What facts are presented in Act One of "The Crucible" by means of exposition?

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miller's play diverges from traditional expository material in that we get a great deal of information on how to interpret the text before a line is ever uttered.

For example, Miller flat out states in the preface to his work,

"This play is not history in the sense in which the word is used by academic historians...However, I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history."

So, those who look for a true document of the Salem Witch Trials will inevitably find themselves disappointed. Miller's point is not mirrored recreation, but the deeper problem of the capacity of human beings for evil.

The introduction to Act 1 also gives more than the usual amount of clues about interpretation. We learn Reverend Parris has a persecution complex, of the town's position on the "edge of the wilderness," of its people's proclivity toward snobbery.

But the larger message is in the transcendence of these historical details and seeing how people change little, if at all, and a history unlearned is doomed to repetition. Miller's intent was to compare this witch-hunt to the witch-hunt of his own era, the McCarthy black-listings of the 1950s, in which artists were persecuted for having allegedly Communist beliefs. Miller warns:

"When one rises above the individual villainy displayed, one can only pity them all, just as we shall be pitied some day."