|Learning Guide to the Crucible
SUBJECTS — U.S./1629 - 1750, 1945 - 1991; &
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Justice; Marriage;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Fairness.
1996 U.S. Version: Age 14+; MPAA Rating -- PG-13 for intense depiction of the Salem witch trials; Drama; 124 minutes; Color; Available from Amazon.com
1957 French Version: (English Subtitles) Age: 12+; No MPAA Rating; Drama; 108 minutes; B & W.
Description: These films present Arthur Miller's play about the Salem witchcraft trials. The play and the films capture the sense of the late 1600s as well as the hysteria and injustice of the red scare of 1947 - 1956.
The 1957 version was produced in France because movie makers in the United States were afraid of being branded as communist sympathizers. The screenplay was written by Jean Paul Sartre. The French title for the film is "Les Sorcieres de Salem."
Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay for the 1996 version. The two films are different in their emphasis and both are worth seeing. For example, the 1957 version has an overlay of class conflict to which Miller objects. The class issues, however, are historically important and serve to explain many of the underlying motivations for the crusade against non-Christian populations worldwide. The class issues, however, are historically important and serve to explain many of the underlying motivations for the crusade against non-Christians world wide.
Benefits of the Movie: "The Crucible" introduces Puritan society, the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, and the anti-communist hysteria in the United States during the period 1947 - 1956. The play and the films illustrate how a frightened society will ignore fundamental beliefs in justice as well as its own basic principles of the primacy of law. Moreover, the film addresses individual responsibility in terms of honesty, integrity and forgiveness.
Possible Problems: Minor: Tituba is beaten by her master. Proctor beats his serving girl with a whip; she is fully clothed and apparently not injured. There are several just off camera hangings in which the audience sees the rope above and the dangling feet below the victim. One man, Giles Corey, is shown being pressed to death. In the 1996 version a naked female form is seen in the forest and Abigail Williams gropes John Proctor.
The 1957 version begins with a legend asserting that the events depicted in the movie are true. This is incorrect. Arthur Miller, the playwright, stated that the play was not intended to be an historical rendition of events. There is, for example, no historical basis for the affair between John Proctor, who was about sixty years old when he was hanged and Abigail Williams, who was eleven years old. Tituba was from the West Indies instead of Barbados.
Parenting Points: View the film with your child and be prepared to explain the nature of hysteria and to answer any question he or she may ask. Review the background information and the discussion questions for information you may need to help your child understand the issues being addressed in the film.
Selected Awards, Cast and Director: Selected Awards: 1997 Academy Awards Nominations: Best Writing, Best Screenplay based on Material from Another Medium (Miller); Best Supporting Actress (Joan Allen); 1997 Golden Globe Awards Nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Scofield).
Featured Actors: Daniel Day-Lewis, Winona Ryder, Paul Scofield, Joan Allen, Bruce Davison, and Rob Campbell.
Director: Nicholas Hytner
1957 FRENCH VERSION
Selected Awards: None.
Featured Actors: Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Mylene Demongeot, Jean Debucourt.
Director: Raymond Rouleau.
The fear generated by those who sought to profit from the elimination of non-Christian faiths resulted in several centuries of religious persecution against traditional belief systems. Paganism, animism, pantheism, polytheism, shamanism and other esoteric faiths were targeted as heretical by the Catholic Church prior to the rise of Protestantism and continued long after Martin Luther called into question many of the practices of the Papacy. The Inquisition was the official war against these faiths and witchcraft became the catch-all term used to define their various practices. Thus, “witch” evolved into the antilocutive term for a follower of something other than monotheism. In the effort to eliminate these religions, fear became the dominant weapon. One tool used in the war against immanence, which is the general term for a pantheistic concept of God, was a book entitled the Malleus Maleficarum, which rolled through over twenty publications after it first appeared in 1486. Written by Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger, this guide on how to detect, torture and eliminate heretics, was promulgated by the Catholic Church and used throughout Europe and the Americas to justify the murder of hundreds of thousands of pagans.
Witchcraft hysterias resulting from the pulpit-led fear mongering and backed by the instructions in the Malleus, were common in sixteenth to eighteenth century Europe in both Catholic and Protestant areas. They frequently led to more devastating effects than the hysteria in Salem. As women were most often involved in the practice of pre-Christian religions, in some Swiss villages, for example, after the waves of anti-witch hysteria there were scarcely any women left alive.
