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Finding definitive labels for the themes of any play is never easy, especially one so well studied as The Crucible. So my thinking for this part of the study is to have students research as many statements of theme as possible (see my own research below). The students can decide, based on their research, if there are common themes that many commentators have identified (such as religion, justice, reputation etc ) The aim here is for each student to come to class prepared to identify and defend their 5 themes chosen after they have done some research. This is their homework and preparation prior to the lesson. One of the great aims of doing it this way is make students do their own research using the internet on what is a well worn path. Further aims are for them to appreciate just how diverse opinions are on what constitutes a theme. Then, through discussion, the students must show a willingness to think in terms of categories and sub categories and to justify why they made choices about what is important in the play. Overall, it is a case of getting them to think critically about what others have written about the play, to justify their own beliefs and to come up with a consensus of what best fits a 5-theme analysis. Any two classes might come up with different sets of themes, albeit the major ones come up time and time again so probably 3 will be common and the other 2 similar. The quotation exercise is designed to get them thinking of specific moments and words that bear themes and also to tune them into what is required come exam time. Lesson plan four parts: Starter, Intro, Development and Plenary Lesson Starter (10 minutes) Teacher makes up two sets of cards One set has the main characters names on each card. The other set has major quotes from the characters. 6-7 characters will do. Teacher to select quotes that have thematic importance. Teacher will need to make up enough sets of cards for groups of three to play a game of Snap. Deal out the cards, then play the game place in turn quote card followed by character name card. If they match the first person to call SNAP! Wins that round and so on in the usual snap game plan.

Lesson Intro (10-15 minutes) 1

Split the class into groups of three. Group discuss their 5 themes and come up with their group list. (10-15 minutes) This was set as a homework exercise, so they should hit the ground running Groups pool their themes in whole class discussion teacher to publicly display (Googledoc on screen) then monitor and shape the master list as the class discuss so that 5 distinct themes emerge after another 15 minutes. This might involve the merging of some themes, the placement of some themes as sub categories of themes, renaming of themes and so on. The key thing here is to try to get the 5 themes as distinct as possible (there will always be some overlaps but try!) Lesson Development (80-90 minutes) Part one of development phase of the lesson: thematic statement and evidence from text with quotes (45 minutes) After deciding on the 5 major themes, split class into 5 different groupings, each one takes a master theme to explore. Using the following table each group records their findings by referencing key quotes that promote themes using a character by character approach. Each group must come up with a clear overall statement of their theme first. Not all characters will figure in this analysis so some can be eliminated from the table. If this is constructed on one master Googledoc, then a really good set of notes should emerge that are useful come exam time.


(Label Here) ____________________________________________________

Detailed outline of how the theme works in the play:

(a full comprehensive statement)

Thematic analysis by character quotation

Character Quote (also state act

Thematic importance

and moment in the play)

John Proctor Elizabeth Proctor

Abigail Williams

Deputy Governor Danforth

Reverend Samuel Parris

Reverend John Hale

Giles Corey

Mary Warren


Thomas Putnam

Rebecca Nurse

Judge Hathorne

Francis Nurse

Betty Parris

Sarah Good

Ezekiel Cheever Mrs. Ann Putnam Mercy Lewis Susanna Walcott Marshal Herrick


Part two of development phase of the lesson: Each group presents their theme to the class 10 minutes for each group = 5 themes X 9-10 minutes = 45 -50 minutes) Lesson Plenary (10 minutes) After the intense lesson on themes, play Snap again to finish off the lesson. This time on Snap! The student calling Snap! Has to explain the thematic importance of the quote within the 5 themes as determined by the class in the lesson.

Intolerance The Crucible is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are one, and the religion is a strict, austere form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. Because of the theocratic nature of the society, moral laws and state laws are one and the same: sin and the status of an individuals soul are matters of public concern. There is no room for deviation from social norms, since any individual whose private life doesnt conform to the established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good but also to the rule of God and true religion. In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the devil; dissent is not merely unlawful, it is associated with satanic activity. This dichotomy functions as the underlying logic behind the witch t rials. As Danforth says in Act III, a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it. The witch trials are the ultimate expression of intolerance (and hanging witches is the ultimate means of restoring the communitys purity); the trials brand all social deviants with the taint of devil-worship and thus necessitate their elimination from the community. Hysteria Another critical theme in The Crucible is the role that hysteria can play in tearing apart a community. Hysteria supplants logic and enables people to believe that their neighbors, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing absurd and unbelievable crimes communing with the devil, killing babies, and so on. In The Crucible, the townsfolk accept and become active in the hysterical climate not only out of genuine religious piety but also because it gives them a chance to express repressed sentiments and to act on long-held grudges. The most obvious case is Abigail, who uses the situation to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and have her sent to jail. But others thrive on the hysteria as well: Reverend Parris strengthens his position within the village, albeit temporarily, by making scapegoats of people like Proctor who question his authority. The wealthy, ambitious Thomas Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Franciss virtuous wife, convicted of the supernatural murders of Ann Putnams babies. In the end, hysteria can thrive only because people benefit from it. It suspends the rules of daily life and allows the acting out of every dark desire and hateful urge under the cover of righteousness. Reputation Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly pernicious. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigails increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughters coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit. Meanwhile, the protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished. Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation k eeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctors desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement. I have given you my soul; leave me my name! he cries to Danforth in Act IV. By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity.

