How historically accurate is The Crucible?

The Crucible is a work of fiction, and though it's based on true events, it is not entirely historically accurate. Though Miller did extensive research for his play, he also changed or fabricated important elements in the story, such as the ages of John Proctor and Abigail Williams and the nature of their relationship. The results of the trials, however, were not altered.

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Miller claims, in a note attached to the published version of the play, that it "is not history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian" but that nevertheless "the reader will discover here the essential nature" of the Salem witch trials. In fact, Miller...

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Miller claims, in a note attached to the published version of the play, that it "is not history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian" but that nevertheless "the reader will discover here the essential nature" of the Salem witch trials. In fact, Miller did do extensive research about the history of the witch trials, but his play simplifies or omits many historical details. Certain characters' ages have been changed, and in some cases, multiple historical figures have been consolidated into a single character.

In his note, Miller assures us that the "fate of each character is exactly that of his historical model," meaning that the results of the actual trials have not been altered in the play. While this may be true, it is also a fact that in bringing these events to a modern stage, Miller often deviated from the historical record and made artistic choices about which events to dramatize, how to represent certain characters, and the kind of language the characters use.

For instance, Miller uses the names of real people involved in the witch trials, but a major plot line in the play—that Abigail was a maidservant in the Proctor household and that she accused Elizabeth in order to be with John—is not historically accurate. In truth, Abigail never even worked for the Proctors. To make the fictional romance between Abigail and John more palatable to modern audiences, Miller also altered the ages of the characters. During the witch trials, Abigail was actually eleven years old, not seventeen, and Proctor was about sixty, not in his thirties. Choices like these represent a significant departure from the historical record, which is ultimately what makes The Crucible a work of fiction.

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