American CivilizationDr. Ostarch
Assignment Sheet for The Crucible project Dr. Schulkin

          In his "A Note on the Historical Accuracy of This Play," Arthur Miller writes: "This play is not history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian.…However, I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history."

          Taking Arthur Miller at his word, we would like you to consider the question of whether he succeeded in conveying "the essential nature" of the Salem Witch Trials by selecting one of the following options:

        1)    Visit the Web site entitled "Famous American Trials.  Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692".    After reading "An Account of Events in Salem" and the "Chronology" section of the Web site, choose a character from The Crucible who appears in the "Biographies" section and trace his/her role in the trial from examination through petitions to clemency (if relevant).   Examine at least two relevant primary sources on the @History CD-ROM.   Then write an essay in which you not only trace his/her role in the trial, but also comment on the extent to which Miller departed from the historical record in developing this character and offer a conjecture as to why he has done so.

        2)    Read the Web pages entitled "An Account of Events in Salem", "Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Fact & Fiction" and Christopher Bigsby's Introduction to The Crucible (New York: Penguin Books, 1995).   Using these sources and at least two documents from the @History CD-ROM, explain how Arthur Miller might have written The Crucible without departing significantly from the existing historical record.   Specify who the major protagonist and antagonist might have been and the nature of the conflict between them.   Illustrate your essay by writing or rewriting a brief scene in which you dramatize the nature of this central conflict.   (Helpful hint: documented sources of conflict in Salem in the 1690s include: theological disputes, differences of opinion regarding the proper conduct of a minister, regularity of attendance at church services, insulting or offensive remarks, disagreements over land ownership or boundaries, and differing conceptions of the proper behavior for females.)

        3)    Visit the Web site entitled "Famous American Trials.  Salem Witchcraft Trials 1692".    After reading "An Account of Events in Salem" and the "Chronology" section, choose three characters listed in the "Biographies" section and read both the biographical information and their "Examinations".   Then examine the relevant primary sources on the @History CD-ROM.   Finally, write an essay comparing the basis of the prosecution of each of the three as depicted in play and as it emerges from the surviving historical record.   (Helpful hint: categories you may wish to consider include social position, personal enmities, geography and alleged "heretical" positions [i.e., behavior, statements, and/or attitudes which challenged the governing orthodoxy]).

        Regardless of which option you choose, your paper should be between 1000 and 1500 words in length.   It should be word processed in a 12 point font and doubled spaced.   It is due in class on Monday, October 4.