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The Crucible (Penguin Plays)
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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2003
Format: Paperback
The play's main narrative line tells the story of the Salem witch hunts which took place in Massachusetts, 1692. At a deeper level, Miller raises several powerful and important questions about human life and morality. But the play's most amazing quality is that it is not "deep" or "philosophical" by traditional standards. Miller has, in a short and easy-to-read manuscript, opened the door (or maybe I should say he presents the reader with a mirror) to modern political life.
The play is essentially a crtique of McCarthyism and the the communist scare of the 1950s. Miller saw the parallels between the witch hunts and the McCarthy trials, and found the witch trials to be a compelling vehicle for discussing modern events. Key themes include:
1. People gaining absolution from the powers-that-be by confessing the sins of others.
2. The power of community rituals, such as confession.
3. The role of political opposition and the consequences of compliance (passive or active).
4. The consequences of a polarized world views and mass hysteria.
These are just a few of the themes. The play is quite clearly a great tragedy, but remains a tragedy for our times. Through characters we can connect with, Miller convincingly shows us that the lessons from the witch hunts still apply. As a reader, I am convinced that Miller's play remains relevant and powerful in the twenty-first century. Miller has left me with questions, regarding world events in 2002 and 2003, that I did not have before reading the play.
I read this play in only a couple hours. It is compelling, engaging, and difficult to put down. Personally, I feel this text stands a great chance of making it onto my "top ten" list of best manuscripts. I highly recommend this play.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
As usual, Arthur Miller was in rare form when he wrote "The Crucilble." Although on the surface it is about the Salem Witch Trials, Miller's true inspiration came from the Red Scare that plagued Hollywood in the middle of the twentieth century (and included his pal Elia Kazan). The fact that Miller wove factual history with the hysteria of his day makes "The Crucible" all the more chilling.

Throughout the course of the play, a collection of teenage girls 'confess' to having seen various women and men of the town of Salem with the devil. This hysteria sweeps over the town as even the authorities fall under the sway of these lying young girls. Caught in the middle of these hysteronics is the Proctor family - John and Elizabeth, who have struggled in the past, but are trying to rebuild their marriage. They are rent apart when Elizabeth is suspected of being a witch. John hopes to clear his wife's name, but only manages to make matters worse for both of them.

