What are the differences between the movie The Crucible and the play?

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On the whole, Nicholas Hytner's 1996 film adaptation of Arthur Miller 's play is a very accurate adaptation. It stays incredibly close to the original source material, and that is largely due to the fact that Arthur Miller created the screenplay for the film. Some changes were made due to...

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On the whole, Nicholas Hytner's 1996 film adaptation of Arthur Miller's play is a very accurate adaptation. It stays incredibly close to the original source material, and that is largely due to the fact that Arthur Miller created the screenplay for the film. Some changes were made due to the limitations and advantages of films. For example, the opening scene of the movie shows Abigail and the other girls doing their dancing in the woods. This does not happen in the play. It begins in Parris's room with Betty in bed, and readers learn from Parris's questioning of Abigail what supposedly happened. This question sequence happens in the film too, but audiences are much more confident that Abigail is lying.

Another significant change from the play is the film's inclusion of the pressing of Giles Corey. Audiences get to see Giles on the ground with heavy stones heaped upon his chest. Parris and other men are present and they aggressively question him and try to get information out of Corey. He refuses and says his now famous "more weight" response. We see additional weight placed upon him and his death that follows shortly after. The play does not include this scene.

Proctor asks Elizabeth what happened to Corey, and she informs him that he is dead. Proctor asks how, and Elizabeth tells him that he was pressed to death and only ever said "more weight." Personally, I appreciate the film's inclusion of Corey's death because most students need a fairly lengthy explanation as to what death by pressing involves.

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Arthur Miller wrote the screenplay for the 1996 film version and was frequently on set during the filming, so it is reasonable to think that he had input about the changes from the staged version.

When the film begins, viewers see the girls rising from their beds at night and stealing off to the woods to conjure with Tituba.  The girls throw items into a pot and name boys that they would like to have fall in love with them.  Abigail brings a chicken that Tituba sacrifices, and Abby smears her mouth with blood for a spell regarding John Proctor.  Viewers see Reverend Parris witness what the girls are doing and that he sees a dead frog in the pot.  This is quite different from the staged version that opens the play in Betty's bedroom the morning after the incident.

Another difference has to do with Tituba's interrogation in act I.  In the staged version, Tituba is questioned and threatened, but in the film, she is actually whipped by Reverend Parris during her interrogation.

At the end of act II in the staged version, the audience only hears that Abigail Williams has been stabbed in the stomach with a needle, the incident in which she claims Goody Proctor sent her familiar spirit.  In the film, Abigail is seen suffering from her (self-inflicted) wound.

Lastly, there is a scene inserted in the film in which Abigail approaches John Proctor in prison.  She tells him that she has money to bribe the guard and that they can run away together.  John tells her that he will see her in hell.

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Another scene that the movie shows, which we do not see in the play, is the trial of George Burroughs.  In the film, just as Burroughs waves and says "hello" to another community member, a small fire suddenly flares up and burns high for just a moment.  Mr. Putnam observes this incident, and, shortly thereafter, we see the little old man (though he was not so old in real life) in court, accused of witchcraft by Ruth Putnam.  She claims that his specter creeps into her bedroom at night through her window and that he beats her with his walking sticks.  He, quite pitifully and gently, says to her that he can barely walk without his sticks; how could he possibly crawl through a window?  He is very old and very weak, and it is really a tremendously heart-wrenching scene that makes Mr. Putnam seem even greedier and more certainly at fault for the direction the girls' accusations take.  It is truly an awful moment that makes us all the more sympathetic for the accused and enraged by the accusers (and their parents).

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As with most film adaptations of literature, the movie version of The Crucible has many differences from the play, so I will focus on what I think are the most significant.

First, though the relationship between John Proctor and Abigail Williams is significant in the play, it is even more played up in the film. The movie depicts Abigail and John having a clandestine conversation in the woods, making it seem a bit more illicit than the parallel conversation in the play that takes place at Reverend Parris's house. Additionally, the movie depicts Abigail visiting John Proctor in his jail cell before she leaves town, telling him that she never meant for things to be the way they were, and that she only started the events in Salem because she wanted him. This never happens in the actual play. Instead, audiences find out through Reverend Parris that she has left Salem.

Certain events are also depicted differently in the film, highlighting the various grudges in Salem more visually than is depicted in the play (one of the luxuries film affords). In the play, the author, Arthur Miller, tells audiences directly of various land disputes, especially between Thomas Putnam and other people in Salem. The film allows us to visualize how each grudge led to an accusation by presenting it as a sort of montage. 

Another way that the film shows viewers how the events are unfolding is when the camera cuts to the courts and shows the trials of Salem residents like Sarah Good and George Jacobs. The play, on the other hand, provides a second-hand account of these events through the conversation between Mary Warren and the Proctors.

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