What is a summary of The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Crucible was written in 1953 by Arthur Miller, in part as a critique of McCarthyism, the anti-communist movement of the 1950s Cold War. The Salem witch trials, in which people were presumed guilty until proven innocent and paranoia triumphed over reason, were portrayed by Miller as an allegory for the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities, where people were pressured to condemn their friends as a way to avoid being implicated.

In the play, which is a fictional account of Salem in 1692, a young girl Abigail, accuses several people of witchcraft. In reality, Abigail is trying to get Elizabeth, the wife of John Proctor, condemned so that she can continue having an affair with him. Despite the accusations of witchcraft being based on a self-serving lie, mass hysteria and political scheming take hold of the town, and people are urged to confess to witchcraft and accuse others in order to avoid being condemned to death. While many people cave in and lie, Giles Correy and Proctor steadfastly assert the truth and are executed in an extremely painful manner.