The Crucible Theme of Lies and Deceit

Most of the characters in The Crucible are lying if not to other people, then to themselves. Abigail lies about her ability to see spirits, as do the other girls; Proctor is deceitful first for cheating on his

wife and then for hiding it; and the judge and lieutenant governor and ministers lie to themselves and everybody else in saying that they serve the cause of Gods justice. The twist in the story is that by telling the truth (I am not a witch), you die, but you also gain your freedom that is, you retain your standing with God, and you become a martyr.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

1. What are the different methods used by the religious authorities in Salem to decide whether people are telling the truth or not? How would you evaluate the effectiveness of these methods? 2. Do any characters deceive themselves? Who and why? 3. Why does John Proctor fail to mention that he met alone with Abigail when she told him the accusations of witchcraft werent true?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
John Proctor is lying to his wife when he claims that he no longer has feelings for Abigail. The play makes the radical argument that no kind of deception can ever be ethically justified.

The Crucible Theme of Respect and Reputation

Reputation is extremely important in a town where social standing is tied to ones ability to follow religious rules. Your good name is the only way you can get other people to do business with you or even get a fair hearing. Of course, reputation meant nothing when a witchcraft accusation was staring you in the face. But it is what made the Reverend Hale begin to doubt whether the accused individuals were actually guilty. Reputation had to do with religion: if you were a good and trustworthy person, you were also a good member of the church. Last but not least, it is for the sake of his reputation and his friends reputations that John Proctor refuses to sign a false confession. He would, quite literally, rather die.

Questions About Respect and Reputation

1. Why is reputation so important to the people of Salem? What happens if you lose your good reputation (before the witch hunt)? 2. In what ways is a persons good reputation similar to he way we think of it today? In what ways is it different? 3. What are some of the factors (lust and greed being two obvious ones) that cause people to ignore the good reputations of their neighbors?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
Although John Proctor goes to his death falsely condemned as a witch, he gains his reputation and respect among those who matter, like his wife, because he refuses to falsely identify his friends and neighbors as witches. The loss of Abigails reputation toward the end of the play shows that characters in The Crucible eventually earn the reputation they deserve, despite the personal tragedies that might take place along the way.

The Crucible Theme of Good vs. Evil

The entire village bases its belief system on the conflict between good vs. evil, or Satan vs. God. Over and over, as people are accused of witchcraft, this paradigm gets dragged out. When Tituba confesses, she claims she wants to be a good Christian now and stop hurting people. She must renounce the Devil. When Mary Warren cant handle the girls accusations, she accuses Proctor of making her sign the Devils book and claims she is now with God. The world in The Crucible is clearly divided into these two camps. Unfortunately, everybodys confused about which side is actually good, and which side is actually evil, though its abundantly clear to the reader. It may seem like evil is winning, as one innocent person after another is put to death, but we also see that there is power in martyrdom. The innocent people who confessed are beginning to rebel, and both ministers have recognized their mistakes by the end of the play. Above all, the religion of Salem is incredibly bleak and tends to focus on human frailty and sin to the exclusion of the good things in the world.

Questions About Good vs. Evil

1. Are any of the characters in The Crucible beyond redemption? Abigails flight at the end furthers the impression that she is simply a bad apple, but even Elizabeth is able to see how Abigail could have interpreted her affair with Proctor as something more than lust. 2. The characters in the play are obsessed with evil and the Devil. If the Devil is so powerful, what kind of role, if any, is left to God to perform?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
God has no positive presence for the people of Salem; only Satan is an active force in the world.

The Crucible Theme of Compassion and Forgiveness

John Proctor, our main character, is in desperate need of forgiveness at the start of the play, but his wife seems torn about whether to grant it. He had committed adultery earlier that year while she was sick, and though his lover Abigail Williams is now out of his life, she still judges him for it. More importantly, he still judges himself. It isnt until Elizabeth forgives him, and admits her own faul t in the matter, that John Proctor is able to forgive himself and recognize some goodness left in him. It is also what gives him courage to go to his death.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

1. Do you think Elizabeth is cold for not forgiving her husband, or does she have good reason to suspect that he may not have completely let go of his desires for Abigail? 2. What do you think will happen to Rev. Parris after John Proctor is put to his death? The townspeople, furious with the outcome of the trials, have already threatened his life. What will it take for him to be forgiven by the community, or do you think he is beyond redemption? 3. Through reading The Crucible, what do you learn about the difference between forgiveness and judgment? Forgiveness and justice? Justice and mercy?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
Even though John Proctor wants his wifes forgiveness, he actually needs to forgive himself, just like she says.

Although Elizabeth Proctor argues that John is his own worst judge and needs to forgive himself, she is justified to think that he is still not completely faithful in his heart.

The Crucible Theme of The Supernatural

The supernatural is real to the Salem townsfolk. They see evidence of God and evidence of the Devil everywhere. Yet nobody actually sees spirits -- though the girls claim they do. The play makes it clear that they are pretending. Their pretense may be a group psychological phenomenon, but in the world as the reader understands it, if there is a Devil, hes not in Salem: there are only people some good, some misled, some greedy, some jealous, some vengeful, some evil.

Questions About The Supernatural

1. How do random events on earth the inexplicable death of children, for example determine the way the supernatural is conceived? 2. Do these beliefs about the supernatural change during the course of the play? If not, why not? If yes, how and why? 3. Do you think Miller portrays the townspeople as fools for their belief in things like invisible birds that try to attack the soul? In other words, what is Miller's perspective on the supernatural?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
There are many moments in the play when Miller makes the people of Salem seem more stupid than was necessary for dramatic purposes. Even though Rev. Hale starts out with a firm understanding of the supernatural, his knowledge is based on books. In Salem, he learns that there is evil, but it is not necessarily manifested in supernatural ways.