The hysteria experienced in Salem is chilling in the fact that these sorts of witch hunts occur today, in all different areas of society. "The Crucible" shows how easily people can be swayed, with the barest of evidence, to believe something that is false. Miller's play is extremely well-written and informative, and almost too frighteningly real.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on October 5, 2002
Format: Audio CD
I used this recording this year while teaching "The Crucible". My students loved it!! The emotion conveyed by the cast is SO much better than the typical monotone voice that students use while reading out loud. Even though there were some small parts that are skipped when following along with our textbook, it was completely worth it (and the parts skipped were very small - it was very easy to read it aloud if necessary).
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Using the historical and controversial subject of the Salen Witch Trials, Arthur Miller's play The Crucible presents an allegory for events in contemporary America. Miller's play employs these historical events to criticize the moments in humankind's history when reason and fact became clouded by irrational fears and the desire to place blame for society's problems on others. The play deals with the corrupted town of Salem, Massachusettes, in 1692. John proctor, a blunt, out-spoken farmer and the play's central character, gets caught up in a conspiracy not even his own stength can control when his ex-lover, Abigail, throws false accusations in his wife's direction. As Proctor tries to free his wife and prove all others also accused of withcraft innocent, he finds himself being accused as well. This play is a story of vengeance; one man stands in a tug-of-war battle between God and Satan, pride and damnation, and good and evil. It all leads up to a climactic ending in which one lost soul finds peace with himself and realizes the importance of one's integrity.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
This play is truly and epic for recent times. The language used by Miller for his characters are intelligent and eloquent, but not to such an extent as to make for difficult reading (like Shakespeare for instance). Miller's Crucible is largely based on the Salem Witch Trials and contains more than a few actual quotes for his characters that came from transcripts of the real trials. The plot is so very clever with many layers and themes and subplots running throughout. There is the obvious top layer that almost anyone can understand about the horror of the witchhunt, and then there is a more subtle layer about the inner nature of humans... sometimes it can be quite dark (like Abigail, the girl who really leads the accusations) or cowardly (like Parris, whose only real drive seems to be saving his own skin and reputation) and yet there are others that are good (John Proctor, who takes on almost like a Christ figure) and righteous (like Rebecca Nurse who is practical and strong willed through the whole ordeal). The writing is brilliant and it is easy to become thoroughly entrenched in the horror that life in Salem in 1692 came to be. There are many tense moments, and many agonizing situations, and I was quite swept up with the futileness and frustration that many of the accusees more than likely felt. This play is brilliant, and was written in response to the McCarthy horror that swept the 1950's, and serves as a disturbing warning that the intolerance and hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials has happened before, and can happen again.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on November 26, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
While Arthur Miller was more likely known for his most popular play DEATH OF A SALESMAN, which won the Pulitzer Prize as the best play in 1949, THE CRUCIBLE is regarded by many critics to be a much more superior work.
THE CRUCIBLE was written in response to the ridiculous charges made by Senator McCarthy, who accused the Democratic administration of harboring and supporting Communists in the United States Government. Miller wrote the play in 1953, at the same time America was involved in a formidable struggle with the former Soviet Union. America in general had this secret and unexpressed xenophobia of this social-communist power.
Miller had used the famous McCarthy saying in the play - the senator oftained maintained that those who opposed his hearing were Communists, and consequently, any public official who offered criticism, questions, or doubts of the hearings soon found himself defending himself against the charge of being a part of the Communicst conspiracy.
In THE CRUCIBLE, we also found struggle and conflict between the Salem people and the Authority. At a more personal, narrower level, this conflict exists between John Proctor vs. Reverend Parris. John Proctor was a local member of the church who had opposed and challenged many of Parris' unnecessary expenditures. Like those who dared the power of the government and questioned authority of hearings back in 1950s here in America, anyone who opposed the authority of the Salem judges was automatically suspected of trying to undermine the court in the 17th century.
Besides McCarthyism at the time when the play was written, THE CRUCIBLE reflected so much the concepts of Puritanism back in the 17th century. The unusual nature of the Puritan religion led to all kinds of and different levels of fear of witches and persecution. Puritans, like the authority in THE CRUCIBLE, deeply felt that their way of life was absolutely right and all other ways were wrong. Therefore, Puritans believed that government should be totally controlled by the church.
THE CRUCIBLE is an authentic examination of the Puritan Age of America. It was written at the time when McCarthyism outburtsed and people lived in hysteria. It served to parallel the Salem Witch0hunt which brought about fear and persecution some 300 years ago. Interesting play. Fun to read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Like many others, Elia Kazan flirted with the American Communist party in the 1930s; again like many others he was soon disgusted by the vicious totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and left the party. In the 1940s Kazan emerged as a major director, creating such films as GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT for the screen and staging playwright Arthur Miller's landmark dramas ALL MY SONS and DEATH OF A SALESMAN--but in the early 1950s his former affiliation with the American Communist Party came back to haunt him the form of the House Unamerican Activities Committee.

In the wake of World War II the American goverment began to fear that Soviet agents had infiltrated the country and were working for the overthow of American democracy. The film industry became a hotspot of investigation, with conservatives claiming that motion pictures were being used to popularize communist thought. Unfortunately, the House Unamerican Activities Committee was less interested in getting to the truth of the matter than in maintaining political power: American citizens were hauled before the committee; attacked, often for no reason; and found their careers and lives destroyed as a result. But there was a way around this. If you confessed you had been a communist (whether you had been or not), if you recanted your former beliefs (whether you had held them or not), and if you named names of others involved in the party (whether they had been or not)--you could survive. And when Kazan was called before the committee in 1952 that is precisely what he did.

Arthur Miller was so outraged by Kazan's behavior that he terminated both their longstanding friendship and highly successful working relationship; although they would eventually resume a working relationship, they had no contact for more than a decade. He also wrote a play about the situation: THE CRUCIBLE.

