The play’s title, The Crucible, means a severe trial or test. More than one character was being tested during the course of the Salem witch trials. Trace the crucible of one character. How was the character when the play began? What test or tests (honesty, love, strength, objectivity, belief) did the character undergo—what was the character tested for? Did the character pass or fail? Provide plenty of support such as quotes, examples, and evidence from The Crucible to support your interpretation of this character throughout the play.

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When Reverend John Hale enters The Crucible in act 1, he is eager to investigate the suspicions of witchcraft in Salem. He has been invited by Reverend Parris, a man desperate to appear in control of his parish. Hale is regarded as an expert on witchcraft, and he is utterly...

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When Reverend John Hale enters The Crucible in act 1, he is eager to investigate the suspicions of witchcraft in Salem. He has been invited by Reverend Parris, a man desperate to appear in control of his parish. Hale is regarded as an expert on witchcraft, and he is utterly confident in his own abilities. Upon his arrival with his books, Parris remarks that they are heavy. Hale smugly replies that "they are weighted with authority." He enjoys both his reputation as a defender of the Puritan faith and his prominence within the theocratic government.

After the end of act 1, where he and Parris exact confessions from Tituba and the girls, Hale's own crucible begins. The rapid escalation of accusations of neighbor against neighbor in Salem begins to unsettle him, and he becomes troubled by what he hears in court proceedings. Eventually he begins to conduct his own interviews with people who are "somewhat mentioned" in court, as Elizabeth Proctor is.

As Hale begins to realize that Abigail and the girls are making accusations for illegitimate reasons such as greed, lust, envy, and revenge, his commitment to the theocratic government and the trials is sorely tested. For example, he cannot believe that Rebecca Nurse is a witch, yet her refusal to confess guarantees her excommunication and execution. He cannot convince Danforth and Hathorne that the trials must be stopped.

Hale quits the court at the end of act 3, but returns at the beginning of act 4. His mission has changed; his zeal for investigating witchcraft has been replaced with a zeal to save lives. He urges John Proctor to give a false confession to avoid execution and counsels Elizabeth to try to get John to give the court his lie.

Ultimately, Hale likely retains his faith in God, but his faith in the efficacy of a theocratic government fails. This is evident when he tells Elizabeth Proctor the following:

I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up.

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I think one could certainly produce an interesting examination of Mary Warren and the trials she faces. In act 1, she tells Abigail that they ought to confess to what they were doing in the woods with Tituba, but she backs down when Abigail threatens her with violence.

In act 3, she has been prevailed upon by her employer, John Proctor, to go into court and confess that she and the other girls were not truly seeing specters or experiencing the effects of witchcraft, and yet she is unable to stick to the truth (again) when Abigail indirectly threatens her by accusing Mary Warren herself of witchcraft. Her character and integrity were tested both times, and both times she failed. I would look to these passages in the text for evidence of how Mary is tested and how she fails each test.

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The test of John Proctor is a powerful one.  I think his wife, Elizabeth, also endures a series of challenges.  There is the test of forgiveness and understanding she must have knowing her husband engaged in an affair with Abigail.  At the same time, she must also face the severe test of being of independent mind and a woman of the time period, where submissiveness was an almost understood condition.  Her penultimate test comes when she is poised between agonizing ends.  On one end, she wishes for her husband to be alive and begs him to sign the false confession.  At the same time, she understands that he has to stand for his beliefs and by signing the confession his name ("the only thing I have left") and his reputation, his very word and identity, cannot be compromised through lies and deceit.  Her crucible is being able to stand by her husband, knowing that death and abandonment are the possibilities.  I would search for quotes that show her in this agonizing position, such as moments where she wishes John to sign the confession and then lines that indicate her understanding of what her husband is striving to achieve.  I believe that she succeeds in understanding that loyalty and honoring one's love must be valued above all else.

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If I were writing this, I'd look at John Proctor.  I'd look at how he was a bit unsure of himself -- his goodness and morality -- at the start of the play.

He undergoes tests -- his wife's somewhat cold attitude early on, his need to defend her from the accusations, and then his own struggle to decide whether he is going to live or die.  I think he's being tested on his integrity and belief in himself.

I'd say he passes.  At the end of the play, he is able to feel good enough about himself, feel he's important enough, to think that his honor and good name are worth dying for.

That's what I'd write about.  Good luck...

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