The Crucible Theme of Justice

The Salem of the play is a theocracy, which means that God is supposed to be the ultimate leader, arbiter, and judge. In practice, however, the towns religious authorities do the governing. God needs men on earth to do his work of justice, and Hathorne, Danforth, Hale, and Parris are all part of that system. They believed that God was speaking through the children to help them prosecute invisible, hidden crimes. The whole system gets turned upside down, and these men of experience and education are completely dependent on the assumption that the children were telling the truth and really did see what they claim to. In Salem during the witch trials, to be accused was to be guilty. To be guilty meant death. And the only way to avoid death was to confess. Though confessing was a way to bring those who strayed back into the fold, in this case it meant a lot of innocent people had to lie in order to keep their lives. Strange sort of justice.

Questions About Justice

1. What is the concept of justice, according to the Reverend Paris and Hathorne and Danforth? 2. What is Proctors concept of justice? How does that differ from other characters, such as Elizabeths? 3. Does the play take a stand on the question of whether people have an innate sense of justice? For example, do young people and the uneducated fare any better with questions of justice than educated people do? 8

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
Only those characters who have fallen and admit to committing grave errors possess anything close to a sense of justice. In a play that seems hostile to religion, the ending is especially ironic. John Proctor receives no justice on earth, so the only way that we can think he receives justice would be in some other realm.

The Crucible Theme of Jealousy

Many of the characters are motivated by jealousy and greed in The Crucible. Abigail is motivated by jealousy of Elizabeth Proctor; she wants Elizabeth to die so that s he can marry John, Elizabeths husband. Thomas Putnam is motivated by jealousy of other peoples property; he wants George Jacobs to die so that he could get his hands on a great piece of land. Little attention is devoted to the subject of envy by any of the characters, even though it is the hidden force driving most of the drama in town.

Questions About Jealousy

1. Is it only the obviously bad characters in the play, like Abigail and Mr. Putnum, who show jealousy? What about other characters, like John and Elizabeth Proctor? 2. How does the theology of Salem prevent its citizens from recognizing envy as a source of the conflict?

Chew on This
Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devils advocate.
Abigails actions have no justification other tha n envy, pure and simple. Although Abigail is jealous of Elizabeth Proctor, she is not the only source of evil in the play. John Proctors deception during his affair with Abigail, when he made a physical promise to her, is the source of the plays conflict.

The Crucible Theme of Religion

Religion is woven into the everyday life of the Salem of the play. Its exclusive form of Christianity centered on a set of clearly defined rules: you went to church every Sunday, you didnt work on the Sabbath, you believed the Gospel, you respected the ministers word like it was Gods, and so on. For people accused of witchcraft, any deviation from these rules in the past can be used as evidence for much greater sins in the present. But ultimately, even good and respected and highly religious women like Rebecca Nurse are accused and put to death, so past respectability and religiosity doesnt necessarily protect one.

Questions About Religion

1. How would you characterize the plays attitude toward organized religion? Does Miller see all forms of religion as corrupt, or only the particular form embodied by men like Rev. Parris? 2. How do the religious beliefs of certain characters help them survive or at least cope with difficult situations?

The Crucible: Themes

In LitCharts, each theme gets its own corresponding color, which you can use to track where the themes occur in the work. There are two ways to track themes:

Refer to the color-coded bars next to each plot point throughout the Summary and Analysis sections. Use the ThemeTracker section to get a quick overview of where the themes appear throughout the entire work.

Puritanism and Individuality Puritan society required that its members follow strict guidelines of social order. These rigid rules of conduct helped the Puritans endure the persecution they faced in Europe and, after they came to America, created a close-knit community able to withstand the harsh weather and Native American attacks common to New England in the 17th century. But communities that focus primarily on social order leave no room for personal freedom. Those who think or act independently are seen as a threat to the community: they must therefore be swiftly stopped or eliminated. An excessively strict social order also provides no outlet for personal grievances. Over time, unvoiced resentments build up among individuals, primed to explode. The witch trials depicted in The Crucible can be considered an attack against individuality: those accused and convicted of witchcraft were mostly people who prioritized their private thoughts and integrity above the will of the community. The trials provided a legally sanctioned forum for the expression of anger and grievance. If your neighbor once sold you a pig that died soon after you bought it, and that neighbor stands accused of witchcraft, it seems only natural to bring up the dead pig as possible evidence. The trials also gave people like the Putnams to chance to voice their festering bitterness by accusing those whom they had quietly resented for years. Hysteria In The Crucible, neighbors suddenly turn on each other and accuse people theyve known for years of practicing witchcraft and devil-worship. The town of Salem falls into mass hysteria, a condition in which community-wide fear overwhelms logic and individual thought and ends up justifying its own existence. Fear feeds fear: in order to explain to itself why so many people are afraid, the community begins to believe that the fear must have legitimate origins. In The Crucible, hysterical fear becomes an unconscious means of expressing the resentment and anger suppressed by strict Puritan society. Some citizens of Salem use the charge of witchcraft willfully and for personal gain, but most are genuinely overcome by the towns collective hysteria: they believe the devil is attacking Salem. And if the devil is attacking your town, then ensuring that your neighbor is punished for selling you a sick pig suddenly becomes a religious necessity, a righteous act that protects the God you love and proves that youre not a witch or a devil -worshipper. The Crucible shows how religious fervor fuels hysteria and leads to conditions that sacrifice justice and reason.


