The Crucible Introduction
by Arthur Miller

The Crucible book cover
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So you’re going to teach Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, The Crucible has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—depictions of racism and sexism, as well as archaic language—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying The Crucible will give them unique insight into American colonial culture, the roots of moral panic, and the shortcomings of justice systems. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1953 
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 10th and up 
  • Approximate Word Count: 43, 600 
  • Author: Arthur Miller 
  • Country of Origin: United States 
  • Genre: Historical Drama, Tragedy 
  • Literary Period: Post-WWII Theater 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society 
  • Setting: Salem, Massachusetts, 1692 
  • Structure: Four-Act Drama 
  • Tone: Tense, Accusatory, Tragic

Texts That Go Well With The Crucible

Death of a Salesman is, alongside The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s best-known and most-produced play. Published and first produced in 1949, it won that year’s Pulitzer Prize for drama and Tony Award for best play, cementing Miller’s role as a central figure in American theater. The play is about Willy Loman, a salesman who undergoes a series of personal, familial, and professional crises. 

The Devil in Massachusetts by Marion L. Starkey is a landmark historical study of the Salem witch trials, first published in 1949. Starkey brings a modern set of lenses to the study, inspecting the psychological and sociological dimensions of the witch-hunt hysteria. The Devil in Massachusetts served as perhaps Miller’s most important source for The Crucible. Miller borrowed numerous ideas from Starkey, including the central concept of the witch trials following a tragic dramatic arc. 

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem is a 1986 novel by French author Maryse Condé. The novel tells the story of Tituba from her perspective, describing the events of her life up until her death in the 1692 Salem witch trials. Condé alters Tituba’s background; whereas in reality Tituba was from South America, in the novel Tituba is from the West Indies and is born of an African woman who was raped by an English sailor. This twist allows Condé to more deeply explore the history of European colonialism in the Americas. 

In the Devil’s Snare is a 2002 study of the Salem witch...

(The entire section is 617 words.)