The Crucible by Arthur Miller
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Salem was a very religious society, which had been established in
1652. Salem was compared to Jerusalem, which is considered to be a
holy society. Therefore this indicates that religion was a major issue
in Salem. Religion played a vital role in the life of Salem people. If
people were seen as non-religious, they were persecuted. Salem had a
lot of restrictions because of the strictness in their religion.
For many hundred of years through out Europe, there was a belief in
witchcraft. At times, this belief would develop into hysterical fear
leading to campaigns of persecution against suspected witches. Many of
them accused were women. Women in those days did not have a high
status as men did. They did not have much right. People also assumed
that superstitious people had magical powers, or were in league with
The Bible was significant because they believed that the Bible was the
basis of their lives. People relied on the Bible to guide them
throughout their lives. The inhabitants of Salem believed in witches
and the devil, and also believed that the Bible ordered them to hang
witches. The people, who settled there, were puritans who followed a
particular form of protestant Christianity. They felt that they were
surrounded by Ungodly people and associated the forest with wild
people and with evil.
In 1692, there was an outbreak of accusations of witchcraft in Salem.
Many thousands of innocent people, accused of being witches, were
tortured and executed. Many of them accused of witchcraft were women.
This shows the position of women during the 17th century was very
weak. They had a low status in the society. Women were either
portrayed in the image of a daughter or wife. They hardly had any
rights. Their husbands' or fathers' controlled them. The force of men
Arthur Miller used dramatic devices, such as the title of the play
"The Crucible". A Crucible is a container in which metals are heated
to extract the pure elements from dross or impurities.
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Vital Role Crucible 17th Century Accused Inhabitants Accusations Hang Superstitious Jerusalem Husbands
In this play,
John Proctor is tested in a life-threatening ordeal and his death at
the end rather than betrayal of his conscience shows us that he too
has come through the fire to be purified.
In the play Miller has used themes, such as greed, witchcraft and
vengeance to explain the causes of the witch trials taking place. As
the play unfolds, these themes become more obvious to the audience.
Arthur Miller wrote this play for a reason. He believed that the
reader would discover the essential nature of one of the strangest and
most awful chapters in human history. He showed the parallels between
the Mc McCarthy trials in 1950 to trials on witch craft in Salem, in
1692. Arthur Miller was in the same position as John Procter had been
in "The Crucible." He wanted people to realise how bad the trials were
and what it lead to at the end. Many innocent people suffered for no
reason. There are obviously parallels in the play. For example-
unsupported accusations, people encouraged to frame their friends and
acquaintances and fear of suspicion.
"The Crucible" was written in the 1950s by Arthur Miller, in America.
This extraordinary but tragic play was located in Massachusetts,
Salem, in the 17th Century.
The whole intension of him writing "The Crucible" was to warn the
American about bringing witchcraft back into the American society.
Religion occurred right from the beginning of the play, and the fear
of witchcraft was brought in very quickly. The minister of Salem,
Samuel Parris, gathered with the Putnams to inform them, to not call
it witchcraft, but that request was not made. The Putnams still called
it witchcraft. They wanted to call it witchcraft. This was due to get
rid of thief guilt. They thought that if witchcraft did occur, they
would be able to blame a witch for the death of their babies.
Miller is deeply keen to show the audience how Salem manipulated fear
of witchcraft for its own benefits.
In the opening of act 2 Miller positions the scene for a house not for
a home. An ordinary household. Mother cooking, father hunting,
children's in bed, but we as the audience, already notice that
something is wrong, as we have been informed of the affair with John
Proctor and Abigail Williams. We will observe their relationship
attentively as the play continues.
At the start of the play Abigail is in a confused and frightened
situation. She knows that trouble is heading her way. Abigail always
lies to save herself, this shows that she can never be trusted and
shows that she is self-centered. She is a quick and sharp talker and
does not have any respect for others and wants everyone to do as she
says. She threatens others and gets her anger out on them.
Like all the other people in Salem she cares a lot about her name and
wants to keep a high reputation,
"There be no blush about my name"
She wants to have a high status and wants to be well respected in the
village. We also find out that she hates Elizabeth Proctor.
"Lying, cold, sniveling women."
This is because Abigail was dismissed from their house as a servant
and no one employed her. However the main reason she is against
Elizabeth is because she is the wife of John Proctor. Proctor is a
person who she lusts after, who she deeply loves and desires. She
wishes that Elizabeth was out of the way so that she can have proctor
all to herself without any interference. She won't be satisfied until
Proctor is hers and is trying so hard to get him. She even drank
blood, a charm to kill Elizabeth. This shows her love for proctor and
hatred towards Elizabeth. She wants revenge on Elizabeth for taking
away the person who she loved. She wants Goody Proctor dead! She is a
(In the home of the Proctors)
The room described is comfortable, but Elizabeth's opening words to
him show us that the relationship is tensed.
