The Crucible Summary

The Crucible is a play written by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch trials of 1692:

  • Reverend Parris finds some girls dancing naked in the forest, who claim they were bewitched. A special court investigates these allegations. 
  • Over a hundred of Salem's citizens are accused of witchcraft. One of them, Elizabeth Proctor, proclaims her innocence to her husband, John, who had an affair with another girl named Abigail. 
  • Realizing that Abigail has incited this witch hunt, John admits his adultery to save his wife, only to be convicted of devil worship. John is hanged while his pregnant wife is spared.

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Summary

Introduction

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 which results in the arrest of 200 villagers and the deaths of 19. The play was written by American playwright Arthur Miller, who was wrongly accused of communism and un-American activities during McCarthyism in the 1950s. Miller wrote the play as an allegory, revealing the political and moral parallels between the Salem witch trials and the McCarthy trials of his own time.

Plot Summary

Act I

The play opens in the house of Reverend Samuel Parris, who has just caught his daughter Betty, his niece, Abigail, and his slave, Tituba, dancing naked in the woods. Betty is lying unconscious on the bed. Villagers have gathered at Parris’s house because they suspect that the girls were performing witchcraft in the woods. Parris questions Abigail, who says they were only dancing. She threatens the other girls into telling the same story. Parris tries to calm the crowd and tells them that he called for Reverend John Hale, an expert on possession and witchcraft. Betty wakes up momentarily and tries to jump from the window.

John Proctor, a Salem farmer, arrives at Parris’s house. Proctor pulls Abigail aside to ask her about what happened. Their conversation reveals that Abigail and Proctor had an affair while she was working at his house. Abigail says that she and the other girls did not perform witchcraft. In truth, they were trying to curse Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth. Abigail wants to curse Elizabeth because she is still in love with Proctor. She believes that he loves her in return, despite his insistent claims to the contrary. Their argument is cut short when Betty wakes up screaming.

Parris run into Betty’s room, followed by fellow villagers Rebecca Nurse and Ann and Thomas Putnam. Thomas, Parris, and Proctor launch into an argument about money and land ownership. Reverend Hale soon arrives to examine Betty, and Proctor leaves. Ann Putnam, who has lost several children, thinks Betty’s condition is due to witchcraft. In contrast, Rebecca Nurse thinks a doctor should be called. Hale pulls Abigail aside to question her and, under the pressure, she says Tituba forced her to drink blood. Hale and Parris then question Tituba about what they were doing in the woods. Tituba says she was doing the devil’s work and then accuses several women from the village of using witchcraft on her. Abigail joins Tituba in making accusations. As the two name Sarah Osborne, Bridget Bishop, and Sarah Good for practicing witchcraft, Betty wakes up and joins them. In a frantic spectacle, the three of them accuse yet more women of witchcraft while Hale calls for the named women to be arrested and judged.

Act II

Act II opens in John and Elizabeth Proctor’s house. They are talking about the villagers who were arrested because of Abigail and the girls’ accusations. Elizabeth, who knows of John’s affair with Abigail, wants him to expose Abigail’s lies, but he refuses. She accuses him of continuing to love Abigail. As their argument continues, Mary Warren, a friend of Abigail’s and a servant to the Proctors, enters. She gives Elizabeth...

(The entire section is 1,681 words.)