Dramaturgical Resources


The Crucible

By Arthur Miller

Over the course of the season, our assistant directors and student dramaturgs will be compiling dramaturgical resources relating to each production as it develops. Below are some links to websites which relate to the history of the play, the biography of the playwright, and sites that contextualize and, we hope, shed light on the directorial approach to the dramatic material.

We hope you find these resources of interest.

Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller (October 17, 1915 - February 10, 2005)

The critically acclaimed play, The Crucible, was written by Arthur Miller in 1953.  Miller, an American playwright and essayist, wrote plays that centered around conflicts—both internal and external—and that dealt with power, responsibility, and love. The Crucible is considered one of Miller’s best works.  It has been adapted into a film in 1957 and 1996, for television in 1967 and 1981, and adapted for the screen from live theatre.  However, it is generally overshadowed by Miller’s earlier masterpiece, Death of a Salesman.

The Crucible revolves around several themes, many of which seem especially relevant today.  At its heart lies the portrayal of religious fanaticism and how the belief in the existence of witches led to mass hysteria and paranoia in 17th century New England.  That belief and the actions stemming from it, eventually sends the village of Salem, Massachusetts into chaos.  As townspeople start turning on each other, we see them use flagrant lying to exact personal revenge based on agendas rooted in the struggles for love or power.  The flawed nature of humanity and the obliteration of communities, a hallmark of Miller’s writing, is thus omnipresent in The Crucible.  The absence of absolute moral goodness or absolute evil makes the play especially intriguing and relevant to our society.  Even though a one character, Abigail Williams, may be considered an antagonist owing to the disastrous consequences of her initial lies, the root cause of all this evil is, in fact, the community itself.  The society of Salem, perhaps more than any one character in particular, might be considered the true antagonist of The Crucible.

A melting pot of dogma, fanaticism, and individual desires clashing with each other, The Crucible, is heavily indebted to actual historical events: both the original Salem Witchcraft trials of 1692, as well as the wanton fear of communism on the rise as it was manifested in McCarthyism at the peak of the cold war.  Miller’s masterpiece was a “response to the climate of fear” that was spreading rapidly in the 1950’s.  Although Miller intended, perhaps, for the piece to be a metaphor for events happening in mid-20th century America, the pertinence of The Crucible today, speaking as it does to communal divisions, thirsts for absolute power and vengeance, and our foreboding sense of mistrust in truth and authority that threaten to destroy our communities, is everywhere present.  This is a situation which Miller—through The Crucible—urges us to avoid at all costs.