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ARTHUR MILLER THE AUTHOR AND HIS TIMESIn Salem Massachusetts a dozen teen-age girls and a black slave woman are caught dancing in the woods around a bubbling cauldron Today you wouldnt even use the word caught You might think these girls were strange but youd hardly call the cops on them But its 1692 and Salem isnt just an ordinary small town its a religious community of the strictest kind The people and their laws are as harsh as the Massachusetts winter When two of the girls pass out from fright and cant be revived the others find themselves in serious trouble Women who dance with the Devil are witches and witches when they are caught are hanged To get themselves out of their predicament the girls try to spread the blame around But the blame-spreading gets out of hand and before long the whole town is in a panic everyone accusing everyone else of witchcraft Nineteen people will be hanged before the madness is stoppedWell you say people were superstitious then Nothing like that could happen today Maybe so but in the early 1950s at the time The Crucible was written a similar kind of hunt was taking place not for witches but for Communists Today it bears the harmless-sounding name of the McCarthy Hearings on Un-American Activities but for the people who got caught up in it--some of them our parents and grandparents--this witch-hunt was anything but harmless in fact to the playwright Arthur Miller the McCarthy Hearings bore an alarming resemblance to the trials in Salem in 1692 The Crucible was his way of trying to keep history from repeating itselfOne of the most popular TV shows in 1953 was I Led Three Lives It always began the same way A mans face appears on the screen His expression is taut with anxiety The narrator says something like This is the fantastically true story of Herbert A Philbrick who for nine frightening
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