The Salem Witchcraft trials, which on a timeline of witch-hunts can be regarded as one of the last battlefronts in the war against immanence, led to the imprisonment of more than 100 people and the execution of 20. Four died in prison. Men were executed as well as women. The accusations were made by a group of young women demonstrating symptoms of hysteria. The women asserted that specters of witches would pinch, suffocate or stab them. They named names and often the only way those accused could avoid being hanged was to confess guilt and to give the names of other alleged witches. The twenty who were executed continued to maintain their innocence, refused to confess, and would not name others. Nineteen were hanged. One man, Giles Corey, was pressed to death, a method of torture used in England on people who would not plead in court. A plea was necessary before the court could take jurisdiction and condemn the prisoner. The idea was that the weight of the rocks on the chests of the accused would push the words "guilty" or "not guilty" from their lips. The only words that pressing got out of Giles Corey were, "more weight, more weight." Historians believe that Corey thought he would be condemned anyway and by refusing to plead he prevented the court from finding that he was a witch. Upon conviction as a witch, his property would have been confiscated and his children would have been without an inheritance. This fact supports the suggestion that the witch trials were motivated on the part of some individuals for material gain.
In writing about the Salem witch trials, Miller sought to re-create the atmosphere in which such hysteria can thrive; he never claimed that his play was historically accurate. Most historians agree that he gets the sense of the times right: the fear, the use of the hysteria for material gain, the infectious nature of the hysteria, and the retribution brought down upon those who doubted the accusers. The material gain came from the fact that, as is spelled out in the Malleus, land owned by those guilty of witch craft could be expropriated and sold. This came at a time when enclosure, the expropriation of commonly held land, was sweeping villages throughout Europe and the colonies. Miller also alludes to midwifery, and in so doing he raises but does not fully address the expropriation of traditional medical practices and knowledge of the use of herbs and other healing arts. During this period in history, doctoring was transferred from women into the hands of men exclusively through a system of licensing that effectively eliminated competition from women even in the domain of childbirth.
The most important departure from the historical record in “The Crucible” is the affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor. Although there is no evidence of the sexuality implied in the motivations of these two characters, the mind set of the individuals involved, including Proctor’s wife, is important in developing universality and in portraying the moral struggles of those caught up in such terrible times.
Miller was clearly more interested in the story of the Salem witch trials as a metaphor for the fear of communism in the U.S. during the period 1947 - 1956 than in a study of a piece of American history per se. In the years after World War ll, when competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union became intense, there began an effort to purge communists from the government and from positions of influence in society. However, the charges made by what came to be known as “redbaiters” because of the association of the color red with communism, were almost always undocumented and false. In reality, the redbaiters were using the fear of communism for their own political and economic gain by grossly exaggerating the influence of communists in the U.S. In the process the redbaiters ruined the careers and damaged the lives of many innocent Americans whose only offense was to disagree with them politically. They also created a sense that communism, a social system based upon the distribution of wealth according to need, was an evil doctrine whose intention was to destroy American society.
The Communist Party of the United States was organized in 1919. In the 1930s and early 1940s, in response to the inability of the American economy to provide jobs and financial security during the Great Depression, many socially conscious Americans joined liberal, organizations. Some joined the Communist Party. However, voters in the U.S. have never supported the Communist Party; it has never elected a representative to Congress nor has it been popular with the "oppressed masses" it sought to champion. After the Second World War, as the authoritarian and anti-U.S. nature of the Soviet Union became apparent, membership in the Communist Party, USA dropped to virtually nothing. Just as paganism in the centuries earlier, communism had become a threat to the dominant paradigm and had to be eliminated.
Because of protections specified in the First Amendment, it has never been illegal to belong to the Communist Party. However, during the Cold War, a time when the U.S. and communist countries were locked in competitive struggle, members of the Communist Party were considered potential Russian agents and threats to U.S. security. Loyalty oaths were required of government employees and contractors. From 1947 to 1956 many persons of left wing political views were required by Congressional committees, most often the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), to testify about their own past political affiliations as well as those of people with whom they were associated. People who refused to cooperate with the investigation were blacklisted and not permitted to work in certain professions, including teaching. The most notorious blacklist was in the entertainment industry. It included the names of hundreds of persons and was extended to include those who had supported many of the reforms that the communists had also supported and even those who simply opposed the blacklist. Hollywood studios hired a business called "Red Channels" to investigate the background of people seeking to work in the film industry. The blacklisters came to have a financial interest in extending the hysteria just as did many of the participants in the witch hunts centuries earlier.
