In 1953 in The Crucible playwright Arthur Miller seized upon the guilt that has always attached to the Salem witch hunt to make a contemporary parallel with militant anti-Communism. He implied that Salem was the source of a continuing battle between those in America who attempt to stifle free-thinking dissent and their victims among the good, common people. More than anything else the notion that dissenters represent a beleaguered class lent The Crucible its ideological thrust—one that has sustained it as a popular international repertory item for some thirty years. And yet, as Robert War-show and other critics forcefully demonstrated at the time, both Miller’s interpretation of American society and his historical analogies failed to stand up to scrutiny.

Miller’s emphasis on victimization, it was evident, could be maintained on stage only by altering the characters and motivations of his...


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