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

Arthur Miller named his play "The Crucible" because a 'crucible' which is a bowl of melting-hot liquid metal becomes synonymous with the feverish atmosphere of the town of Salem; the term also serves as a symbol for the series of trials and tribulations that the characters go through. The crucible is also a metaphor for Hell, and refers to the inferno that consumes the inhabitants of the town.

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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 townsfolk's withering gaze.

Just as the crucible cannot control the heat to which it is subject, the people of Salem can no longer control the level of frenzied hysteria that has descended upon their town. In such a toxic, over-heated environment, all each individual can do is to withstand the burning intensity.

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A crucible is a small bowl or cup that must withstand the extremely high temperatures used in order to melt the substance within it. We can certainly think of Salem in 1692 as a figurative crucible. Miller describes the developing antagonism between political rivals, and then there is the anxiety created by the possibility of Indian raids and the ever-present Puritan fear that the Devil is in their midst, trying to corrupt them: all of these create tension that seems to slowly "heat up" the town, making it ready to respond to the girls' outlandish accusations in the terrible way it does.

Moreover, the accusations begin with women who are already outcasts in the community, people who it is easy to believe could be witches in league with the devil. But then, the accusations become more and more high profile, and soon, highly respected members of the community suddenly find themselves in trouble. This also seems to mirror the idea of a crucible slowly heating up and whatever's inside getting more and more volatile as its temperature increases. Certainly, the people of Salem become more and more volatile as the accused grow in number and importance, and the situation worsens as some individuals, like Mr. Putnam, realize the use to which these accusations could be put. Just as the temperature rises in a crucible, so do the tensions rise in the crucible that is Salem.

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A "crucible" is a severe test or trial, which is exactly what happens in the play. Miller intended "The Crucible" as an allegory to McCarthyism. The events that took place during the time the play was written were very similar to the Salem witch hunts. Innocent people were being put on trial or jailed practicing or being associated with what people believed to be evil- communism. Miller himself was accused of being a communist sympathizer. Like the people put on trial during the witch hunts, McCarthyism accused also had their reputations damaged or even their lives ruined.

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“Crucible” can mean a test or a container used to heat up chemicals to high temperatures in order to reach a melting point or create a chemical reaction.

In terms of a test, this was a test of the moral judgment of the town as a whole. They failed this test with flying colors. There is also a secondary satirical meaning on test. The trials themselves test the guilt or innocence of the accused. These tests are biased and flawed because they are controlled by religious fundamentalism and conformity.

As the hysteria increases, the accusations accumulate and Salem reaches a melting point where their identity changes. They define themselves by witch hunting more than religious belief. The parallel is between heating chemicals to a crucial degree and the rising hysteria of the mob mentality reaching a point of no return.

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I think that we have to go back to the definition of the term, "crucible," in order to better understand its significance. The word "crucible" refers to an object that withstands heat and does not melt easily.  It is able to withstand pressure, external forces, and can endure a great deal.  This applies to many of the characters in the play who either represent it or fail to do so.  Individuals such as Elizabeth and John Proctor or Giles Corey would find themselves as bearing similarity to a "crucible" as they endure an unimaginable lot in order to maintain their own sense of dignity and, to quote John, their very "name."  Others, such as Reverend Parris or Abigail, fail to uphold such ideals and are willing to melt under the social pressure applied by others or under the heat of their own passions and self interest.  In the end, the "crucible" ends up becoming how individuals respond to the pressures and elements applied to them in times of crisis.

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The above answer is the primary definition of the word 'crucible', and probably the best explanation for the title, but it's interesting to look at some of the secondary definitions.  The word 'crucible' also means 'a test or severe trial', 'a cross' (as in a cross like Jesus carried), 'a state of anguish or pain that tests resiliency and character', and 'forces working together to create an effect'.  All of these secondary definitions have direct connections to the events of the work as well.

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