Witnesses who cooperated with the HUAC, disavowed their prior leftist connections, and gave names of others who had liberal political associations, were exonerated and not subject to the blacklist. Some courageous people took the position that the First Amendment prohibited governmental inquiry into the lawful political associations of American citizens. When they refused to answer the Committee's questions, they were branded as subversives and prosecuted for contempt of Congress.
Arthur Miller, in his autobiography, Timebends, A Life, commented on the connection between the Salem witch trials and the red scare. Describing the time he spent going over original documents from the time of the trials, he wrote:
“... [G]radually, over the weeks a living connection between myself and Salem, and between Salem and Washington, was made in my mind -- for whatever else they might be, I saw that the hearings in Washington were profoundly and even avowedly ritualistic. After all, in almost every case the [House Un-American Activities] Committee knew in advance what they wanted the witness to give them: the names of his comrades in the [Communist] Party. The FBI had long since infiltrated the Party, and informers had long ago identified the participants in various meetings. The main point of the hearings, precisely as in Seventeenth Century Salem, was that the accused make public confession, damn his confederates as well as his Devil master, and guarantee his sterling new allegiance by breaking disgusting old vows -- whereupon he was let loose to rejoin the society of extremely decent people. In other words, the same spiritual nugget lay folded within both procedures -- an act of contrition done not in solemn privacy but out in the public air. The Salem prosecution was actually on more solid legal ground since the defendant, if guilty of familiarity with the Unclean One, had broken a law against the practice of witchcraft, a civil as well as a religious offense; whereas the offender against HUAC could not be accused of any such violation but only of a spiritual crime, subservience to a political enemy's desires and ideology. He was summoned before the Committee to be called a bad name, but one that could destroy his career.” Timebends, A Life by Arthur Miller, page 331.
Several years after he wrote "The Crucible" Arthur Miller himself was called before the HUAC. When he refused to answer the Committee's questions about the names of persons who had been present at meetings of writers that he had attended in the 1930s, Miller was convicted of contempt of Congress. The conviction was later thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court.
It has been argued that there were no real witches while there actually were real communists, some of whom were subservient to the Soviet Union, a real threat. Miller responds that during the time of the Salem trials, the best minds in America and in Europe believed in the existence of witches. He notes that on three occasions the Bible warns against witches. Historians, both secular and religious, confirm that witches have existed and continue to exist, though not in the stereotypical image used to raise hysterical fear in centuries past; they never rode broomsticks, had green skin and warts, though they may have used frogs in some of their traditional remedies. Both witches and communists were feared, both reviled. Both were seen as a serious threat to the dominant paradigm, with its concomitant economic factors, and as such had to be eliminated. Miller comments on the offense of the accused in both situations:
“The House Un-American Activities Committee has been in existence since 1938, but the tinder of guilt was not so available when the New Deal and Roosevelt were openly espousing a policy of vast social engineering often reminiscent of socialist methods. But as in Salem, a point arrived, in the late forties, when the rules of social intercourse quite suddenly changed, or were changed, and attitudes that had merely been anticapitalist-antiestablishment were now made unholy, morally repulsive, and if not actually treasonous then implicitly so. America had always been a religious country.” Timebends, A Life by Arthur Miller, pages 341 & 342.
This religious fervor Miller mentions can be seen in the term “godless communists” that was commonly used in the period following World War ll and in the sudden inscription of “In God We Trust” on coins, something that may have been seen as irreligious in prior national moods. In their efforts to capitalize on fear of communism, certain politicians made unsupported accusations about the presence of communists in the government or other institutions. The most notorious was Senator Joseph McCarthy who made claimed that communists had infiltrated the State Department and many other departments of the government. When he turned on the U.S. Army and attacked the generals who had led the country to victory during World War II, the irresponsibility of this conduct was made manifest and McCarthy was eventually censured by the Senate.
