls slipped into the woods one night and “conjured”love charms and hexes.One girl, Betty Parris, slipped into unconsciousnesswhen her father caught them. She wouldn’t wake up,and this started the discussion of witchcraft. To avoidpunishment, the girls created the story of the “witches”who made them dance and conjure the spells.
  17. 17. Why did it happen?It began as a way for the oppressed girls to avoidbeing punished. It then became an ideal way to get revenge on anyone whom you disliked.People started accusing their neighbors of beingwitches so they could steal their farmland.People accused others of being witchesif they wanted to steal their husbandsor wives or possessions.
  18. 18. Those accused of being witcheswere most often found guilty.Sometimes they were sentenced tobe tied to a rock dunked in apond, and if they sank, they weredeclared innocent. Innocent. Ifthey somehow survived thedunking, they were obviouslywitches, and they were executed.Most of those found guilty ofwitchcraft were hung.One man was pressed to deathwith rocks because he refused toplead guilty or innocent, insuringthat his sons still inherited hislands.
  19. 19. Why wasThe Crucible written?The Crucible was written by Arthur Miller in1953 as an allegory for McCarthyism or the socalled (second) Red Scare. Miller felt manypersonal convictions to McCarthyism as a resultof a multitude of events that happened in his life.Wanting to point out to the world the amazingparallel between the unjust Salem Witch Trials of1692 and the (second) Red Scare from 1948 to1956, Miller wrote The Crucible to make apowerful statement about the dangers of hysteriaand the dehumanization that can result.
  20. 20. During McCarthyism, the United States was terrified of Communismsinfluence. Like the witches, communists were seen ingrained withinevery aspect of society. Miller was sent to jail for withholdinginformation from the court, namely the names of those assumed tobe communists. Many of Miller’s peers fearing the wrath of the courtprovided names of suspected communists in an attempt to savethemselves.
  21. 21. Arthur Miller offers his explanationsfor the factors that caused the SalemWitch Trials.-He uses the real people from the trials ascharacters, but created his own story topoint out the problems in Puritan society.-Ask yourself the following question asyou read:“How much evidence of the supernaturalexists in this play?”
  22. 22. This play shows the concept of masshysteria.Mass Hysteria -a form of groupthink, inwhich several people with something incommon begin to think in the same way.In mass hysteria, the group members alldevelop a common fear that often spiralsinto a panic. The group members feed offeach other’s emotional reactions, causingthe panic to escalate.
  23. 23. Miller’s InspirationMiller was motivated to examine theSalem Witch Trials because he waswitness to one of the other greatest masstragedies in the United States, TheMcCarthy Era.The McCarthy Era was an era in the1940s and 1950s when individuals wereaccused of being Communist. Individualswere often targeted with little proof.
  24. 24. Individuals were “blacklisted” andprevented from obtaining work.Many lives were destroyed.Many of the accused even committedsuicide.In the years following the McCarthyEra, the actions of the governmentwere recognized as cruel and unjust.
  25. 25. Miller created this play to show thesimilarities between the two eras inAmerican History, and examine thehidden motivations behind theatrocities that occurred.