Arthur Miller The Crucible Overzealous Religion
Arthur Miller's dynamic drama set in 17th century Salem, MA, examines the darkest, most shameful aspect of Puritan life. Inspired by the author's outrage at the political witch hunts of the 1950's this thinly-disguised book/production immerses the audience/and readers into a web of deceit and intrigue, as neighbors viciously turn on each other; all their private grudges and lusts, which have long been festering are set loose. Mob rule and mass brain washing (not conducted by a cynical, high tech government this time) run rampant through the self-righteous villagers--most of whom are innocent victims of fraudulent public denunciations. Justice is grossly distorted in Salem and elsewhere--inciting outright rebellion in Andover.
In four acts Miller takes readers into a gradually increasing world of innuendo, intimidation and legal threats launched by overzealous religious and legal sophistry. The few citizens of good conscience suffer false accusation and deadly persecution--all because of the spurious charges and clever acting of a bunch of teenage girls. Possibly bored by a long winter and their relatively insignificant status in a repressive society, they discover they have suddenly acquired great power over their elders. Thrust into social and legal significance beyond their juvenile morality these previously bored girls feign visions and pains to impress a credulous audience of adults. Lead by shameless Abigail, the minister's own niece, the girls conspire to denounce dozens of citizens--sending them to the bulging jails, en route to the gallows. Only by confessing to the crime of witchcraft can those Named be pardoned and their lives spared.
Salem is under satanic siege, as a second minister is called in to investigate--followed by top magistrates. Alas--there are similar outbreaks of witchcraft (accusations thereof, at least) in New England. Idle and envious minds are surely the devil's playground this year, as sanity flies out the window. Goaded by personal grievances citizens denounce each other in order to: deflect suspicious, gain property, redress old indignities, and even to get a man. Truth as well as personal conscience are held hostage while the fever rages through the town. Useless to appeal to reasons or piety once the black cat of suspicion is gleefully loosed from Satan's bag of tricks.
When Rev. Parris arrived in Salem with his daughter and niece he also brought with him Tituba--a Black slave woman from the Barbados. Her way of giving the girls some fun escalated to nocturnal revels in the woods, dancing naked around a cauldron of foul-smelling brew. This was an age when people literally believed the Devil would appear to weak individuals--urging their victims to sign his infamous Book. Confess and be saved! But not all were willing to sell their souls to save their necks.
From sickroom, to the Proctors' living room, to the vestry room adjacent the Court room, and ultimately to the jailhouse with its convenient gallows, the plot uncoils like a hateful serpent incensed by opposition. Because pregnant Elizabeth begs her innocent husband--a man of upright nature who committed adultery once with Abigail before the play opened--to confess and save himself for Her sake, John Proctor undergoes the torments of hell as he vacillates wheterh to sign the damning Confession. But dawn is breaking and the crowd expects several dangling corpses to mollify its self-righteousness. Will his be one of them?