The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts by Arthur Miller

About the book: The Crucible is a 1952 play by Arthur Miller. It is a tragedy, which draws a parallel between the Salem Witch trials (1692-93) and the McCarthy era (1950s). There are two film versions of the play, a 1957 movie with a screenplay adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre and a later Academy Award nominated 1996 version.

Summary: Set in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, The Crucible is a fictionalization of the Salem Witch Hunt. When a group of teenage girls accuse the townspeople of witchcraft and association with the Devil, claiming to be their victims; the entire town falls apart in a mass hysteria. The superstition and paranoia combined with building guilt and vengefulness led to wrongful punishment of a number of people.

“The witch hunt was a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims. (…) Long-held hatreds of neighbours could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken, despite the Bible’s charitable injunctions. (…) One could cry witch against one’s neighbour and feel perfectly justified in the bargain. Old scores could be settled on a plane of heavenly combat between Lucifer and the Lord; suspicions and envy of the miserable toward the happy could and did burst out in the general revenge.”
My Thoughts: The Crucible is a powerful book. The dialogue is gripping and moves along at a nice pace. The characters don’t start out strong, but they do develop along the way.
Not used to reading plays, I appreciated the little snippets of information about the ‘original characters’ and explanation of the setting, which the author provides between the scenes. But I enjoyed the book even more, when the author stopped interrupting the flow of the play with ‘background info’ and the dialogue stood strong on its own.
The book gives you a glimpse at a society of an entirely different time. Yet from the underlying themes of wrongdoing under the guise of religion, blame, vengeful lies and irrational fear, you can draw parallels to your own society in so many respects. It’s a chilling story; a tragedy much more moving than I could have imagined.
The review is a part of the Back to Classics Challenge hosted at Sarah Reads Too Much.

3 thoughts on “The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts by Arthur Miller”

  1. I read The Crucible long ago and found it powerful, but was much more impressed with it when I saw it in the theater a couple years ago. I was shaken – the acting was that good and the story that strong. Nice review! (I also chose an Arthur Miller play for my Back to the Classics challenge – Death of a Salesman. It was good in its own way, but too depressing and the characters too unlikeable for my taste.


  2. I think I read this in High School, but now I'm not so sure…. I think I'll just have to read it again! Thank you!


  3. Susan – Thanks! I can imagine how impressive the play must be when enacted; pretty difficult too to get it right, I think. I haven't read any other plays by Miller, and I don't think I want to, either… I think it is the theme itself that makes this one so great, not just the writer!

    Sarah – You should, it's a quick read anyway! Thanks for stopping by!


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