On the surface, THE CRUCIBLE is a retelling of the infamous Salem witch trials of 1692. The power-hungry Rev. Parrish has met with resistance in the town, and when his daughter Betty, his ward Abigail, and several other teenage girls are found dancing in the wood the community fears the worst: witchcraft. In order to protect himself, Parrish calls in Rev. Hale, an expert in such matters. In order to protect themselves, the girls confess--and then begin to name names of "other witches." In order to placate the court, those named must name others in turn, and the lies and hysteria turn into a cycle of power-grabs and revenge.

Among those named as a witch is Elizabeth Proctor, wife of John Proctor--a man who had a sordid affair with Abigail, who now sees the opportunity to get rid of Elizabeth via hanging and force Proctor into marriage. In an effort to protect his wife, Proctor goes before the court and denounces Abigail, but Abigail now turns on him as well, accusing him of being a witch. He is arrested and sentenced to hang. Rev. Hale, now aware of the fraud involved, begs Proctor to confess, even though the confession will be a lie. Proctor refuses and pays for his integrity with his life.

In broad historical outline, Miller's tale of the witch trials is quite accurate; he does, however, take considerable license with individual characters and relationships. Whatever the case, the result is a uniquely powerful play, not only as a story pure and simple but on a deeper level in its warning against the communist witch hunt of the 1950s--and any similar witch hunt, regardless of nature, which relies on a process created by those with ulterior motives and uses as evidence testimony extracted by fear of reprecussion. While most consider DEATH OF A SALESMAN Miller's finest play, I have always given that title to THE CRUCIBLE; unlike SALESMAN, which has a dated quality, THE CRUCIBLE has a timeless quality, remarkable in intensity, thought-provoking in subtext in ways which most plays are not. Strongly recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
For dramatic tension, for a resounding lesson in the ethical treatment of others, this four-act play excels. Set in the 1692 Salem witch trial debacle--a black eye in our heritage--Miller wrote the play parallel to the McCarthy hearings. America in the 1950's was then in the classic, titan struggle against a new threat: Communism.
But in 1692, 19 people were executed for the crimes of witchcraft and associating in the black arts. Miller takes this historical arena, stirs in a failed love tryst, and the dramatic tension never lets up.
The play is worth studying for several reasons: First, it has a strident moral tone that is extremely important for students to explore. Justice is not always a given in our society, and in the execution of justice, if we lose our sanity, we can err into several pitfalls of bad logic, or fallacies--the fallacies of Bandwagon, Hasty Generalization, False Cause, Two Wrongs Make a Right, and so on. Second, it teaches us our own history, with scars. Third, through Miller's deft use of language, we watch (read) a classicly structured play develop.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 2, 2002
Format: Paperback
This story made my jaw drop to the ground...several times! What a frightening play! The message is timeless. Although it was written during the McCarthy era, it is appropriate for even these days...given the state of foreign policy in our country, and the popularity of Jerry Springer shows for example, where mob rules.
I was horrified at the ignorance, the hipocracy, the will for personal vengeance that the characters displayed. It's a perfect example of how we as people do NOT learn from our mistakes, and that as a society, events like the salem witch trials continually repeat themselves in many forms, exposing how hell-bent we are to destroy each other!
I've never seen this performed onscreen nor onstage but now I can't wait until the opportunity arises, because I'm sure that when The Crucible is performed, it will be utterly powerful. I hope that theaters will continue to produce this play forever, because no one should forget the irreparable damage that fear and ignorance can cause.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 2013
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Don't be fooled by the description - this is NOT an unabridged version; too late I've researched and discovered an actual unabridged version doesn't exist. Imagine my surprise when I put this on for my students to follow along to only to discover that this has slashed away whole portions of the text...and done so in a way that makes it entirely impossible to actually follow along with the play. Whole banks of lines are severed out of the play seemingly at random; the most I can figure out is that anything that doesn't immediately have to do with John, Elizabeth, or Abigail is abolished and removed in an effort to condense the play to less than 2 hours. I'm very displeased with this purchase.
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