How does the historical/cultural context of The Crucible change over time and change for different audiences?
I'm trying to figure out how the historical and cultural contexts of The Crucible change over time and how that affects the reader's understanding of the text.
Depending on the cultural context of the reader, certain themes of the play will resonate more or less strongly.
Coming from a cultural context that emphasizes the importance of religious institutions and religion in the community, the play may be seen as an exploration of the a corrupt church authority. Danforth and and Parris abuse their positions of authority and in doing so manage to maintain that authority for themselves while undermining the church's standing in the community.
Coming from a cultural context akin to that of 1950s America, the theme of mass hysteria, political fear-mongering and social corruption might stand out. In light of the anti-communist McCarthy trials, a reader might see the play as resonating with ideas of betrayal and of masked political intentions, which are carried out to the benefit of a few and the detriment of many.
John Proctor, like many figures in the entertainment industries of the US in the 1950s, becomes the victim of a system that espouses virtue and moral authority yet acts outside the bounds of morality, seeking power and ruining lives. The lives that are ruined in the play are often those of people who hold harmless beliefs that put them slightly outside the cultural mainstream.
Being "other" in this way leads to public condemnation and even death in the play. In 1950s America it led to blacklisting.
In these examples, we can see that the cultural context from which a reader approaches the play will inflect the emphasis he places on different themes in the play. The elements of the reader's life that appear in the play will naturally achieve a greater relevance for the reader.