RB doesn't detail any of the instances of the "50's" anti-woman
bias from this universal play, but I will cite the most notable:
Miller makes Abigail Williams, the child instigator of the accusations
who was a servant in the Proctor household and 11-12 years old
at the time, into a young woman -- that is, an older teen--
who has seduced her "master", John, and wants to get rid of
his wife Elizabeth so that she can replace her as John's wife.
Miller makes preadolescent Abigail a temptress, and old-enough-to-be-her-grandfather
(55) John's adultery and subsequent guilt a major element of
This indeed has a "universal" quality-- it's like blaming Helen
for the Trojan War, Eve for the Fall-- and so it passed unremarked
at the premiere. The fifties were big on blaming women for social
ills and male angst.
The "temptress" scene between Abigail and John is an excellent
scene--- I performed it once in workshop. I had no trouble believing
in it-- the John of the play is a romantic hero: vital, attractive,
But the John/Abigail relationship is either fictional or horribly
perverse. What would we call a 55 year old man who slept with
his 11 year old bond maid today? Proctor had the position of
(surrogate) father to the servant Abigail, and any relationship
with her is quasi-incestuous as well as rape of a child.
Miller replied to this criticism in the 70's by affirming that
he had made changes in the facts of the historical record to
be "more truthful" than history; and the scene does help to
account for the undeniably sexual element in the witch hysteria.
But it isn't necessary-- it is in fact misleading-- and Miller
may have come to see it as such himself. In the most recent
edition of the play, that scene does not appear.