"What keeps u so late? It's almost dark"
Elizabeth's first words to John, seems piercing and bitter. We know
that her words were an accusation not a question; she's not asking him
why he's late, but accusing him of being late.
Proctor asks his wife
"Are you well today?"
This is a weird, oddly formal question for a husband and wife. Proctor
continues throughout the start of the scene to be considerate towards
"How would that please you?"
"I mean to please you"
"On Sunday let you come with me we'll walk"
And Elizabeth with contrast rather sudden
"Aye it would"
"Aye it is"
These all show that the conversations between John and Elizabeth are
uncomforting, but delicate. Ever since the affair with Abigail, John
has tried his best to have a polite conversation with Elizabeth. John
and Elizabeth are both being very cautious and aware of what they say
and do to each other. John does everything he can to please Elizabeth
by saying the best, most fine things he can, even by complementing her
on her cooking, even though he didn't like it, as Miller tells us
"He swings a pot out of the fire and smells it. Then
he lifts out the ladle and tastes. He is not quite pleased."
Now, as an associate of viewers, I would gain attention in their
relationship, and as a reader of the book Miller spells it out to me
"A sense of their separation arises."
At this aspect of the play our sympathies are with John, as we
understand that he's trying to make up for the errors he has
committed, and hope she can be more obliged. This is intentional
drama, we are on John's side because Elizabeth is being too sour but
we know Elizabeth is the one who is being wronged.
Miller in this scene wants us to be with John, when we really should
be with Elizabeth.
What has Elizabeth done? She hasn't done anything wrong. She's just
being upset over what John has done like anyone else would be. John is
the one who has done everything wrong, even though he is trying to
make up for it. He's the one who had the affair with Abigail, not
Miller has already succeeded in controlling his audience in Johns
favor, in the beginning of act 2. I as a fellow member of the audience
am now caught up in the play as I want to see what happens with John,
Elizabeth, and Abigail.
At this point of the play Abigail is going to use witchcraft on
Elizabeth to get to John. Because of my suspicions I am going to watch
the actions very closely. I am sucked into the play so therefore shows
that Arthur Miller has already succeeded in creating drama with me.
We see another side to Elizabeth's character in act 2 over her
weakness with Mary warren (their servant).
"It is a fault Elizabeth, you're the mistress here not Mary:"
"I forbid her go"
Now at this point the audiences start to sympathies for Elizabeth.
After Abigail's affair with Elizabeth's husband, John Proctor,
Elizabeth is unsure of what to believe. She cannot trust Proctor
again, and believes that Proctor has still feelings for Abigail. And
also she knows that Abigail wants her dead. She is very cold towards
John, showing no love for him.
"(He gets up, goes to her, kisses her. She receives it)."
Has the affair with Abigail shaken Elizabeth as a wife and a house
Miller sets the scene here for John Proctors decision to go to the
court or not, to announce the news that Abigail confessed, saying it
was a joke. The issue of Abigail accusing people as withes is not
being seen as the danger it is to Elizabeth, this is because of
Elizabeth and John themselves. If they were civil to each other and
relating normally to each other they could have an open discussion
about the best thing to do, but because he is acting from guilt and
she is acting from humiliation this has happened.
The next piece of dialogue is used simply to give information to the
audience that the situation has become very serious, the deputy
Governor has come from Boston, fourteen people are in jail, and the
girls are treated like saints.
"The towns gone wild I think. She speaks of Abigail, and I thought she
were a saint, to hear her, she brings the other girls to court, where
she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel."
It is Elizabeth that tells Proctor that this is all a fraud; he has no
idea of this. Elizabeth, on the sly, is getting her information from
Mary Warren. Elizabeth is being discreet, leading up; to telling John
he must go to the court and restate what Abigail had said to him.
"I think you must go to Salem John, I think so, you must tell them it
is a fraud."
Elizabeth wanting this to get over and done with is very desperate for
John to go and tell the court about this immediately
"I would go to Salem now John- let you go tonight."
John is not that keen to go, he says he will think on it, but then
Elizabeth goes you cannot keep it, and he admits he cannot keep it, so
he repeats again
I said I will think on it."
Elizabeth pretending it's alright but showing that she is not pleased
of what he has just said
"(hurt and very coldly)": Good, then, let you think on it."
(Then slowly walks out of the room, waiting for John to stop her and
say something to her- preferably saying that he will go and tell
them). Just before she goes John says something to her, telling her
that he does not have proof that Abigail said that it was a fraud.
"I think it's not easy to prove she's fraudâ€¦she told it to me in a
room alone- I have no proof for it."
After this being said to her she brushes her hand off him and says
"Do as you wish then"
We know that she's going to have to cope with her fear all alone now.
