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The Crucible (Penguin Classics)

The Crucible (Penguin Classics)


Book Overview: The Crucible (Penguin Classics)

A haunting examination of groupthink and mass hysteria in a rural community

A Penguin Classic

"I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history," Arthur Miller wrote in an introduction to The Crucible, his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria.

In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminate the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing: "Political opposition...is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence."

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

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Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller, born in 1915 in New York City, was one of the most profound playwrights, essayists, and authors in American history. His contributions to theatre are remarkable and far-reaching, earning him a place in the literary hall of fame. Miller's roots were firmly placed in the world of theatre, graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Journalism before pivoting into playwriting. Miller's work primarily delved into the varying facets of human nature and social reality. His eye for crafting stories around severe societal issues came to the forefront with his acclaimed play, "Death of a Salesman", which not only won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1949 but also offered an unflinching critique of the American Dream. Miller's stature grew even further with seminal works such as "The Crucible," an allegory of the McCarthy-era witch hunts, and "A View from the Bridge." Despite facing significant personal and professional controversy, most notably his infamous marriage to Marilyn Monroe and subpoena by the House Un-American Activities Committee, Miller remained dedicated to his craft until his passing in 2005. Arthur Miller etched a permanent mark on American theatre with his profound narratives and uncompromising humanism, solidifying his reputation as one of the most impactful playwrights of the 20th century.

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