The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

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Why did Arthur Miller name his play "The Crucible"?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A crucible can be defined as a container capable of withstanding intense heat. In the play The Crucible a number of characters finds themselves having to do much the same thing. Heat in this sense is not just allegorical; it's also literal. The standard punishment for those convicted of witchcraft was public burning. Anyone so condemned effectively had to go through three crucibles, or trials: first, the trial of public opinion; then, a formal criminal trial in a court of law; and finally, the trial of the actual execution itself.

Each test is significant as it removes the individual's outer shell—the first two metaphorically, the last one literally—to reveal the true self underneath. The feverish witch-hunt hysteria exposes the mental and emotional depths of each individual to sustained and uncomfortable public scrutiny. Psychologically, this is the toughest test of all, as damaging secrets and lies come bubbling to the surface to be picked over and minutely examined by the...

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rachelcaron | Student

According to the Miriam Webster dictionary there are three definitions of crucible.

 1 : a vessel of a very refractory material (as porcelain) used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat 2 : a severe test 3 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development

Arthur Miller could have been referring to either one of these definitions.

The vessel could be a symbol of the people, courts, and town heated with fear and greed.  This creates a change of emotions and feelings that effect their actions.

The test may represent a test of the people's beliefs, morals, and values.

The last definiton seems to fit most appropriately.  The concentrated forces (people, courts,  town) interact to cause change.  The change ultimately would result in less religion in courts as well as less acceptance of hearsay