(Anna Baddeley’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 2/10.)
Arthur Miller, who was born in 1915 and died on February 10, 2005 was one of the most important figures of the 20th century, whose writing has earned him a lifetime of honours, including the Pulitzer Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an Olivier and the John F Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award. Here is the author of Death of a Salesman in his own words:
On the genesis of The Crucible
I thought of it first when I was at Michigan. I read a lot about the Salem witch trials at that time. Then when the McCarthy era came along, I remembered these stories and I used to tell them to people when it started. I had no idea that it was going to go as far as it went. I used to say, you know, McCarthy is actually saying certain lines that I recall the witch-hunters saying in Salem. So I started to go back, not with the idea of writing a play, but to refresh my own mind because it was getting eerie. For example, his holding up his hand with cards in it, saying, “I have in my hand the names of so-and-so.” Well, this was a standard tactic of seventeenth-century prosecutors … It was a way of inflicting guilt on everybody, and many people responded genuinely out of guilt; some would come and tell him some fantasy, or something that they had done or thought that was evil in their minds. Many times completely naive testimony resulted in somebody being hanged.