The Danger of Ideology An ideology is a rigid set of beliefs that defines what an individual or community thinks. In the Puritan theocracy of Massachusetts, a government run by religious authorities, the dominant ideology held that the Puritans were a chosen people that the devil would do anything to destroy. Since religious men ran their government, the Puritans considered all government actions to be necessarily good, or sanctioned by Heaven. This meant that any attempt to question, obstruct, or otherwise resist any of the governments actions, no matter how ludicrous, destructive, or ill -informed, was considered by the government and other Puritans to be an attempt to overthrow God. Governments fueled by such rigid and absolute ideological convictions often fall into corruption and tyranny without even realizing it. In The Crucible, Deputy Governor Danforth and Judge Hathorne believe that theyre emissaries of God, and therefore that everything they believe must be true and everything they do must be right. They never see a reason to reassess their thoughts and actions, which makes them easy targets for cynical and talented liars like Abigail Williams. Characters like Abigail recognize the courts narrow-minded worldview and manipulate it to their own selfish advantage Reputation and Integrity Reputation is the way that other people perceive you. Integrity is the way you perceive yourself. Several characters in The Crucible face a tough decision: to protect their reputation or their integrity. Parris, Abigail, and others to protect their reputations. Rebecca Nurse and, eventually, John Proctor, choose to protect their integrity. In rigid communities like Salem, a bad reputation can result in social or even physical punishment. The Crucible argues that those most concerned with reputation, like Parris, are dangerous to society: to protect themselves, theyre willing to let others be harmed and fuel hysteria in the process. In contrast, The Crucible shows that those who favor integrity by admitting mistakes and refusing to lie just to save their own lives help defy hysteria. Willing to die for what they believe in, they put a stop to the baseless fear that feeds hysteria.

Major Themes
Authority and Dissent

There are many levels of authority within the world of the Crucible. Early on, the Reverend Parris is the sole authoritative voice in Salem, as the minister and a graduate of Harvard College. He is supplanted by the arrival of Reverend Hale, who derives his authority from books and learning, which are then further supplanted in turn by the courts and its officials. Meanwhile, individualists like Proctor and Giles Corey rankle under these layers of authority Proctor had long rejected Parris's preachings, and Corey made the authority of the law work for him as a constant plaintiff. But being an outlier is seen as dangerous in this society. Indeed, dissent against official authority is akin to being an anarchist at best and an agent of Satan at worst. Proctor and Corey are the two most modern figures in the play for their willingness to push back against the extreme authority of the courts. For this, however, they also suffer greatly.

Miller addresses the question of whether a martyr must be a saint by having Proctor grapple with this very issue throughout the play. The early victims of the witch hunt are not seen as martyrs because even after death, they are considered undesired members of society. In contrast, the execution of Rebecca Nurse is widely recognized as one of martyrdom, because she has lived a conspicuously upright life and thus walks to the gallows without protest. Proctor sees himself as the borderline case a respected member of society but far from sinless. It is 11

only by recognizing that he need not be as perfect as Goody Nurse that Proctor finally finds "his goodness" as a moral man.
Community vs Individual

Salem is a tight-knit community where there is no such thing as private business. Individual activities like church attendance or book reading or keeping poppets become admissible evidence in court. Miller speculates that the community of Salem sought to keep itself together by casting out undesirable individuals, and in so doing created the atmosphere necessary for the witch hunts. The court itself was an extension of this principle, desperately in search of external validity Danforth cannot possibly exonerate some when others have already perished for the same crime. But for the accused, it is only the individual that matters. In the end, Proctor is left with nothing but his name and reputation.
Naming Names

By requiring the accused to name others in their confessions, a witch hunt like that in Salem or HUAC can take on the form of a pyramid scheme or chain letter. In other words, to avoid the effects of this curse, you must pass it on to five other people, and so forth. This "naming names" allowed the accusations to spread and spread, while also permitting the public airing of grievances and sins. As a member of the blacklist himself, Miller felt particularly strongly about the evil of fingering others to save oneself, and he expresses this idea by having several characters grapple with the requirement that they name names. Giles Corey is held in contempt the charge that ultimately leads to his execution for refusing to name the person who told him of Putnam's scheming, and Proctor balks at the court's intention to question the 91 people who signed his declaration of the good character of the accused. But it is at the climax that this theme truly comes to the fore, as Proctor would rather die than accuse more innocent people.
Sin and Guilt

Miller identifies the witch hunt as an opportunity for the repressed members of Salem society to publicly proclaim both their own sins and the sins of others. Guilt has been bottled up at home in this community, and the airing of sins and grievances is a relief to those previously without an outlet for confession. Guilt motivates not only the witch hunts themselves, but also the behavior of several principal characters. Proctor is haunted by remorse over his infidelity, while Reverend Hale works to undermine the court that he helped create as penance for his sins. The ultimate irony of the Salem witch hunts is not only that the sins of the trials quickly outpaced the original crime, but that there was no original crime to begin with. Indeed, the abstract concept of sin was made concrete through compounding avoidances of guilt.
Self interest

In varying degrees, the instigators of the witch trials are working to serve their own self-interest. Abigail begins the hysteria when she finds it a convenient way to deflect attention from her own sins, and further points the accusations at Elizabeth to scheme her way into Proctor's arms. Tituba, the first charged, is also the first to confess when she realizes that a confession will save her life. Parris at first rankles against the witchcraft talk because it would undermine his reputation in the town, and later opposes the execution of prominent community 12

members because their death would lead to popular uprising. Even Giles Corey died in the way he did because it was in his own interest by not pleading and dying under the weighted rocks, he ensured that his property would pass to his sons rather than to the state.

