The Crucible Additional Summary

Arthur Miller

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The Reverend Samuel Parris prays over his daughter, who lies stricken with a nameless malady. As he prays, he is angered by the interruption of his Negro slave, Tituba, whom he brought with him from the island of Barbados. Parris is frightened and furious, for he discovered his daughter Betty, Tituba, and some of the village girls dancing in the woods. Now two of the girls, Betty and Ruth Putnam, are ill, and witchcraft is rumored about the village. His daughter Betty and his ward and niece, Abigail Williams, were been participants in a secret and sinful act. Parris feels his position as minister to the community of Salem is threatened. Moreover, he suspects that more than dancing took place.

The frightened Parris sends for the Reverend John Hale, a reputed scholar familiar with the manifestations of witchcraft. While waiting for Hale to arrive, the parishioners reveal the petty grievances and jealousies hidden beneath the veneer of piety of the Puritan community. Parris feels that the community failed to meet its financial obligations to him. He suspects John Proctor, a respected farmer, of undermining his authority. Proctor resents Parris for preaching of nothing but hellfire and the money owed to the parish. Thomas Putnam, a grasping landholder, disputes the boundaries of his neighbors’ farms. Ann Putnam lost seven babies at childbirth, and she suspects witchcraft of mothers with large families, most especially Rebecca Nurse, who has eleven healthy children.

Amid this discontent, the learned Hale arrives with his books of weighty wisdom. Under Hale’s close questioning concerning the girls’ illicit activities in the woods, Abigail turns the blame away from herself by accusing Tituba of witchcraft. Terrified by the threat of hanging, Tituba confesses to conjuring up the devil. Putnam asks Tituba if she saw the old beggar Sarah Good or Goodwife Osborne with the devil. Sensing her survival at stake, Tituba names both women as companions of the...

(The entire section is 807 words.)

Summary

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

The Crucible is about the right to act upon one’s individual conscience. In Puritan New England, Roger Williams, the founder of Rhode Island, demanded his right to act according to his personal conscience. In the nineteenth century, Henry David Thoreau considered the exercising of this right a moral obligation, even if exercising it resulted in breaking the law. The individual’s right to follow his conscience is part of the American heritage. In The Crucible, Miller shows how an ordinary individual living in a repressive community gains tragic stature by sacrificing his life rather than betraying his conscience.

Salem is a divided and disturbed community. Hidden behind its sacred crusade are the petty grievances of the self-interested and the vengeful. The town’s minister, the Reverend Paris, is desperately trying to stabilize his power and is more interested in maintaining his social position than in ministering to his congregation. When his daughter Betty, with Abigail Williams, Tituba, and other young girls, is seen dancing naked in the forest, he fears the scandal will bring down his ministry. Thomas Putnam is disturbed because he wants an excuse to confiscate his neighbor’s land. His wife, Ann, is jealous of Rebecca Nurse, who has more children than she. Abigail Williams consciously seeks to avenge herself on Elizabeth Proctor, who dismissed her from the Proctors’ service.

Miller clearly shows that in a community like this, which is at odds with itself, all that is needed to ignite hysteria is the specter of Satan, the epitome of insidious evil behind which small-minded people hide their own hostility and their quest for power. Soon experts such as John Hale are brought to Salem to find evil, even where it does not exist. Next, a high court invested with infallible judgment acts on the testimony of finger-pointing witnesses who indiscriminately accuse innocent people. Miller shows how judges at a purge trial lead witnesses to give the appropriate testimony. Tituba, a Barbados native, confesses to witchcraft because she knows what the authorities want to...

(The entire section is 864 words.)

Summary

(Drama for Students)

Act I
The play opens in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692, with the Reverend Samuel Parris praying over the bed of his...

(The entire section is 1179 words.)