In 1953, when The Crucible was first performed, the United States was deep in the throes of the Red Scare. Senator Joseph McCarthy led a witch hunt against supposed communists, targeting various celebrities, government officials, and even writers, many of whom were blacklisted because of their alleged ties to the Communist party.
The Crucible itself can be considered an allegory for McCarthyism. The mass hysteria caused by McCarthy's accusation of treason and sedition draw striking similarities to the Salem witch trials, in which innocent people were tried and convicted on flimsy evidence, just as they were during the Red Scare.
Arthur Miller drew source material from the real-life Salem witch trials, which began in 1692, the year the play is set. At that time, Salem was populated and ruled by Puritans, whose repressive theology drives a group of young girls to accuse others of witchcraft to distract from their own sins and desires.
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