The scars of the 1947 - 1956 red scare are still healing. It was not until 1996, five years after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, that "The Crucible" was made into a film by Hollywood, despite its popularity and the fact that it was awarded the highest honor for a play, the Tony Award, in 1953. Not until 1997 did the Writer's Guild restore the credits of blacklisted writers who had written for Hollywood under pseudonyms. In 1999 when the Academy of Motion Picture Artists gave a lifetime achievement award to Elia Kazan a considerable number of voices were raised in protest against because Kazan had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee and provided the investigators with the names of other persons who had attended meetings with him in the 1930s. One of Kazan's classic films, On the Waterfront, portrays a longshoreman who breaks the code of silence to talk to an investigating committee about corruption in his union. This was Kazan's artistic defense for his actions. Miller responded with the play "A View from the Bridge" which is also set among dock-workers. In the play, which later became a motion picture, the main character informs on two illegal immigrants based on self-serving motivations.
The struggle against oppression as exemplified in the films as well as in the facts the films purport to illuminate, can be seen as a window through which other societies can look to see their own efforts to gain the personal freedoms promised by the democracies. Miller, in his autobiography, describes the universal appeal of "The Crucible:"
“In Shanghai in 1980, it served as a metaphor for life under Mao and the Cultural Revolution decades [see To Live], when accusation and enforced guilt ruled China and all but destroyed the last signs of intelligent life. The writer Nien Cheng, who had spent six and a half years in solitary confinement and whose daughter was murdered by the Red Guards, could not believe that a non-Chinese had written the play. "Some of the interrogations," she said, "were precisely the same ones used on us in the Cultural Revolution." It was chilling to realize what had never occurred to me until she mentioned it -- that the tyranny of teenagers was almost identical in both instances.” Timebends, A Life by Arthur Miller, page 348.
“The tyranny of teenagers,” is the focus of action in the “The Crucible” but not in the American experience during the red scare, no youthful exuberance can explain the excess of the McCarthy hearings, or the several centuries of extermination of witches prior to the events in Salem. The events in China, as in Salem, were deadly serious; they were not about lost jobs and unpaid royalties as was the case with the blacklisted members of the Hollywood establishment. Miller’s interest in the subject of the witchcraft trials came from his desire to illuminate the experience of Hollywood writers, producers, directors and actors who were victims of the hysteria fomented by fear of communism. His intention was not to show religious intolerance, which was the source of the witch hunts, but to show the power of hysteria to make people behave unjustly. For centuries prior to the Salem witchcraft trials, considered by many to be the site of the last battle against the witches, practitioners of what is known as “The Old Religion” had to hide their faith and keep secret their beliefs. Miller avoids this fact. He wants to assert that there was no such thing as witches, and only hysteria made people think otherwise. However, witches did, in fact, exist, not as the stereotype and the common imagery portrayed--no old woman rode broomsticks, carried black cats, had warts and a pointy nose. Such images make for fun on Halloween, but these images brought about the death of well over 100,000 persons, mostly women. By some counts, the numbers approach millions. This caricatures of witches, even today, serves to bring hostility to an old pagan, goddess based religion that the Christians wanted undone. The history is there for any interested person to read. Ignorance of the Inquisition, the forced destruction of non Christian religions world wide, is a fact of imperialism and continues today, though mostly non-violently, as theocracies dictate thought and missionaries carry their bibles to save whichever people are in need of Christianizing.
Millers play brought forth the universal truth of religious and political intolerance and as such is important in the world wide battle for rights clearly spelled out in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. It is important that students learn the power of hysteria from his play but they must also discover the value of tolerance for either witches or communists or any other unpopular beliefs.
Arthur Miller (1915 - 2005) was one of America's greatest playwrights. His works include "Death of a Salesman" and All My Sons; Miller and his plays have been the recipient of many awards including the Tony Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the New York Drama Critics Awards. Most of Miller's plays concern the responsibility of people to each other in light of the common goals shared by the society.
Discussion Questions and Assignments:
Questions Relating to the Witchcraft trials as a metaphor for the Red Scare of the Late 40s and Early 50s
1. See the Quick Discussion Question.
2. Miller reports the following facts at the end of the play:
Twenty years after the last execution, the government awarded compensation to the victims still living and to the families of the dead. However, it is evident that some people still were unwilling to admit their total guilt, and also that the factionalism was still alive, for some beneficiaries were actually not victims at all, but informers. [Within 20 years after the witchcraft trials] to all intents and purposes, the power of theocracy in Massachusetts was broken.
How do you account for the facts that Miller notes? Suggested Response: : As time passed and the hysteria was long gone, people were able to look back and see rationally what had really happened. They no longer felt threatened and prosperity had given them the confidence necessary to be more open minded.