The reputation of each individual within the Salem community largely dictated his or her fate. The witch trials featured significant subversions of the dominant social structure by elevating to a position of power individuals whose reputation and status were otherwise lowly. Abigail, an unmarried, female orphan, suddenly became the most important person in town, bringing with her a dozen other such girls who otherwise could only hope to work as housekeepers until they married. Similarly, the black slave Tituba, whose race gave her the lowest social status in Salem, found herself with the ability to decide the fates of people far more powerful than herself as she accused others of witchcraft. Conversely, individuals with sparkling reputations like Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor were dragged through the mud and lost all agency in their situations. John Proctor is the appropriate protagonist for this story especially because he falls in the center of Salem's spectrum of reputation. As a landowner and adulterer, he is placed by Miller at the eye of the storm, watching the entire social structure pivot around him. INTOLERANCE The Crucible is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are one, and the religion is a strict, austere form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. Because of the theocratic nature of the society, moral laws and state laws are one and the same: sin and the status of an individuals soul are matters of public concern. There is no room for deviation from social norms, since any individual whose private life doesnt conform to the established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good but also to the rule of God and true religion. In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil; dissent is not merely unlawful, it is associated with satanic activity. This dichotomy functions as the underlying logic behind the witch trials. As Danforth says in Act III, a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it. The witch trials are the ultimate expression of intolerance (and hanging witches is the ultimate means of restoring the communitys purity); the trials brand all social deviants with the taint of devil-worship and thus necessitate their elimination from the community. GOOD VERSUS EVIL The major theme in the play is that of good versus evil. Based on the Salem witch trials of the late 17th century, The Crucible explores the fragility of a changing society and the difficulty of doing good in the face of evil and tremendous social pressures, both at the social and personal level. John Proctor, the protagonist of the play, is faced with the choice of accepting responsibility for his actions and doing the right thing. In a similar vein, society as a whole must deal with the challenge of doing good when threatened by evil, even when it comes with the stamp of law, authority, and social opinion. HYSTERIA A minor theme of the play is that the hysteria of the witch trials can be easily 13

duplicated, as seen in the hysteria surrounding the "McCarthyism" of the early 1950s. This link should be understood as a background to the play, not as a simple interpretation of the play. Another critical theme in The Crucible is the role that hysteria can play in tearing apart a community. Hysteria supplants logic and enables people to believe that their neighbors, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing absurd and unbelievable crimescommuning with the devil, killing babies, and so on. In The Crucible, the townsfolk accept and become active in the hysterical climate not only out of genuine religious piety but also because it gives them a chance to express repressed sentiments and to act on long-held grudges. The most obvious case is Abigail, who uses the situation to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft and have her sent to jail. But others thrive on the hysteria as well: Reverend Parris strengthens his position within the village, albeit temporarily, by making scapegoats of people like Proctor who question his authority. The wealthy, ambitious Thomas Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Franciss virtuous wife, convicted of the supernatural murders of Ann Putnams babies. In the end, hysteria can thrive only because people benefit from it. It suspends the rules of daily life and allows the acting out of every dark desire and hateful urge under the cover of righteousness. REPUTATION Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly pernicious. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigails increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughters coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit. Meanwhile, the protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished. Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctors desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice not to make a false confession and to go to his death without signing his name to an untrue statement. I have given you my soul; leave me my name! he cries to Danforth in Act IV. By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity. BETRAYAL Poignantly, The Crucible explores much more than this theme alone. It is also the story of betrayal and, in particular, the betrayal between a husband and a wife within the sanctity of a conventional marriage. However, John Proctor who is guilty of infidelity is not alone. Many of the characters are guilty of betrayal. Abigail betrays her whole community in order to seduce John. Those who falsely confess to witchcraft betray their relationship with God and their church. PERSECUTION The Crucible is also about persecution. History has provided us with canons of documented information about the persecution of the Jewish people from the Bible up until the chronicles of the Second World War. Miller, who was Jewish, would surely have had an inescapable imprint of atrocities of the holocaust 14

embedded firmly in his psyche. Furthermore, this play insists that it is every individuals responsibility to accept liability for the wrongs of the past. Millers plays, explore the American way of life but the themes, issues and concerns presented in The Crucible are a universal phenomenon.

In This Issue

THE CRUCIBLE This month we will cover the Dominant Themes in the play. MY GOOD NAME I have rung the doom of my good name! TRUTH TO LIES TO TRUTH Truths are Lies. Lies are Truths. SUSPICION VERSUS PROOF Suspicion equals Proof, Rumour equals Fact. RELIGION, LAW & WITCHCRAFT Theology, sir, is a fortress. THE SAINT AND AND THE SINNER I have sins of my own to count. HYSTERIA Hysteria is at the core of the The Crucible. STAY CONNECTED Join us on Facebook and Twitter. FREE RESOURCES Some amazing (and free!) resources for drama teachers. CONFERENCE ALERT Meet us in person. IN THE NEXT ISSUE What you can expect next. STAY IN TOUCH How to reach us.

