The Red Scare, fear of the spread of communism, took over the country. People in the entertainment industry were targeted.
Miller’s friend Elia Kazan decides to confess and name names during the McCarthy Trials.
Miller spends time in Salem, MA and writes The Crucible, which showcased on Broadway in 1953. The U.S. State Department refused to renew Miller’s passport in order to attend the Belgian production of the play in late 1953.
In 1956 Miller is called before the House Un-American Activities Committee but refuses to confess or name names. He is charged with contempt, fined, and sentenced to jail. In 1958 his sentence is reversed.
“ Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.”
What do Abigail’s threats toward the other girls reveal about her character?
She has witnessed the brutal murder of her parents and suggests that she is, herself, capable of violence.
Evaluate the offhand way Abigail describes events to Proctor in light of what we know about her character.
She illustrates her ability to adapt her manner to suit a situation. With her uncle, she feigns concern and righteous indignation. With the girls, she is domineering and cruel. With Proctor, she is coy and seductive.
What is revealed about the central conflict in the conversation between Abigail and John Proctor?
The conflict between Abigail and Mrs. Proctor: Abigail’s motivation is now known. There was a romantic link between her and John, which is why Mrs. Proctor dismissed her. Abigail believes John loves her. Mrs. Proctor’s death would clear the way for marriage between them.
The conflict between Abigail and John: He denies that he ever gave her reason to believe there was hope for marriage.
Ann already has mentioned that she has lost seven babies in infancy. Now her only surviving child is behaving strangely and is ill. Rebecca has 11 children and 26 grandchildren, all of whom seem to be healthy.
Parris: I do not preach for children, Rebecca. It is not the children who are unmindful of their obligation toward this ministry.
Parris has little understanding of children and sees no reason to instruct them, yet it is the young girls who are trying to commune with the devil. In an effort to conceal their misbehavior, they set in motion events that will wreak havoc on Salem.
Summarize the argument between Parris and Proctor.
Parris argues that the authority of the church is supreme. Church members must obey the pastor or chaos will ensue. Proctor argues that individual conscience is the final authority. Every church member has the right to say what he believes.
Ann Putnam actually is the one responsible for her daughter’s trying to conjure spirits. She has just confessed to the crime of which others will be accused. Rebecca Nurse is appalled, especially by the fact that Ann sent a child to do this.
Parris: “Why would he choose my house to strike? We have all manner of licentious people in the village!”
Hale: “It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than the minister?”
What is ironic here?
Parris asks why the devil would choose his house when there are so many less worthy people in Salem. He does not recognize this own lack of good character. Hale’s question assumes that the minister must be the best person in the village, an assumption at odds with the facts.
What reasons does Abigail give Parris for her discharge as the Proctors’ servant? What might be another reason? What can you infer about Abigail’s character from her words?
Abigail says that Mrs. Proctor is a cold, lying woman and Abigail refused to be her slave. Another reason might be that Mrs. Proctor suspected a romantic involvement between Abigail and her husband. We can infer that Abigail does not always tell the truth and that she seems to be a vindictive person.
Describe the feelings the characters have toward each other: the Putnams toward John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, Proctor toward the Putnams and Parris, and Parris toward the congregation. What effect might these feelings have on the future action of the play?
Putnams’ feelings might include hatred, fear, resentment, and jealousy. Proctor’s feelings toward the Putnams and Parris might include contempt, distrust, and dislike. Parris’s feelings toward the congregation might include resentment, anger, and fear. These feelings could create a dispute with Proctor and Nurse against the Putnams and Parris, or lead to accusations against Proctor and Nurse.
In a group, work together to create character webs that profile each character in act 1. Include the character’s age, personality traits, standing in the community, and conflicts with others. Then, as a group, predict the role each character will play in this drama. Share your predictions with the class.
Imagine the play begins seven months earlier. Write an original scene describing Abigail’s dismissal from the Proctor farm. Try to include a private conversation between John and Elizabeth prior to the confrontation between Elizabeth and Abigail.