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The Crucible

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Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Arthur Miller's The Crucible . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

The Crucible: Introduction

The crucible: plot summary, the crucible: detailed summary & analysis, the crucible: themes, the crucible: quotes, the crucible: characters, the crucible: symbols, the crucible: theme wheel, brief biography of arthur miller.

The Crucible PDF

Historical Context of The Crucible

Other books related to the crucible.

  • Full Title: The Crucible
  • When Written: 1950-52
  • When Published: 1953
  • Literary Period: Realist Drama
  • Genre: Tragic Drama
  • Setting: Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, when it was a Puritan colony
  • Climax: The Crucible has an odd structure, in which each of the four acts ends on a climax. Act I: the girls scream out the names of witches. Act II: Proctor vows he will confront Abigail. Act III: Proctor reveals his adultery with Abigail, and Elizabeth Proctor lies. Act IV: Proctor rips up his confession.
  • Antagonist: Abigail Williams

Extra Credit for The Crucible

The Real Salem Witch Trials. In his depiction of the witch trials, Miller took many major departures from fact. For instance, John Proctor was nearly 60 and Abigail Williams only 11 at the time of the witch trials. Any affair between the two is highly unlikely, to say the least. Miller was always open about the liberties he took with history, saying that he was writing "a fictional story about an important theme."

Some Like it Hot. Arthur Miller was not a star the way writers are stars today. He was much, much bigger than that. After he wrote Death of a Salesman , he was a tremendous national sensation. In fact, he was such a big star that he married Marilyn Monroe. The couple married in 1956, and stayed together until 1961.

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The Crucible

By arthur miller, the crucible essay questions.

The Crucible is famous as a political allegory, but what exactly is Miller trying to say? Who do you think is being most criticized in the contemporary analogy?

Miller was particularly offended by those who "named names" before HUAC, and he himself refused to do so. While the Crucible indeed villainized the prosecutors and Court – those in the parallel positions of Joe McCarthy and HUAC – the play martyrs Corey and Proctor for refusing to do so. At the expense of their own lives, Corey and Proctor refused to condemn others, and in Miller's eyes this is the only truly moral decision.

The Crucible features a significant reversal of social roles in the Salem community. Choose a character whose position of power is upended and analyze the development of their role in the town and in the narrative. Can you make any observations about gender in this process?

The witch trials greatly increased the power and agency of otherwise lowly women like Tituba and Abigail, while bringing down more respected community members like Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth. The position of men remained more stable – they were always in charge, and even if some of them were executed for witchcraft they would always control the positions of highest authority.

What is the role of gossip in the trials? How does Miller use gossip to implicate the whole town in the events of the witch trials?

Clearly the trials are begun by the wagging of tongues after the girls are found in the woods, but gossip certainly has a more enduring role. Reputations in Salem are made or broken based on slander and rumor, and reputation was a man's only defense against accusation – and even that often failed to correct aspersions. But gossip also proves to be a destructive force even in the hands of the good and unwitting, taking on a life of its own – Giles Corey, for instance, condemns his own wife simply by a slip of the tongue.

Miller makes some significant changes to the historical events for the play – most noticeably, he raises Abigail's age from 11 to 19, and invents an affair between her and Proctor. What purpose does this serve?

The affair is a dramatic device. It provides motive for Abigail's accusation of Elizabeth, and complicates the relationship between the Proctors. By raising Abigail's age and giving her motives of revenge, Miller can complicate the characterization of what would otherwise be a tale-telling little girl, without compromising her villainy.

Clearly, Proctor is the protagonist of the play, dominating three of the four acts. What begins as an ensemble rendering of the town's drama ends in an examination of a decision by one man, the focus gradually narrowed over the course of the play. How does Miller make this 17th century farmer into a character capable of holding our interest and sympathies for two hours?

Proctor is developed as a "modern" figure in the play. He is resistant to authority, rebelling against both the church and the state. He sees through humbug and shouts it down. Moreover, he has a complicated relationship with his wife, and is flawed but in an understandable way. He is independent minded, and struggles against the conformity of Salem that is so like 1950s America. In short, he's like every other hero rebel – the same man in so many movies in stories, just realized this time in 17th century Salem.