3. How does the concept of "either you are with us or against us" relate to the events in this play? Comment on how this attitude affects the conduct of public business in a representative democracy. Suggested Response: This concept relates to the play in much the same way the idea that the following quote relates to the social changes in the civil rights era: "if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem." Both quotes assert that there is no middle ground, no compromise when facing the rights and wrongs in society. This attitude is extremely corrosive to a representative democracy which requires compromise and respect for the positions of others to function.
4. From knowledge you have gotten either in your history classes or from mass media, name other "witch-hunts" in which a feeling of hysteria caused the deaths of innocent people? Suggested Response: Stalin's purges in Russia; anti-Semitic pogroms; the Holocaust; and the 1994 genocide in Rwanda (see Learning Guide toHotel Rwanda).
5. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 the Russian government opened some of the KGB files and revealed proof that only a very small number of the people accused by the redbaiters had, in fact, been communist spies. These included, most interestingly, Alger Hiss. Does the fact that there were Soviet spies who many have been able to cause serious harm to the country justify the denial of rights to thousands of innocent individuals? Suggested Response: In a just society, it is generally much worse for innocents to be punished than for the guilty to go free. One of the foundations of the United States legal system is that people are innocent until proven guilty. As the character of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons said to his prospective son-in-law, if you tear down all the protections of the law, when the wind blows again where will you find shelter?
6. One of the explanatory paragraphs Miller inserted in his play states the following:
When one rises above the individual villainy displayed, one can only pity them all, just as we [America during the red scare] shall be pitied someday. It is impossible for man to organize his social life without repressions, and the balance has yet to be struck between order and freedom.
Using your knowledge of the excesses of the treatment of captives at Guantanamo, state and justify your opinion about a societies’ ability to find a balance between order and freedom. Suggested Response: Any answers based upon reason and well argued are acceptable. Students may bring up the fear engendered with the attack on the World Trade Center and the decision that torture was a tolerable response that may prevent future attacks. Others will argue that the torture is now being repudiated as the memory of the attacks on 9/11 fades.
8. The hysteria associated with the Salem witch trials looks absurd in retrospect, but in generations past this kind of panic was considered to be genuine. Suggest reasons that hysteria was almost acceptable and reasons that this kind of behavior is no longer acceptable. Suggested Response: : During the witch trials, people thought that the devil caused hysteria, a belief fomented by religion. Advances in psychology and other fields of science have caused people to see otherwise; such hysteria is seen now as a personal breakdown.
QUESTIONS RELATING TO LITERARY ELEMENTS
1. TWM's Standard Questions for Use With Any Film That is a Work of Fiction help stimulate student interest and assist in the exploration of characterization, plot, theme, and other literary devices. Questions relating to theatrical and cinematic techniques are also provided.
9. In terms of story, rather than historical accuracy, which character serves as the narrative’s protagonist? Suggested Answer: John Proctor is the protagonist. The story is his. It is his sexual philandering that rouses Abigail to generate the hysteria against witchcraft, he is the one who grows in terms of honor and it is he who teaches the moral lessons of the play.
10. Who serves as antagonist? Suggested Response: : Abigail is the antagonist. Her desire to seek revenge against John or to win his affections causes the tension in the film and provokes the changes in both John and Elizabeth Proctor that create theme.
11. What gives Abigail the power to disrupt the community and to get so many young women to follow her lead in claiming witchcraft? Suggested Response: : Answers will vary. Students may suggest that a general sense of sexual repression existed in the time period in which the film is set and this may have given rise to pent up sexual frustrations released in the hysteria. The opening scene, with the fire and dancing and the nudity exemplifies this. Guilt may have been a factor as well as fear of reprisal. It is easier to blame witchcraft for sexual longing than to admit the feelings themselves. Others may decide that John Proctor gave Abigail the power to provoke the hysteria with his sexuality by his provocative behavior; she seems to believe that it is Elizabeth Proctor that keeps John away from her, rather than his own desire.
12.In what ways does Elizabeth Proctor change? Suggested Response: : Elizabeth Proctor is a cold and punitive woman until the moment she realizes her husband is threatened. At this point she lies to protect him revealing the value of love over honesty. Ironically this dooms her husband. She then forgives him for his adultery, admits her feeing of jealousy and insecurity, apologizes for her coldness and encourages him to remain true to himself. Her redemption results in her death.
