Socialist Worker

There’s nothing like a witch hunt to keep you in control

by Keith McKenna
Issue No. 1928

The Crucible

Birmingham Rep then touring

020 7251 9251 for details

The director of The Crucible, Jonathan Church, says that the play “is particularly relevant given the way in which the American state created an enemy to unify a disparate country in order to go to war. It’s tragic that Britain joined in.”

Originally inspired by the McCarthy witch hunt of Communists in 1950s America, this play by Arthur Miller is set in the New England of 1692.

A report that children have been caught dancing in the woods is seized upon by the authorities as evidence of witchcraft.

Deputy Governor Danforth declares that “there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country”.

He is willing to imprison and execute people to defeat the invisible enemy.

Miller shows that behind the witch hunter’s claims of religious motivation are attempts to crush social dissent or grab people’s land.

The play explores the different and changing ways in which the community responds to the big lie of witchcraft.

Jonathan Church likens these events to the way people did or didn’t resist the lies about weapons of mass destruction.

War might not have happened, he suggests, “if more people had said what they felt rather than waiting”.

But the play does show us the growing opposition to the injustice.

One character declares “God is dead”, one of the judges denounces the court as a sham and in the final scene we hear that rebellions in nearby towns have thrown out the courts.

This powerful production of The Crucible shifts the blame for the moral panic away from the children and onto the state with the rest of the community bearing some responsibility for what happens.

As Jonathan Church argues, “We all share responsibility for the war. But we have the power to stop it.”


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Sat 20 Nov 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1928
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