The Crucible

Arthur Miller

Setting: The play takes place in a small town in seventeenth century Massachusetts, during the Salem Witch Trials

Background Information:

The play occurs during the seventeenth and eighteenth century Salem Witch trials and involves the Puritan beliefs and religion. They were very religious. They felt that people could form compacts with the devil. The devil would do actions for them in this life and then when they died he would have their souls. They believed in witches and felt that they could cast spells on people. The Puritans believed that there were certain signs of a witch.

There is a feud between the Putnam and the Nurse families. They are both wealthy land owners and the Nurses are very respected in town. These families each supported a different minister. The Nurses supported Reverend Parris.

The Proctors preferred to worship in their own house. They felt that the church under Reverend Parris was becoming too materialistic and drifted away from the purpose of the church. Rebecca Nurse was the midwife to the Putnams, she aided the delivery of the babies. Mrs Putnam had eight children, seven of which died, and the Putnams felt that Mrs Nurse had put a curse on the children when they died.

Major Characters:

Plot summary: Abigail and the girls are dancing in the woods They conjure up spirits while dancing naked and they are discovered by Reverend Parris. This leads to the accusations of the girls as witches. Then to escape punishment they accuse other women of the town of being witches. This leads to trials of these women with the girls as the jury.

John Proctor is having an affair with Abigail. Elizabeth Proctor knows of the affair. Abigail then accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch. A doll is found in the Proctor's house and this is overwhelming evidence that she is a witch.

Deputy Governor Danforth is the judge. He believes the girls are telling the truth. Meanwhile they are accusing the women whom they do not like. Reverend Hale is called in as an expert witness. He at first believes they are witches, but then he denies it and tries to help the accused.

Proctor gets Mary Warren to testify against the girls. When Mary Warren enters the court room, Abigail and the other girls start to scream that she is sending her spirit upon them. Mary then afraid, accuses John Proctor of sending his spirit out upon her.

John is now accused of being in league with the devil. He discusses the possibility of lying in order to save his life. Danforth wants him to sign a confession. This way it will show the townspeople that the witch trials are valid. John does not want to sign the confession because he doesn't want to incriminate his friends. He is then put to death, but retains his good name and pride.


Pride - John does not want to sign the confession because he would loose his pride and good name.

Key issues:

Fear, self interest: Shows what happens when emotions control your logic and thinking. Hysteria will occur. Shows how people will accuse others in order to save themselves. This leads to a wild finger pointing. Also when you were accused of being a witch, in order to save yourself you could accuse other women. People in the town allowed their fear of witches and the devil to interfere with their rational thinking.

Puritan Ethics: The church was very important in their daily life. The Puritans were very religious. They were scared of modern things destroying the old church. They believed in the devil and that you could make pacts with him. It was a horrible sin to lie.

Integrity: John had to deal with the fact that he had an affair with Abigail and broke the trust between Elizabeth and him. He sinned, and the people of the town would have condemned him, if they knew.


Honesty: Elizabeth cannot tell a lie says John Proctor, but she will lie to protect John. In some cases you have to lie. Hale agrees with this. He says "God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride."

Applications: The McCarthy trials. This story relates to these trials. During the 1950's Senator Joseph Mc Carthy accused many American leaders of being communists. This lead to many unfounded accusations that people were communists. Some people believed him because they were fearful of communism and he played on their fears. McCarthy was, in effect, conducting "witch hunts". If you opposed the Salem Witch trials you were accused of being a witch. If you opposed the Mc Carthy investigations you were accused of being a communist.

“The Crucible.”  Bellmore-Merrick Central High School.  8 Nov. 2007 <>.