And also when John says to Elizabeth
"I'll not have your suspicion anymore"
all his earlier attempts and effort to please her are all forgotten as
there is no reconciliation. This is all done deliberately because
Arthur Miller wanted everyone to know that this was how the affair was
discovered. John tries to defend his relationship with Abigail in a
very strange way, by saying that he gave into Elizabeth when he voice
her suspicions, when he confessed, but then now says he shouldn't have
Miller is manipulating the drama in two different ways here. He's
revealing the bad felling between husband and wife, and he's also
covering up the real danger as revenge. The audiences are aware of
this, John grievers is this:
He did wrong, he admitted it, and he's done everything in his
authority to show his regret.
Elizabeth's feelings are more complex, the affair with Abigail has
touched her weakest point her inferiority complex. She can never
believe that John could marry her. This shows that she is probably
quite anxious with her love making, so she created the problem, so
part of her suffering with John these 7 months, is that her greatest
fear has been revealed.
At the height of this unpleasantness Mary Warren comes in and
Elizabeth's Concern of Abigail's revenge comes closer when Mary tells
"I saved her life today" (pointing at Elizabeth)
but she will not tell them ho accused Elizabeth. We already know very
well who accused her so we don't need to be told. We are incredibly
pleased it's out in the open now, and look forward to see John go and
tell the court.
The drama created is toughened by the fact that they had so little
time to arrange their tactics. The audience is hopeful that John will
take the danger seriously. This scene is in several ways is the
highlight of the play as all the troubles of witchcraft and the
hangings circulate from this love triangle. Abigail's gone into her
own little world, her fantasy world, and in that little world of hers
she thinks that as soon as Elizabeth is out of the way, preferably
dead, she will be able to get John and that they will have a happy
married life. Elizabeth knows a women's psychology and is certain that
Abigail believes John will marry her if Elizabeth is out of the way.
"She wants me dead, John, you know it!"
John has no idea that Abigail sees their one petite moment of sexual
intimacy as a promise of future marriage. He thinks that Elizabeth is
"It is her dearest hope, John, I know it" (talking about the
Elizabeth has changed her procedure now. She wants John to go directly
to Abigail and verbalize to her face to face.
"Then go and tell her she's a whore. Whatever promise she may sense-
break it, John, break it.
"Good then I'll go."
If Elizabeth he may well had gone. At this point we are pleased and
relieved, but then Elizabeth delays him and it's too late because Hale
comes in and never again do John or Elizabeth talk to each other
alone, other then just before John dies. This is very knowledgeable
Hale is brought in deliberately by Miller, right at the depth of
argument to give them inconveniences.
"You'll tear it free- when you come to know that I will be your only
wife or no wife at all! She has an arrow in you yet, John Proctor, and
you know it well!"
Miller does this to build drama. The audiences fear the worst when
Hale comes in, but then proves to be good. Hale is worried about
Proctors attitude to Parris (the Minister), but Proctor's work on the
church roof re-assures him.
"In the book that Mr. Parris keeps, I note that you rarely in church
in Sabbath day"
"I never knew I must account to that man for I come to church or stay
During the meeting with Hale, Proctor is staggered by hearing
Elizabeth's belief on witches; she declares that if she's accused of
being a witch then witches don't exist. John is also amazed by her
strength. It reveals that they haven't been communicating for months,
not since the affair with Abigail.
Elizabeth's denials of witches reflects Johns Blasphemy (sins against
God) later on in the play when he says
"I think God is dead."
Elizabeth and John have not obviously discussed the witchcraft in
Salem which leaves them defenseless. The climax of this scene is the
climax of Johns and Elizabeth's relationship. She is taken away
charged of witchcraft and John can't stop it. This was the whole
tension at thee beginning of act 2.
At this point, at the end of act 2, we fear that Elizabeth will be
hanged. Miller does this intentionally so that at the end of the play
we are shocked by John's death.
Elizabeth was the first one to mention the adultery apart from
Elizabeth, John, and Abigail. Proctor reveals that his love for
Elizabeth is much stronger than his lust for Abigail,
"My wife will never die for me."
At that time in Salem Adultery was considered to be a really ghastly
crime. If only Proctor had gone to the court much earlier on and told
the court that the girls were frauds, and that Abigail said that it
was a joke, then he might not have had to make this terrible
In act 3 Proctor is paid back for all the things he accused Elizabeth
of in act 2, her sense of justice, her moral standard, never cheats,
steals or lies etc. He list these things as virtues as though they
were burden against Elizabeth, but then in act 3 he brags about her
"faults" and is now absolutely secure that she, on no account, notify
a lie. He is certain. However, Elizabeth keeps in mind the last ever
conversation she had with John, all the things he said to her and now
is determined to show her love for him, is worth more than her
Miller really sets the audience on edge by the way Danforth runs the
situation and by the way John and Elizabeth can't communicate at all
with each other.
