Setting of The Crucible

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

One of the most important aspects of a play is where it physically takes place. This lesson discusses the historical context and the setting of Arthur Miller's ''The Crucible'' which takes place during the Salem Witch Trials in the year 1692.

City Upon a Hill

In 1630, the Puritans, a group of deeply religious people, left their homes in Europe to start a new life in the Americas. John Winthrop, a Puritan leader, described their new home as a 'city upon a hill', a place that would inspire not only its inhabitants, but the world at large. In reality, this 'city upon a hill' was a tough place to live. Their settlement had rocky terrain, thick forests, and frigid winters.

The Puritans also followed a very strict religion. They believed in predestination, the idea that your fate was determined the day you were born. Some people would go to heaven and some people would not, and nothing you could do would change that fact. Every action, including how hard you worked or how polite you were, was a reflection of your devotion to God. Women had limited rights, and in most cases were seen and not heard.

The Puritans also had a strong belief in good and evil. Any behavior that was not typical or normal was considered evil. If you talked back to your parents, that could be because you were under some sort of evil influence. If you danced a little too crazy, someone may have cast a spell on you. As you can imagine, these extreme religious beliefs helped create a culture of fear, superstition, and paranoia in Massachusetts. This emotional climate ultimately led to a very dark period between 1692 and 1693 known as the Salem Witch Trials, in which over 200 people were accused of witchcraft and 20 were executed.

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