In the late 1800s, Friedrich Nietzsche famously declared, “God is dead, and we have killed him.” His statement is not meant literally, as if God had passed away; instead, it is meant as a comment on culture. Arthur Miller borrows this famous phrase for the climax of The Crucible, putting it in the mouth of a furious John Proctor as he condemns the court’s continued support of Abigail (“you are pulling down Heaven and raising up a whore!”)
When one writer refers directly "speaks to" another in their work, literary critics call this intertextuality: the “shaping” of one text by another. Think of it like a chemical reaction, except with ideas. What kind of intertextual “reaction” does Miller create by mixing Nietzsche’s words with his own? Knowing as he did that most readers would associate this phrase with Nietzsche’s writings, what was Miller trying to tell them? How do you interpret Nietzsche’s point, and how is Miller making a similar point in his play? These are the questions you will address in your post. Start by reading Nietzsche’s original “death of God” text,
The Parable of the Madman, here:
Then, if you want, check out these links for some additional information:
And when you feel ready, write a paragraph giving your interpretation of Nietzsche’s statement and its thematic relation to Miller’s play in general, and Act III’s climax in particular.
Mr. Justin Biggs