What happens in The Crucible?

In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, Puritan minister Reverend Parris finds a group of girls dancing naked in the forest. Among them are his niece Abigail and daughter Better, who faints upon being discovered by her father. Knowing that they've sinned, the girls claim they were bewitched.

  • Given the severity of the claims, a special court is founded to investigate the accusations of witchcraft. Judges are sent from Boston to assist the residents of small town Salem. During the trials, the girls scream and faint whenever one of the supposed witches takes the stand.
  • Over a hundred of Salem's citizens are found to be witches. One of them, Elizabeth Proctor, proclaims her innocence to her husband, John. Her accuser, Abigail, was once an employee and was dismissed after Elizabeth discovered that John and Abigail were having an affair.
  • Realizing that Abigail has incited this witch hunt to target her enemies, John fights to save his wife. He admits his adultery, only to be accused of devil worship when Abigail denies the affair. John and Elizabeth are convicted of communing with the devil. The pregnant Elizabeth is spared, but John is hanged.

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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...

(The entire section is 1,681 words.)