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The Crucible by Arthur Miller


The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Playwright Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1953. The play is set in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Miller uses this setting as a metaphor – comparing the frenzied Salem witch trials to the perceived danger of communism during the mid-20th century.

Arthur Miller was born in New York City in 1915 into an upper-middle-class family. His comfortable early life changed when the Great Depression eroded his family’s economic circumstances. Miller was unable to go to college until he earned the tuition money by working in a warehouse. Eventually, he attended the University of Michigan. Miller won several awards for his plays during college and chose to pursue a career in the theater. All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, a play that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1949, made Miller a star. 

Around the same time, hearings were being conducted by Congress to identify suspected Communists. Miller was called to testify before the committee about his association with the American Communist Party. Although he admitted to having attended a few meetings years earlier, he refused to "name names" of other people involved in the meetings. As a result, he was cited for contempt of Congress; this conviction was later overturned. The events of this time period inspired him to write The Crucible, set during the Salem, Massachusetts, witch trials of 1692. He wrote the play to warn against mass hysteria and to plead for freedom and tolerance. 

In general, Miller's writing explores issues relevant to contemporary readers, such as the complexities of family relationships, personal responsibility, and morality. Many consider him to be the 20th century's greatest American playwright.

What is the plot of The Crucible?

The Crucible is set in 1692 in Salem, a Puritan town, in Massachusetts. At the start of the story, Reverend Parris, a local minister, discovers a group of girls dancing in the forest, including Betty (his daughter) and Abigail (his niece). The next morning, Betty falls into a coma-like state and rumors of witchcraft begin to spread through the town. Abigail tells the other girls not to admit anything. She then talks to John Proctor, a local farmer, and the audience discovers that she had an affair with him, which his wife discovered.

Suddenly Betty wakes and begins to scream. The townsfolk argue if she is bewitched. Reverend Hale (an expert in witchcraft) arrives and questions Abigail and then Tituba, a black slave. Tituba becomes hysterical and confesses to communicating with the devil and accuses various people of conspiring with the devil. Abigail and Betty join in naming witches, throwing the whole community into a hysterical witch-hunt. Suspicion and fear sweep through Salem.

Salem’s witch trials begin. John and Elizabeth Proctor discuss the mounting number of people who have been accused of witchcraft. Elizabeth urges John to denounce Abigail as a fraud, but he refuses. Elizabeth suspects her husband still has feelings for Abigail.

Elizabeth is arrested for being a witch, along with several other women. John Proctor insists Mary Warren (his housemaid) exposes Abigail and the girls as frauds. At the trial, the girls are accused of lying, but they accuse Mary of bewitching them. John confesses to his affair with Abigail and accuses her of making up the stories against his wife. Not realizing her husband’s recent confession, Elizabeth lies in court to protect her husband saying that he never had an affair. Judge Danforth denounces both the Proctors as witches and frauds.

Time passes and the audience discovers that suspicion, fear, and mistrust have swept through Salem and have spread to nearby towns. Abigail has run away. Hale, realizing that the legal system is flawed, begs the falsely accused townsfolk to confess to save their own lives. The accused refuse, despite Hale’s desperate pleas, and are sent to the gallows.


What are the Themes in The Crucible?

We can study the themes in a play to help us to understand the writer’s intentions. The main themes in The Crucible include:

  • Superstition – Fear of the unknown and superstition is a central theme of this play.
  • Integrity - Standing up your beliefs is a key theme in the play: The accused refuse to confess, even though it would have saved their lives, suggesting that having integrity, while often difficult, is necessary.

What are the Symbols in The Crucible?

  • The Poppet: This is a doll made by Mary Warren and given to Elizabeth Proctor. It is later used as evidence against Elizabeth when Mary says that she was sticking a needle in the doll to curse Abigail Williams. The poppet symbolizes the subversion of innocence because it was originally a children's toy but it was used as a malicious symbol.
  • The Crucible: This is a laboratory equipment that can withstand high temperatures. In the play, it symbolizes the intense heat of hysteria that takes over Salem during the witch trials. The crucible represents a place of intense pressure and scrutiny.

Who are the Main Characters in The Crucible?

  1. John Proctor - A farmer who embarks on an affair with Abigail. He refuses to falsely confess, which leads to his death.
  2. Elizabeth Proctor - John’s wife is committed to her Puritan religion. Her decision to compromise her beliefs causes the death of her beloved husband.
  3. Abigail Williams – Abigail appears to be a fine, virtuous girl. However, she lies and manipulates others.
  4. Reverend Hale - A man of devout religious conviction. As the play progresses, he realizes that he is wrong, but it is too late to change the events which have been set in motion.
  5. Mary Warren - The Proctors’ housemaid. Mary tries to help her masters but to no avail.
  6. Betty Parris – Reverend Parris’ ten-year-old daughter who falls into an unconscious state after she has been seen dancing in the forest with other girls.


"The Crucible"most important vocabulary sets can be found in the following link on Quizlet.

Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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