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Arthur Miller wrote the play, The Crucible (1952), during the time of the Red Scare in the United States when the House Un-Americans Activities Commission was investigating and accusing innocent people of communism or of participating in communist activities. Miller critiques and compares the case of The Red Scare to the Salem Witch Trials, with the HUAC as the Salem court, and the innocent citizens as characters accused of witchcraft. Arthur Miller parallels the power of the government during the post-WWII United States to the theocratic Puritan community of Salem village. The point he makes is power could overcome facts and an accusation of guilt could completely ruin one’s reputation. Being considered as a communist, or a witch would result in scandal, imprisonment or death as was the case for Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed for espionage in 1953. Miller’s protagonist John Proctor says, ”How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” (Miller 143). This refers to the pain and shame of false accusations that innocent victims endure when they surrender under power and coercion. The themes Miller explores such as jealousy, anger and avarice are universal. However, if The Crucible were adapted to 2018, significant revisions would be necessary to make the text relevant to modern audiences: the court would be completely independent from religious doctrine; witchcraft would not be a reasonable accusation; and the process of justice would be more ethical and rigorous.

All of the characters in The Crucible were Puritans except of Tituba. Their lives revolved around hard work, attending church and reading the Bible. Now, it is acceptable to question religion and religious leaders; many Americans do not attend church or are agnostic. Many other religions are practiced in this country such as Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, etc, with many atheists as well. Religion is not considered as important to society as in The Crucible. To some degree, the religious leaders of Miller’s play welcomed the idea of witchcraft because expelling it would give them power: “Let you strike against the Devil, and the village will bless you for it!” (Miller 17). Adapting the text to modern time, the alleged crime would be some form of human rights abuse or assault because the value of individual rights and personal safety are major concerns of audiences in the United States. Witchcraft seems like a joke now compared to possible evils that could negatively impact society.

People have different mentalities from time to time. Abigail, who’s the leader of the accusers in The Crucible, commits perjury because she is the rejected lover of John Proctor. She falsely accuses his wife, Elizabeth, of practicing witchcraft because she hopes this accusation will result in eliminating Elizabeth and getting Proctor for herself. She is motivated by jealousy, lust, and anger at being fired from the Proctor’s employ. The girls in the play follow Abigail because they fear her and they enjoy the power they exert in court falsely accusing others. They manipulate the religious beliefs of the naive public and use their youth to make their accusations seem holy. A modern secular audience would be more rational and would be moved by an accusation of child abuse or sexual assault. An entire community would not be fooled by a story of witchcraft.

Throughout the play, the investigation of witchcraft only lasts a few days before determining who is guilty, and conviction is swift. In the modern day, there is a lengthy judicial process for someone accused of committing a crime. Evidence collection, examination, testimonies, trials, and appellate court exist to provide an ethical system of justice. A defendant could also hire a lawyer or one would be appointed to represent the accused in court. In The Crucible, citizens are expected to prove their innocence by reciting the ten commandments or defending themselves against the presence of an invisible spirit. As judge Danforth says:“But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be a witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. . . . Therefore, we must rely upon her victims— and they do testify, the children certainly do testify” (Miller 100). Justice in the Salem community is arbitrary, and guilt is a matter of confession; citizens confess to avoid death, making the legal process a farce. Legal proceedings usually take a lot of time and some amount of evidence (DNA, fingerprints, video recordings, etc) to prove if someone is guilty or not, rather than just testimony from alleged victims as in The Crucible. Penalties for committing crimes are differentiated by degrees. The death penalty is imposed by hanging, and in one case crushing, in The Crucible; this would be considered inhumane and cold-blooded in 2018. Although capital punishment is still used in 30 states, this is a controversial issue. It is believed many convicted criminals are imprisoned wrongfully due to unjust circumstances such as corrupt interrogation methods or false confessions given under torture. Confessions in Miller’s work and in modern society are not always truthful and are made only to avoid a terrible fate.

Literature reflects the values of society, and for The Crucible to be updated to meet a current audience’s taste, some details of the original text could be retained. Audiences are still interested in characters consumed by jealousy and self-interest. The topic of injustice would still attract the attention of viewers and cause an emotional response. John Proctor is the hero of The Crucible because he verbalized the injustice and hypocrisy of his closed-minded community. When he cries out “God is dead” (Miller 119), he demonstrates rebellion against the oppressive religious community and voices his disgust with mankind. Miscarriage of justice still occur so for The Crucible to be put in modern time, the message could be maintained, but the political structure of the community, the accusation, and the court proceedings must be changed.

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