The Crucible
Click Here to read Quick Facts and Quotes about Arthur Miller. Our November Newsletter focused Death of A Salesman and our March Newsletter on All My Sons. A Crucible:

a container of metal or refractory material employed for heating substances to high temperatures. a severe, searching test or trial

Quick Facts on The Crucible

Miller took a year to write the play. Premiered on Broadway on January 22, 1953 Ran for 197 performances Takes place during the Salem witch trials of 1692 15

A reflection of McCarthyism and the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the 1950's. In historical record, Abigail was 11 and John Proctor was in his 60's. John was a Tavern owner and not a farmer. Elizabeth was John's third wife. Most of John and Elizabeth's family were accused. Historically, Elizabeth was pregnant. She remained in jail past the point when the trials were dissolved, which is why she lived. Miller wrote the screenplay for the 1996 movie version staring Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Miller's most produced play.

I officially give up trying to put together a newsletter on an Arthur Miller play in one month. After studying The Crucible and coming up with the various article titles, I had to stand and wave the white flag: it has to be over two newsletters. It's a good news realization I suppose it means that there is much to analyze, discuss, and discover in the plays. That's rather fantastic news actually, the material is very rich! It's good news for you too; you'll get the in depth analysis in manageable sections - you won't open this file and see a fifty page newsletter. It's great news for me in that I can write that fifty page newsletter over a couple of months. Phew! The Crucible is my least favourite of the Big Three Miller Plays. ( Death of A Salesman well in the lead with All My Sons a strong second.) I find that plays with hysteria at their core tend to lead to hysterical acting. The number of exclamation marks in the script don't help dissuade that notion. There are 197 sentences in Act One alone that end in an exclamation point. That's potentially a lot of wailing and shouting. As a playwright and as an audience member, I hate wailing and shouting on stage. It feels very self-indulgent. I'm also not fond of Arthur Miller's stance of, "this is a play and not history but hey, let me include a bunch of history-driven essays right in the middle of text." The audience never sees these essays, which begs the question as to why they're there. If indeed The Crucible is a play and not history, why are they necessary to the understanding of the play? Are they there to add historical weight? Why would that be necessary given that core elements of the plot - the affair between Abigail and John, the dancing in the forest - are completely made up? Further to the contradiction of, "this is a play and not history," Miller uses historical names - Each of the names in the play are recorded in the history of the Salem witch trials. Miller adamantly states that each character in the play suffers the same fate as their historical counterparts, which again suggests he is trying to emulate history somewhat. I'm not particularly fond of the play on its own merit either. I find the stereotypes are drawn with thick unwavering straight lines. Every character is confined to a box: Elizabeth is the good wife. Abigail is the spurned, vengeful teenager. Danforth is unwavering justice. Hale is the idealistic intellectual. Except for Hale, every character lives in their box for the entire play. This is just not interesting to watch. Abigail is written so tightly into her box that she has to disappear from the story completely. Certainly her running away may have been what happened historically, but The Crucible is a play and not history, right? Dramatically speaking, a lot of the horror (and therefore a lot of the drama) within the plot occurs offstage rather than on. Abigail's needle in the belly moment is a great example. The audience is told this story instead of shown the story. We are told about Giles' dramatic death after the fact. Having said that, highly dramatic moments often occur offstage in Miller plays the most important plot points in All My Sons for example: the moment when the cracked airplane parts are let through, Joe winning his appeal. But the consequences for these offstage actions in All My Sons feel more human and therefore infinitely more watchable. I guess that's what it all boils down to: I don't connect to the characters in The Crucible. I am missing their humanity. But enough about me. The Crucible is Miller's most produced play. There are hundreds of high school productions each year and the play is on many high school curricula. As with every Miller work there is much to discuss and many rich themes to explore. It's a worthy adversary to study in the classroom. So let's get to it!


This month we will cover the Dominant Themes in the play. In June, we'll cover the characters and language.

My Good Name
'I have rung the doom of my good name!' ( John, Act Three) What is the importance of a person's name and reputation? When is the reputation of a person more important than their actions? What's in a name? A great deal according to the characters in The Crucible. The characters are quite concerned with the perception of their name and reputation.

Parris talks about Abigail's dancing and Betty's sudden sickness as compromising his character. He also proclaims that Proctor has been 'blackening his name.' Hale is impressed with Rebecca, her reputation has reached his own village. Giles regularly sues his neighbours for defamation. Danforth will not pardon any of the accused because it will reflect badly on his judgement.

Though it wouldn't seem so in comparing their personalities, John and Abigail are have identical obsessive natures surrounding their good name. They both take pride in their reputation, know the power of a good name, act based on their reputation and their downfall comes of putting their good name before their humanity. Abigail is consumed with having a good name. When Parris questions Abigail about her reputation and whether or not her name is 'white,' Abigail is adamant: 'There be no blush about my name.' (Act One) And when pressed further, Abigail flies into a temper: 'My name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled!" (Act One) When she becomes a conduit for naming witches, Abigail's name is taken to an exalted level. In Act Two, Elizabeth describes how Mary Warren talks of Abigail: 'She speak of Abagail and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abagail brings the other girls to court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel.' (Act Two) This is exactly what Abagail has always wanted. A good name beyond reproach. A trusted name. A name with power. Abigail's name has so much power she is able to accuse anyone of being a witch. Her powerful reputation trumps those with seemingly spotless reputations: Abigail has the power to accuse and condemn Elizabeth. John too is consumed with preserving his good name. In Act Two, when the accusations of witch begin to escalate, Elizabeth pushes John to reveal Abigail as a fraud. He's reluctant: 'I am only wondering how I may prove what she told me Elizabeth. If the girl's a saint now, I think it is not easy to prove she's a fraud... (Act Two) For revealing Abigail as a fraud will undoubtedly reveal the fraud in his background as well his past affair with Abigail. This indiscretion would cast a poor light on his name and reputation, something he would like to avoid at all costs. This is exactly what maidservant Mary Warren suggests at the end of Act Two when she tells John that Abigail will 'ruin' him, ruin his name, if he crosses her. And though John states with seemingly unshaken confidence that he's not afraid of Abigail - Good. Then her saintliness is done with. We will slide together into our pit." (Act Two) - He still holds on to the information of the affair till it is too late. It is only when it is clear that Abagail's power is too strong that John reveals the affair, and right away marks the importance of the reveal in connection to his name: A man will not cast away his good name, You surely know that.' (Act Three)


