"Crucible" means test, trial, ordeal, formation by fire, and a vessel baked to resist heat. How is "crucible" related John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse, Reverend Hale, and Giles Corey in The Crucible?

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The symbolism of the crucible relates to Elizabeth Proctor, who is put to the test and under an extreme amount of pressure in the final two acts of the play. In act three, Elizabeth is brought before the court and questioned about her husband's infidelity. Elizabeth struggles with the decision...

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The symbolism of the crucible relates to Elizabeth Proctor, who is put to the test and under an extreme amount of pressure in the final two acts of the play. In act three, Elizabeth is brought before the court and questioned about her husband's infidelity. Elizabeth struggles with the decision to protect John's reputation or tell the court the truth. Tragically, Elizabeth lies and John is arrested. Elizabeth is once again tested in the final act of the play. John asks for her opinion regarding his decision to offer a false confession or die a martyr. Elizabeth ends up telling John to follow his heart and refuses to intervene in his decision to preserve his integrity.

John Proctor also experiences an immense amount of pressure to confess to adultery and ruin his reputation in order to expose Abigail as a liar or allow the corrupt court to try his innocent wife. After admitting to adultery, Proctor is arrested and must decide whether or not to offer a false confession. In the end, Proctor chooses to die a martyr in hopes of putting an end to the corrupt proceedings.

Reverend Hale's beliefs are tested as he begins to question the court's validity. Hale struggles with his decision to support the court or the individuals challenging the corrupt institution. When prominent citizens like Rebecca Nurse, Martha Corey, and Elizabeth Proctor are accused of witchcraft, Reverend Hale discovers that he has made the wrong choice and contributed to the corrupt proceedings. Reverend Hale is forced to live with the guilt of supporting the witch trials and tries to convince innocent citizens to offer false confessions to save their lives.

Giles Corey and Rebecca Nurse's integrity is also tested when they are arrested. Both characters willingly become martyrs when they refuse to cooperate with court officials. Giles is pressed to death and Rebecca is executed for refusing to confess to witchcraft.

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Elizabeth Proctor is tested in many ways by the events that take place in the play.  Before the play even begins, her husband sleeps with their servant, Abigail Williams, and she must confront him about his infidelity.  He admits to the affair, so she fires Abigail.  Then, in act 2, she learns that John was alone with Abigail in the town, a fact that tests their relationship and her trust again. Now, he is afraid to tell people about what she told him: that the dancing in the woods was only "sport."  She asks him, "John, if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now?  I think not."  Her marriage is clearly tested by her husband's infidelity and her own lack of trust and confidence in his love.

Then, Elizabeth is arrested. She is accused by Abigail of sending out her specter to torture the girl at dinner.  However, Elizabeth predicted this would happen, telling John that Abigail "thinks to kill [her], then to take [her] place."  The metaphorical heat is turned up even higher when Elizabeth lies to the court, saying that the only reason she dismissed Abigail from her employ is because she was dissatisfied with Abigail's work. This comes after John had already told the court that Elizabeth fired Abigail because of his affair with the girl.  Elizabeth's honesty is tested, and she fails because she is trying to protect her husband; it is an extremely unfair test.  She puts her husband's reputation in the town ahead of her own soul.  It is a kind and loving thing to do, but it essentially seals both of their fates.

In act 4, Elizabeth admits that she "[has] sins of [her] own to count.  It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery."  Moreover, she asks for John's forgiveness by saying, "Forgive me, forgive me, John—I never knew such goodness in the world!"  She removes some blame from him, taking some responsibility for the challenges they faced in their marriage. This makes it easier, I think, for John to forgive himself for his sin of infidelity.  In the end, she is tested again.  She could try to persuade him to confess and lie in order to live, but she knows that would compromise his integrity. She does not want him to think worse of himself: when he decides to lie to save his life, she does not judge him. When he changes his mind—a judgment that will result in his death—she thinks only of his integrity and goodness, placing it above herself or her own wishes.  Of course she wants him alive, as she tells him, but she will not put her wishes ahead of his.  In fact, she has the last words in the play. She says, "He have his goodness now.  God forbid I take it from him!"  

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John Proctor is a character who faces great testing and trial through the action in this play. He has to choose to acknowledge that he is an adulterer, and that he slet with Abigail, in order to bring a successful case against her to the court. Then, when even after being open about such damaging truth, he then faces jail for the supposed crime of being in league with the devil. Finally, he has to choose whether to admit to these spurious and illusory crimes or to die a truthful man. Note how the biggest test he faces comes in the final act, when he signs his name to the deposition admitting his crimes and then refuses to give it back to Danforth, and eventually tears it up. His justification for his decision to refuse to allow others to see his name shows the testing and refining that he is undergoing as a character:

Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!

Proctor's decision to eventually rip up this document and to keep his "name" pure and untarnished shows considerable strength of character, as this decision is one that results in his death by hanging. He is a character who therefore has been profoundly tested and challenged by events, but who in the end demonstrates that commitment to truth and morality is greater than expedience, and by making this decision, he is able to gain a measure of wholeness in his life.

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