What is a research question for The Crucible?

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"The Devil is loose in Salem."

Arthur Miller's famous 1953 play The Crucible is an excellent work to research. It is, of course, based on the true story of the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century. These trials would be the clear topic of research. The Puritans were...

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"The Devil is loose in Salem."

Arthur Miller's famous 1953 play The Crucible is an excellent work to research. It is, of course, based on the true story of the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century. These trials would be the clear topic of research. The Puritans were big writers and so there are lots of primary sources. Two books on the history of the trials are The Witches (Stacy Schiff) and In the Devil's Snare (Mary Beth Norton), which provides important context and interpretation. One good research the trials themselves or also look at the beliefs, history, and culture of the Puritans. Another good primary source would be Cotton Mather's text on the supernatural, The Wonders of the Invisible World (1693).

A second rich source of research would be the era that Miller was writing the play in and his purpose (see the New Yorker article below for more information). People familiar with the historical background of the play know that Miller used the witch trails to comment on the paranoia and suspicion of the McCarthy era. Government suspicion at that time ruined many lives, and investigations harmed many artists specifically. A more generalized research topic would be on McCarthy and his anti-communist crusade. A more specific one might focus on the persecution of people within the arts community and especially on the impact HUAC had in Hollywood.

Finally, one could look at the composition of the play and the history of productions. For example, it is still a widely read and researched play. What are some reasons for that? One could also look at the 1996 film production, for which Miller wrote the screenplay, and compare the two.

If you're looking for something a little lighter, you could research Miller's personal life and his relationship with Marilyn Monroe.

Further Reading:

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1996/10/21/why-i-wrote-the-crucible

newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/crucible-arthur-miller-got-salem-witch-trials-wrong/

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