It's interesting to note that the appearance of a good name and the appearance of a good reputation is just as acceptable as the real thing. John is an adulterer, but so long as no one knows he's still a good man. Abigail can do anything she want; have an affair, lie, falsely accuse her neighbours so long as she is seen as having a good name. Because she's not in the last act to speak for herself, the assumption could be made that she disappears because of the reveal of the affair and taint that has placed on her name. Certainly John is touted as a liar, but why would she leave? Particularly since she wins at the end of Act Three. How has her power diminished? Why would she not stay to see her enemies destroyed? In the end, the obsession for a good name backfires on John. When John reveals the affair, Elizabeth is brought into the courtroom to corroborate. Because John has been so strongly attached to his reputation, Elizabeth (a woman known for telling the truth) thinks lying about the affair will save him. She denies the affair ever took place and John is arrested as a witch. Further, John's obsession is what takes his life. In Act Four John is a broken man. He has been jailed and tortured. On the day of his execution he is given a chance to confess, mostly because of his good name. There is a growing unrest and resentment against the witch trials and fear of what may happen if a 'good' man such as John is hanged: '....John Proctor is not Isaac Ward that drank his family to ruin. I would to God it were not so, Excellency, but these people have great weight in the town.......unconfessed and claiming innocence, doubts are multiplied, many honest people will weep...' (Parris, Act Four) When John learns that he will have to sign his name to the confession, which is a lie, he refuses. Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!....I have given you my soul; leave me my name! (Act Four) In the end, he would rather die than have his name brought into question.

Naming of names
'There be a thousand names; why does she call mine?' (Elizabeth, Act Two) Adding another layer to the importance of names, a significant aspect of the Salem witch trials was not only admitting to being a witch but to name other witches. This act was part of the confession and the confession held no weight without naming names. The problem was when people named names merely to deflect attention away from themselves. In the play, this is certainly what Abigail and the girls do to deflect attention away from their dancing in the woods: I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil! (Act One) When characters refuse to name names they get into trouble. In Act Three Giles refuses to give the name of his source who proves Putnam is falsely accusing his neighbours as witches: 'I will give you no name. I mentioned my wife's name once and I'll burn in hell long enough for that. I stand mute.' For this refusal Giles is arrested in contempt of court and eventually killed. When John attempts to confess in Act Four, he also refuses to name names. 'They think to go like saints. I like not to spoil their names.' (John, Act Four) The judge's response is that John's confession is a lie and invalid if he does not name names: 'Proctor, you mistake me. I am not empowered to trade your life for a lie.' (Danforth, Act Four) Clearly the act of naming names weighed heavily on Miller's mind while he was writing The Crucible. The parallels between the events of Salem and Miller's environment at the time, the McCarthy era, are easy to draw. The late 40's and early 50's were a tumultuous period as the cold war between the Soviet Union and America escalated. There was a underlying paranoia about the threat of communism which was


brought to the forefront by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and Senator Joe McCarthy. The purpose of the committee was simple: to investigate those who appear to be unAmerican, with communists at the top of the list. On February 9, 1950 McCarthy, who up to this point was a rather unknown Senator, made a speech in Virgina in which he stated there were communists in the Department of State and he held in his hand a list of names. Read the Speech. This was the beginning of a brief but damaging period of hysteria in which Americans were interviewed about their involvement in the Communist Party, pressured to admit they were members and to name the names of other members. Whether or not the accused were communists, or whether or not the names of those brought forward did anything seemed to be a moot point. Many were accused and many were named, with little proof. Being critical of the government, for example, was enough 'proof' to convict an individual as a communist. Hollywood was hit directly by the McCarthy trials as screenwriters, playwrights, directors, musicians, and actors were brought in to testify. Those who refused to cooperate with the committee were blacklisted, meaning they weren't allowed to work in their field. For some, the blacklist ended their careers. Miller himself was called before the Committee in 1956 and refused to name names. As a result, he was blacklisted, received a suspended sentence and for awhile was not allowed out of the country. Elia Kazan, who directed All My Sons and Death of A Salesman did name names; he gave up eight individuals to the committee in 1952. This ended the relationship between Miller and Kazan and acted as one of the catalysts for Miller to write The Crucible. Read this article Miller wrote in 2000 about the McCarthy era and writing The Crucible

More McCarthyism Resources


Activities 1. In groups create a tableau that visualizes John Proctor's name. When you say his name, what picture comes to mind? Think about what John says and does in the play, then visualize it. Do the same activity for Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail, and Danforth. How do the pictures differ? Are there any similar elements? 2. Count the number of times the word 'name' is used in Act Four. In this act what does the word mean to John, to Danforth, to Elizabeth and to Parris?
3. Stand in a circle and play a name game. This one called Cross Circle is perfect: http://improvencyclopedia.org/games/Cross_Circle.html o Once you get the rhythm of the game, play it but change the names. o Play the game and everyone makes up a name for themselves. The o o o

name they wish they had. Play the game and everyone gives themselves a very silly name. Play the game and everyone gives themselves a positive attribute. ('Smart!') Play the game and everyone gives themselves a negative attribute. ('Clumsy!')

