Introduction to The Crucible

The Crucible takes place in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692, during the Salem witch trials. The play is a fictionalized version of the trials and tells the story of a group of young Salem women who falsely accuse other villagers of witchcraft. The accusations and ensuing trials push the village into a hysteria that results in the arrest of two hundred villagers and the deaths of nineteen. The play examines several universal themes, including deception, the power of reputation, and the devastating effects of corruption. The Crucible was written by American playwright Arthur Miller in response to the anticommunist investigations carried out by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Miller wrote the play as an allegory, revealing the political and moral parallels between the Salem witch trials and the Red Scare of his own time. The Crucible proved one of Arthur Miller’s most popular productions, winning the 1953 Tony Award for Best Play and inspiring various adaptations for film, television, and opera. Today, it is widely considered one of the most important works in all of American drama.

A Brief Biography of Arthur Miller

Arthur Miller (1915–2005) defined American theater in the 1950s with seminal plays such as Death of a Salesman and The Crucible. But he was not simply a literary phenomenon; he became a pop-culture sensation when he married Marilyn Monroe in 1956. On the whole, his works are about an individual’s struggle with an oftentimes indifferent, harsh, or irrational society—something he learned about firsthand when he stood against Senator Eugene McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities. Before his death in 1996, Miller had also written screenplays, novels, short stories, nonfiction, and an autobiography. He based his works on his family, his friends, and his own life, and he filled them with the rage, love, and self-doubt that Miller himself felt.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Crucible

The Crucible

Set in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts, The Crucible is a 1953 play written by famed American playwright and essayist Arthur Miller. In act 1 of The Crucible, the audience is introduced to...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 2:58 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

The Crucible is a savage indictment of humanity's penchant for mass hysteria, especially at times of great social tension. To that end, Arthur Miller wants readers to realize that the famous Salem...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:31 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

If there's one person in Salem with absolute power, it's Abigail Williams. Thanks to the crazed witch hunt that she and her friends have started, she has become the most powerful—and certainly most...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:19 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

In The Crucible, several characters accuse one another of witchcraft in order to save themselves from being targeted by the mass hysteria of the Salem community. Abigail accuses Tituba of forcing...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:46 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

The Crucible does not promote lying. In fact, Abigail, who is largely responsible for the vicious accusations and subsequent trials that take place in Salem during the fictionalized account of the...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

In Arthur Miller's celebrated play The Crucible, Ann Putnam sends her daughter, Ruth, to consult Tituba in an attempt to discover who murdered her babies. Ann Putnam has lost seven newborn babies...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:46 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

To understand what motivated Arthur Miller to write The Crucible, it helps to understand what was occurring in the United States in 1953, when the play debuted. Ostensibly, The Crucible is about...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

Ann Putnam is a deeply angry, hurt, and frustrated woman. She's lost all but one of her children in infancy and wants to know why. Rates of infant mortality were shockingly high in those days and...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:59 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

Many people die offstage in the play, but perhaps the most important death in The Crucible is that of John Proctor. His death is also his redemption because he refuses to make a relinquish his...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:36 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

Given all the lies and accusations in the play, including Elizabeth's concealment of John and Abigail's affair, it may seem that she's only pretending to be pregnant to avoid execution, as Judge...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:07 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

The Crucible is ultimately a fictionalized account of true events. Arthur Miller did significant research to prepare for writing his play; the Salem witch trials really did happen, and the...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:14 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

The Crucible is related to modern times because even though it takes place in the seventeenth century, it describes a pattern of behavior we still see in moral panics today—namely, the potential...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:11 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

The Crucible is an interesting case because in addition to it being a often-banned work, its author, Arthur Miller, was persecuted by the US government and eventually "blacklisted."The Crucible...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 3:20 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

There are multiple ways to explore the deeper meaning of The Crucible: we can analyze how the play reflected the time period in which it was written, and we can examine at the deeper meaning of...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 2:12 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

The importance of maintaining one's reputation is a very important theme in The Crucible. However, we quickly see that despite the importance of reputation in Salem, the toxic nature of the witch...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 2:00 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

Miller claims, in a note attached to the published version of the play, that it "is not history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian" but that nevertheless "the reader...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

Many Americans during the mid-twentieth century probably thought that the terrifying events of the Salem witch trials were a distant memory, a footnote of history—something that could never happen...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 12:26 pm (UTC)

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The Crucible

The Crucible is set in 1692 and tells the story of the Salem witch trials. This was a time in which fear of the supernatural was widespread, so when a group of Salem women accused other villagers...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:22 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

It's no secret that The Crucible is an allegory for McCarthyism and communist "witch hunts" of the early 1950s. The play's author, Arthur Miller, was himself a victim of McCarthyism and has...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:09 am (UTC)

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The Crucible

A crucible is a piece of laboratory equipment used to heat chemical compounds and melt bits of metal. As one can imagine, the temperatures inside crucibles can get extremely hot—this heat and...

Latest answer posted August 21, 2020, 11:45 am (UTC)

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Summary