The Crucible Historical Background

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The Crucible

Historical Background

The McCarthy Hearings
Joseph R. McCarthy, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin from 1946 to his death in 1957, burst on the public scene in February 1950 with his claim that Communists had infiltrated the Department of State. Even though his accusations were never proved, during the next three years McCarthy charged many government officials, members of the media, and other prominent figures with engaging in subversive activities and having Communist sympathies. The “witch hunt” climaxed in April of 1954, when McCarthy accused the Secretary of the Navy of sheltering Communist spies. The Secretary mounted a vigorous and effective defense, which exposed McCarthy’s ruthless tactics and questionable motives. As a result, McCarthy was censured by the Senate and his i
nfluence declined.

The Salem Witch Trials
On January 20, 1692, Elizabeth Parris, daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris, and Abigail Williams, his niece, started acting strangely. They shook uncontrollably, crawled under tables, uttered strange sounds, and screamed that they were being tortured. Since doctors could not determine a medical cause for the bizarre behavior, they concluded the girls were bewitched. Soon, other girls exhibited the same symptoms. They cried out the names of Tituba, Sarah Good, and Sarah Osburn, sparking the with hunt. During the next eight months of terror, more than one hundred fifty people were imprisoned for witchcraft. By the time the court was dismissed, twenty-seven people had been convicted, nineteen hanged, one pressed to death, fifty had confessed, and more than one hundred were imprisoned awaiting trial.

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