Study Guide

The Crucible

by Arthur Miller

The Crucible Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

In its initial production in 1953, The Crucible received a mixed reception from drama critics, with many complaining that, while sturdy in its craftsmanship, the work was too obviously a morality play and lacked the adventurousness and innovation of his previous work. Critic Richard Hayes wrote in the Commonweal. "The Crucible, does not, I confess, seem to me a work of such potential tragic force as the playwright's earlier Death of a Salesman; it is the product of theatrical dexterity and a young man's moral passion, rather than of a fruitful and reverberating imagination. But it has, in a theatre of the small success and the tidy achievement, power, the passionate line-an urgent boldness which does not shrink from the implications of a large and formidable design." George Jean Nathan saw similar aspects of Miller's work, writing in his 1953 Theatre Arts review: "The Crucible, in sum, is an honorable sermon on a vital theme that misses because the sting implicit in it has been disinfected with an editorial tincture and because, though it contains the potential deep vibrations of life, it reduces them to mere superficial tremors."

In addition to being compared to Death of a Salesman, The Crucible's debut also suffered due to the play's thinly veiled criticism of McCarthyism; many were too embarrassed or afraid to speak publicly or attend performances of the work. Nonetheless, it received numerous honors, including the Antoinette ("Tony'') Perry Award and the Donaldson Award in 1953 as well as the Obie Award from the Village Voice in 1958.

The play reopened after the McCarthy era and has continued to be successful since then. In...

(The entire section is 713 words.)