The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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How does guilt play a central theme in The Crucible?

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One of the most interesting themes in The Crucible is the dichotomy between legal guilt and moral guilt. Legally, no one is guilty because they are being tried for imaginary crimes: witchcraft and association with the Devil. However, the lack of due process in the trials is caused in part by the presumption of innocence, a legal principle so vital and so ancient that it appears in the Code of Hammurabi, being replaced by the Puritan presumption of guilt. Because the Puritans believe in original sin, their court is not an adversarial process where defendants are presumed innocent but an inquisition in which guilt is assumed, since no one is pure in the eyes of the Lord.

This is shown most clearly in Act III, which opens with Judge Hathorne questioning Martha Corey. When she protests that she does not know what a witch is, he triumphantly asks how, in that case, she knows that she is not a witch. It is for her to prove her innocence, not for her accusers to prove her guilt. Later in the Act...

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