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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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REFERENCE

THE CRITICS

I speak of "sin." It is an unfashionable word nowadays and
Miller rarely uses it. He is... sufficiently imbued with the
skepticism of modern thought to shy away from the
presumptions implicit in it. But that Miller is willy-nilly a
moralist-one who believes he knows what sin and evil are-is
inescapable.

Harold Clurman, Introduction to The Portable Arthur Miller,
1972

Despite its realistic form, The Crucible is less dramatic realism
than a modern morality play, in which the characters are
intended to be dramatized symbols of good and evil. My only
reason for doubt... is that [George Bernard] Shaw was even
more devastating about intolerance in Saint Joan by giving its
representatives a sound logical case and making them good and
conscientious men, and then showing the horrifying results of
what they did.

Richard Watts, Jr., Introduction to The Crucible, 1959

In my play, Danforth seems about to conceive of the truth, and
surely there is a disposition in him at least to listen to arguments
that go counter to the line of the prosecution. There is no such
swerving in the record, and I think now, almost four years after
writing it, that I was wrong in mitigating the evil of this man
and the judges he represents. Instead, I would perfect his evil to
its utmost and make an open issue, a thematic consideration of
it, in the play.

Arthur Miller, Introduction to Arthur Miller's Collected Plays,
1957



With John Proctor... Miller goes for something deeper than the
one-dimensional "good guy." Proctor is enough a product of his
society to think of himself as a sinner for having slept with
Abigail Williams; so he carries a burden of guilt before he is
charged with having consorted with the devil. When he is
finally faced with the choice of death or confession, his guilt as
an adulterer becomes confused with his innocence as a witch;
one sin against society comes to look like another. The stage is
set for another victim-hero, for a John Proctor who is willing to
be what men say he is, but at the last minute he chooses to be
his own man.

Gerald Weales, Arthur Miller's Shifting Image of Man, 1967

The "evil" in the play focuses on Abigail as fountainhead.... Her
wickedness... amounts to a shrewd use of the hypocrisy, greed
and spite that thrive in her neighbors under the pretext of seeing
justice done. Her power arises from her ability to convert her
psychic energies and the willful pursuit of her own objectives
into a genuine visionary hysteria. At bottom Abby knows that
her prophetic fit is self-induced, that the witchcraft she
denounces is non-existent; but once the fit is on her, she can
produce a convincing performance and induce the same kind of
hysteria in the children. Her real diabolism is her misuse of the
sacrosanct office of witness to gain her own ends.

Thomas E. Porter, The Long Shadow of the Law, 1969

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