What started the Salem witch trials? In their contemporary parallel of the red scare, we know that there really were Communists. But in 17th century Salem, there was no true witchcraft. So how did this thing start, and what does Miller have to say about its origins?

A major point of the play is that the witch trials were not truly started by any event or scandal – the discovery of the girls dancing in the woods was merely a tipping point, not the true origin. Miller is steadfast in his belief that the social structure of Salem is what caused the witch hunt and allowed it to accelerate. If it hadn't been Betty Paris falling sick after dancing in the woods, it would have been something else.

Act One is punctuated by prose passages in which Miller details the background of Salem and the characters. However, this background mixes facts from the historical record with the changes Miller made for dramatic reasons. What do you think of this?

Because the prose passages are contained within a fictionalized dramatic work, a reader should be aware that the passages are subject to the limitations of the form. However, Miller speaks with the voice of a historian in these passages, not with the voice of a playwright, and gives no indication that what he says is less than historical fact. Indeed, it is a slightly worrisome idea – a play about a man who died for the truth is so free with its own truths.

What is the function of Reverend Hale in the narrative?

Reverend Hale is an interesting and well-developed minor character. He serves the dramatic function of an outsider, aiding in exposition in the first act even as his presence catalyzes the witch trials. But in the third act, he begins to question the trials, and by the fourth act has renounced them completely and is actively working against them. Hale shows that the ministry and the courts need not all be evil, but that it is possible to realize the error of one's own ways and work to fix their effects.

Mary Warren is a bit of a cipher – we see her only as a pawn of Abigail, and then of Proctor, and then again of Abigail. Do we learn anything about the "real" Mary Warren?

Mary Warren is a particularly undeveloped character in the narrative, who functions largely as a plot device. We know that she is a weak-willed and terrified girl, who is easily manipulated by people stronger than herself. Abigail and Proctor are the ones who manipulate her, both threatening her with violence and vengeance, which draws a lucid connection between those two. Mary wants to be good, but she lacks the ability to see clearly where this good choice lies.

Are the judges evil? Be sure to define what you mean by "evil" in your answer.

This is a deceptively simple question. Miller believed that the judges in the witch trials were purely evil, and has stated that if he were to rewrite the play, he would make them less human and more obviously and thoroughly evil. But is evil a function of the will, or a failure of reason? These men did not set out to do evil – they legitimately saw themselves as doing God's work. Is it evil to be wrong? Arguably, the Putnams are the most evil characters in Miller's interpretation of the events, as they both support the trials and clearly are aware of the falsity of the charges.

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The Crucible Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Crucible is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

As the act opens, who is being interrogated, and on what charge?

In the beginning of Act III, Martha Corey is being interrogated on charges of witchcraft.

why does reverend parris send for reverend hale?

Because Reverend Hale is an intelligent man who has studied witchcraft extensively.

Identify two examples of indirect characterization – and dialogue, or an action – that amplify the examples or direct characterization of Giles Corey. Explain your choices.

Giles Corey is a spirited cantankerous old farmer who rebels against the witch trials and forced conformity to lies. We see this indirectly through all his actions. Corey is a frequent plaintiff in court, having brought dozens of lawsuits, and he...

Study Guide for The Crucible

The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller. The Crucible study guide contains a biography of Arthur Miller, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Crucible
  • The Crucible Summary
  • Character List

Essays for The Crucible

The Crucible essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Crucible by Arthur Miller.

  • Conformity, Imbalance of Power, and Social Injustice
  • Sins and Ambitions
  • The Stream of Conscience in Arthur Miller's The Crucible
  • The Crucible as an Allegory
  • Contemporary Events Leading to The Crucible

Lesson Plan for The Crucible

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Crucible
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Crucible Bibliography

Wikipedia Entries for The Crucible

  • Introduction
  • Characters (in order of appearance)
  • Originality

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 Overall, effective essays! Correct MLA heading/header/parenthetical documentation (Miller 503), creative titles, effective format-Intro. = hook, narrow, thesis), body paragraphs with evidence/quotes (at least 4 specific textual references) & analysis, and conclusion. Range out of 10 – see side board = 5-10

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