Crucible Vocabulary

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First found May 22, 2018

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The Crucible Vocabulary
Crucible: Container that resists heat or a melting pot
Puritan: A member of a group of English Protestants who in the 16th and 17th centuries
advocated strict religious discipline. They live in accordance to the Protestant precepts,
especially one who regards pleasure of luxury as sinful.
Witchcraft: The practice of black magic and sorcery in Puritan New England (the culture
of Barbados in the 17th century)
Necromancy: “black magic” – the art of communicating with the devil
Coven: A group of witches who live together in a hidden conclave
Catharsis: The Aristotelian concept that tragedy, through evoking “pity” and “fear”
“purges” emotions
Morality Play:
Play: An allegorical play which gives instruction on how to lead a virtuous life
Irony: Instances in which the intended meaning of a word or phrase is used opposite of
what it actually means
Paradox: A statement or event contrary to what one might expect
Allegory: A story which people, things and happenings have another meaning, as in a
fable or fairytale
Exposition: Provides necessary background that brings the reader in touch with aspects
that inform the characterization, narrative and theme of the drama
McCarthyism: the politically motivated practice of making accusations of disloyalty,
subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. The term specifically describes
activities associated with the period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare,
lasting roughly from the late 1940s to the late 1950s and characterized by heightened fears
of communist influence on American institutions
Theocracy: form of government in which a god or deity is recognized as the state's
supreme civil ruler
WitchWitch-hunts: Salem and McCarthyism
Miller said of The Crucible, “I believe that the reader will discover here the essential
nature of one of the strongest and most awful chapters of human history.”
Miller was not just talking about Salem. He himself lived through a witch-hunt of a
different kind. Some people feel that the play is just as much about modern American
society and the witch-hunt known as the McCarthy era, as it is about 17th century
The McCarthy Era
In the 1940s and 1950s, when Arthur Miller was a young writer, America became
obsessed with the fear of communism. The government wanted to defeat communism
in Russia and stop it spreading to other countries. Even within America, there was a fear
that communists were secretly trying to destroy the American way of life and were
plotting to introduce communism.
As fear and obsession grew, the American Senate, or parliament, started to pass laws to
restrict the activities of communists. Senator Joe McCarthy was the main figure leading
the anti-communist movement.
Some of the things that happened when McCarthyism was most powerful include:
A Committee of UnAmerican Activities was set up. People were “put on trial” by
the committee and had to answer questions about their personal lives, friends, work
and political beliefs. They were asked to name other people. They were
“black0listed” (prevented from getting jobs) if they refused to appear, or if it was
decided that they were communist. You could be labeled a communist if you had
friends who were communists.
3 million names were passes on. This shows how fearful people must have been, to
hand over the names of people they knew. It also shows how large the witch-hunt
against communists was and how it gripped the whole nation.

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