What is The Crucible about? I don't understand the text.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The Crucible is an outstanding drama by Arthur Miller. The play is set in Salem, Massachusetts, at the time of the infamous Salem witch trials, a sad chapter in American history. Before the hysterical fear of witches faded, 20 innocent people had been executed after being accused of practicing witchcraft.

The Crucible tells a fictional story, based on real people and events, of one man who challenges the court in Salem and tries to save the lives of his friends, neighbors, and eventually his own wife. The protagonist in the drama who acts with such courage is John Proctor. The characters in the play represent real people who lived (and died) in Salem during the trials, but Arthur Miller has dramatized events and created storylines that are not historically accurate.  Some of the dialog in the play may seem difficult to read because the playwright used words and expressions to capture and reflect the language of the time period, 1692.

When reading the play, don't skip reading the introduction and the author's notes. They will help you understand the context of the play and what Miller achieved. Also, if you can find a recording of the play, listening to it while you read along will greatly increase your understanding. Doing some research into the Salem witch trials and the play itself will also be helpful. I'm including below some eNotes links to resources that will get you started. Good luck! It's a great play with some very important themes to think about.

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