Cancel Culture Club

From McCarthyism to cancel culture, The Crucible is as relevant as ever

When Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953, the anti-communist campaigns of McCarthyism was first and foremost on the playwright’s mind.

Specifically though, the case of German-Jewish novelist and playwright Lion Feuchtwanger, who became the target of suspicion as a left-wing intellectual during his exile in the US. In 1947, Feuchtwanger transported his experience to the Salem witch trials in Wahn oder der Teufel in Boston (Delusion, or The Devil In Boston) – a play that would inspire Miller after seeing a production in 1953 in Los Angeles.

He wrote, ‘The Crucible is taken from history. No character is in the play who did not take a similar role in Salem, 1692′, although the play’s accuracy has been called into question, given that Miller made both deliberate changes and incidental mistakes.

The cruelty at the heart of the Salem witch trials, and of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956, remain the same though. Miller was convicted by the latter of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at communist meetings he had attended.

The National Theatre’s production of The Crucible couldn’t be more timely, given the rise in cancel culture, and the dark tribalism that has seen increasing divisions in countries across the world. Nowhere moreso than in America.

Broadcasting on January 27th, this new staging by Lyndsey Turner (Under Milk Wood, Top Girls) has had the critics raving, with the Sunday Times dubbing it ‘a scorcher’ and The Daily Telegraph regarding it as ‘The National at its best’.


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