At the beginning of act 4 we find out that Salem is in total chaos
with the introduction information we are given.
John Hale has returned to Salem on his own unity because he wants to
save the lives of John Proctor, Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corrie.
The next time Elizabeth and John meet will be the last time. All the
problems in act 2 come to a climax in this scene- the time wasted on
insignificant arguments and their lack of preparation for Elizabeth's
defense leads now with tragedy. Miller however, deceits the audience,
at the end it is John who dies not Elizabeth. This is clever drama.
The danger had been in attendance since the start of act 2 and act 4
but in between these two scenes Miller had twisted and turned the
scheme at each point of the problem, of Abigail accusing Elizabeth of
witchcraft, a solution was presented only to be shattered and a fresh
problem arose. For example, Abigail accuses Elizabeth, John could go
and tell them about Abigail but he doesn't go. Mary goes to confess
but the girls force her to their side. John confessed but then
No one knows what to say anymore, they're all confused now, if they
say something then some other person might be hurt, or they might
think they might say something wrong, but at the end they're going to
pay for themselves, their own lives are going to be gone. And because
at the beginning everyone started to tell lies and people died, it's
going to be hard for them to tell the truth.
What makes it worse for the audience is the way the love between John
and Elizabeth comes shining through at the end. We can't bear to think
the newly discovered love will end so soon. The language between them
is completely different from act 2, this time they are totally
"You take my sins upon you John-"
"No, I take my own, my own!"
"John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could
come t o me! Suspicion kissed you when I did: I never knew how I
should show my love. It were a cold house I kept"
"There'll be no higher judge under heaven than Proctor is! Forgive me,
John- I never knew such goodness in the world!"
Miller deliberately gives the last line of the play to Elizabeth
because she will have to live without John Proctor and yet she lets
"He'll have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!"
In observation of the fact that everyone was greedy fro revenge and
were too proud to lose their reputation, innocent people got accused,
which in the end led them to their death. The name of a person was
very important. People such as John Proctor were forced to sacrifice
his life to keep his name. Others were simply too embarrassed to show
The people in Salem led a very religious life, but it seemed to me as
if most of the people did not follow their religion, but also seemed
to know a lot about it. They spent their whole lives following the
Bible; this is probably what led to frustration and depression. They
did not have a social life.
The main causes fro the witch trials taking place is linked with the
social background of the people living in the 17th century. The people
in Salem were very narrow minded, which was a factor in causing the
witch trial to occur. The witch trials opened the opportunity for
people to express their hatred towards their neighbours, which they
had restrained for a long time. It also allowed people to express
their bitterness and frustration through accusing people who were
happy and content with their lives. Vengeance had consumed Salem
despite the fact that the Bible instructed people to "love one
another" and to let goodness flourish the universe.
In "The Crucible", people killed other people's life to have their own
way. Rebecca nurse, the innocent of them all still hung. The people
who should have been hung didn't, and the people who should not have
hung did. This book shows what greed and selfishness can lead to in
life, and what people can do to get what they desire. It also shows us
that not everyone is perfect. They have some bad qualities in them.
Their lust for land and vengeance allowed them to submit themselves to
evil. They were driven by deep darkling forces, which motivated them
to cover their hands in blood of innocent people.
The religious theocracy in Salem was not successful in keeping the
community together. Instead it was used to create disharmony within
the town. It did not use its power effectively to save people from
The Salem tragedy, which occurred in 1692, makes us feel sympathetic
towards the innocent people that died. It almost brings tears to our
eyes because these people gave in to death in order to maintain
humanity on this Earth. Although the deaths of these people were very
tragic, it clearly demonstrates that good deed will always over power
evil. The people, who reinforced this statement, were people like John
Proctor and Rebecca Nurse. These people uprooted the seeds for evil
from the ground, to lay the seeds for goodness.
In this play, justice was not carried out!
The collected essays of the “moral voice of [the] American stage” (TheNew York Times) in a Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition
Arthur Miller was not only one of America’s most important twentieth-century playwrights, but he was also one of its most influential literary, cultural, and intellectual voices. Throughout his career, he consistently remained one of the country’s leading public intellectuals, advocating tirelessly for social justice, global democracy, and the arts. Theater scholar Susan C. W. Abbotson introduces this volume as a selection of Miller’s finest essays, organized in three thematic parts: essays on the theater, essays on specific plays like Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, and sociopolitical essays on topics spanning from the Depression to the twenty-first century. Written with playful wit, clear-eyed intellect, and above all, human dignity, these essays offer unmatched insight into the work of Arthur Miller and the turbulent times through which he guided his country.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.