What seven elements of tragedy can be found in The Crucible?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Crucible is a modern tragedy, so it can should be analyzed more in terms of the modern tragic hero, or, as Miller often says, the tragedy of the "common man."  Proctor, of course, is Miller's tragic hero and, also, common man: he refuses to be made a scapegoat for the mass hysteria of the town.  He would rather sacrifice himself and preserve his dignity than be a helpless accomplice in the fear-mongering and paranoia of the court.

Here are some elements of the modern tragic hero:

1. Person of less worth consideration

2. May not have the needed catharsis to bring the story to a close.

3. May die without any epiphany of his destiny

4. May suffer without the ability to change the events that are happening to him.

5. A failure, crude, sometimes stupid or even dishonest

6. Often angry

As for the tragedy of the common man, Miller says:

I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing—his sense of personal dignity.

Miller does not use the "tragic flaw" as an inherent or internal weakness in his tragic hero.  Rather, he uses it as a starting point to pit the common man against society:

...the tale always reveals what has been called his “tragic flaw,” a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters. Nor is it necessarily a weakness. The flaw, or crack in the character, is really nothing— and need be nothing, but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status.

So, more than the classical Greek tragic hero, the modern tragic hero has more choice in his death; he is not so much a victim of fate but of an unjust social order.  He uses his death, therefore, to assert and protect his individuality.

mpasch | Student



What you are referring to is known as the tragic vision. A tragedy typically follows a set pattern.  This pattern includes a disastrous ending, an ending which seems impossible to avoid, the disaster occurs because of the human limitations of the protagonist, the protagonist suffers, the protagonist’s suffering is not justified, the suffering leads to a learning experience, and the suffering tends to involve morals.

In the story The Crucible, one might examine the characters of John and Elizabeth Proctor. These are traditionally considered the tragic figures in the book.