In regard to The Crucible, why did Miller not write a play directly about McCarthyism? Why set the play in Salem?
Miller did not directly approach the subject of McCarthyism and the anti-communist trials of the 1950s, and instead modeled his morality play about intolerance and persecution on the Salem, Mass., witchcraft trials of 1692. Since the McCarthy hearings were in full swing at the time Miller wrote The Crucible in the early 1950s, Miller and many of his cohorts in Hollywood were under suspicion from McCarthy and many other powerful political and societal forces, and setting his play in colonial America gave Miller a certain measure of artistic cover to explore the themes he saw being mirrored during the era of anti-communist hysteria.
Many artists and writers throughout history have employed a similar distance from the events of their time, at times to avoid the wrath of the authorities of the day, and also to convey to audiences the notion that what was taking place during the time of the artist's life was not new or novel. For Miller to imply that the red-baiting hysteria of the 1950s was not much different than the religious hysteria of late-17th century America was an artistic gesture that lent credence to the notion that McCarthy's modern witch hunts were echoes of the intolerance of a much less sophisticated era.