13.What provokes John Proctor to change his mind and determine to die rather than go along with the accusers? Suggested Response: : John Proctor at first signs his confession in an effort to save his and his wife’s lives. He will not, however, name others as part of his devil’s dealings. In his refusal, he finally comes to the point where he will not name himself; it is either pride or righteousness that causes him to tear up the confession and get on the wagon with the other doomed townspeople.
15. What irony can be found in the scene in which John Proctor and two other of the accused are hanged? Suggested Response: : The three condemned citizens are reciting the Lords Prayer which includes the words:” Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” The merciless, even murderous nature of the Christians watching the hanging is brought into clear focus. Those being trespassed against are doing the forgiving.
14. What lesson learned from the Proctor’s can the audience carry into their lives and in so doing help to eliminate the kinds of attitudes that result in their deaths? Suggested Response: : John Proctor shows the power of redemption, self respect and honor. He illustrates the price paid when one stands upon principle against dishonor. Elizabeth shows the power of love, forgiveness and honesty. All is lost in the one moment when she tells a lie.
Assignments: Any of the following writing assignments can be presented to the class as oral reports.
The Crucible provides opportunities for teachers to develop expository writing skills in a format that is important in terms of mass media today. Students can be asked to write investigative reports, as might appear in a newspaper or on an internet site dedicated to explaining in-depth information. The reports are expository, but are addressed to an audience other than a teacher. Students need to understand their audience and try to keep interest levels high as they explain as much information necessary to hold the attention of an intelligent reader. Any of the following topics are ideal offshoots of the concepts presented in The Crucible.
1. The nature of hysteria as a gender based symptom;
2. The Inquisition as a holocaust of pagans;
3. Witch trials world wide;
4. Loyalty oaths;
5. The underlying causes of McCarthy era investigations;
6. The personalities associated with the McCarthy era;
7. The War of the World panic on the eve of World War ll;
8. Propaganda in film promoting government causes, such as WWll;
9. Liberal or conservative bias in the press today;
10. The use of fear to sell products or ideas.
Opinion pieces are an excellent tool to teach persuasion. Keeping with mass media as the audience for the essays, students can be asked to develop logical, informed papers that are supported with facts and pointed argumentation. Either side of the following posits can be addressed:
1. The McCarthy investigations served to strengthen the nation by making national security a top priority;
2. The Witch trials were a front for the advance of capitalism;
3. The Cuban missile crisis was a logical consequence of the McCarthy investigations;
4. Fear is the tool of a repressive governmental system;
5. The panic over the events of 9/11, including the Anthrax scare and the threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction led to war;
6. The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment does not mean the government must accept as valid religions that frighten the population;
7. The anti-pagan movement, including the witch trials, was misogynistic, directed almost exclusively against women;
8. Religious intolerance is founded in fear rather than conflict in beliefs;
9. Panics in the era of mass media are more subtle but just as deadly as those in early American history;
10. The Great Depression was the result of panic and fear.
Debates can be organized for any of the topics raised in the discussion questions or in the assignments. More sophisticated classes may want to address the following:
l. Which of the two Proctor’s, John or Elizabeth, was most culpable in creating the situation that resulted in their deaths.
All students can be asked to memorize the First Amendment and to recite this crucial addition to the U.S. Constitution aloud.
Historical novels suitable for middle school and junior high readers concerning the Salem witchcraft trials and witchcraft trials in general include: Beyond the Burning Time by Kathryn Lasky; Hester Bidgood - Investigatrix of Evil Deedes by H.W. Hildick; Tituba of Salem Village by Ann Petry, Crowell.
For an interesting look into the concept of witches, students may want to read The Seventh Son, by Orson Scott Card and Bless Me Ultima, by Rodolfo Anaya.
Links to the Internet:
See also Books and Writers Biographical Sketch of Miller;
An interesting list of the differences between fact and fiction in this play can be found at Arthur Miller's The Crucible: Fact and Fiction; and
Audio Interview with Carl Bernstein from Wired on Books about his book Loyalties: A Son's Memoires.
Bibliography: In addition to web sites which may be linked in the Guide and selected film reviews listed on the Movie Review Query Engine, the following resources were consulted in the preparation of this Learning Guide:
A Delusion of Satan, the Full Story of the Salem Witchcraft Trials by Frances Hill; Doubleday; 1995;
Timebends, A Life, Arthur Miller, Grove Press, Inc., New York, 1987;
The Portable Arthur Miller; edited by Christopher Bigsby; Penguin Books; 1977.