How does the tone of the game evolve when the names change? How does perception change? How do you look at people when they are an attribute rather than a name? What does the name a person wish they had say about them?

4. Hats and handbags 19

The outward appearance of those in Salem was very regimented. Everyone wore the same clothes. It would be difficult to make a first impression or a judgement on someone based on their appearance. This is when name and reputation become so important to a person. Their good name or bad name is what people reacted to. Given that the characters in the play create little physical impression, create a Hat (for the male characters) or a handbag (for the female characters) based on their name/reputation. What would they look like? This is a symbolic exercise, so it's based on the behaviour and dialogue of the characters, not on the type of hat/handbag they would really carry in real life. Place the objects or drawings at the front of the room. Is it easy or hard to decide which hat/handbag belongs to which character?


Is John's choice to die with a good name right or wrong? Why? In your opinion, why does Abigail run away? What's her motivation? Is it better to die for what you believe, or what you know is the truth, or to lie to save your life? What does your name mean to you? What does reputation mean to you? Have you ever lied to save your reputation? Have you ever placed a judgement on someone based on their name? Discuss the McCarthy era. Were those accused right or wrong if they named named?

Truth to Lies to Truth

It is amazing how many lies are turned into the truth in the play as well as how many times when the truth is spoken, it is regarded as a lie. The characters who are known for speaking falsely become heroes in the community - it's no coincidence that the majority of lies that turn to truths stem from Abigail:

Abigail lies about Elizabeth being a liar, which becomes truth as Elizabeth is arrested for lying about the poppets and accused as a witch. Abigail tells Tituba not to lie about what happened in the woods. Abigail's lies about the events in the woods, and what Tituba did to her become truth. Abigail's lies about the needle in the poppet become truth. Abigail lies that Elizabeth always kept poppets and it is believed as truth. Abigail says that both Mary and John are lying, which becomes the truth.

This ability to turn lies into the truth gives Abigail a sense of power; power which she is able to rend from the men, which she quickly abuses. While she is certainly the main offender, the action of lies to truth permeates through other characters and through the entire play:

Every witch confession is a lie, which becomes truth in the eyes of the court. Mary lies that John is a witch, which becomes truth. Elizabeth lies when she says there was no affair between John and Abigail and that is taken as the truth over John's words. Putnam lies that he is not falsely accusing his neighbours of being witches and his word becomes the truth.

The characters who are known for speaking the truth have no recourse and no reprieve in this atmosphere:


John knows the truth about Abigail but his words are taken for lies. Mary Warren's truth about the girls pretending to be affected by witches is turned into a lie. Rebecca's good standing is turned into a lie when she is arrested for being a witch. Giles tells the truth about Putnam's actions but his words are taken as lies.

By Act Four the number of times the word 'lie' is used is in the dozens:

'It is hard to give a lie to dogs' (John) 'Let them that never lied now to keep their souls.' (John) 'Why it is a lie, it is a lie.' (Rebecca) 'Because I lie and sign myself to lies' (John) 'Is that document a lie.' (Danforth)

By this point everything about Salem, everything about the court, everything about the community is a lie. Even John is swept up as he initially decides he would rather lie and live than die. 'My honest is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothing's spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before' (Act Four) But in the end when his reputation is at stake, living a lie is not enough. He accepts the truth of death.


Track the number of times Abigail's story changes about what happens in the woods in Act One. Why does she keep changing her story? Research how people move physically when they tell the truth or lie. For example, it's commonly thought that people move their eyes off to the side when they are lying. Explore the physical posture of truth and lies in the play. In groups decide how each of these characters stand as they lie/tell the truth. Are there similarities? Differences? Abigail lying about the activities in the woods in Act One John lying to Abigail that he doesn't care about her in Act One. Proctor telling the truth to Hale that Abigail is a fraud. Mary telling the truth about the girls pretending to see witches in Act Three. Giles telling the truth about Putnam falsely accusing witches. Elizabeth lying about John's Affair in Act Three. John lying about being a witch in Act Four.


Why is Abigail believed to speak the truth when she lies? Who are the most believable characters? Why? Have you ever told the truth about something, and not been believed? Have you ever believed someone and found out they were lying?

Suspicion versus Proof

'Mr Hale. I do think you are suspecting me somewhat? Are you not?' (Elizabeth, Act Two) It's amazing, in any century, how easily suspicion and rumour can become proof and fact. Have a look through any tabloid, and see how easily you believe or disbelieve what is said about celebrities. Is the


fact that it's in print, proof? Is a picture proof? If you read or see on television that a celebrity said something, do you instantly believe it? Think about the rumours at your school. How easily do you believe or disbelieve what is said about teachers and students? What is your belief based on? Suspicion or proof? Rumour or fact? The whole notion of witchcraft is based on suspicion and rumour. During the Salem witch trials themselves there was no proof or evidence given of the existence of witches. All those condemned were based on the accusation and stories of others. The same goes for those accused as witches in The Crucible. Every 'fact' regarding a potential witch is proved based on a story, a suspicion that someone had, a rumour that someone heard, something somebody 'said' they saw or felt. This is established early on in the play. When the Putnams enter Betty's room in Act One, the first thing they want confirmation on is not Betty's sickness but how high she 'flew.' The word of another is enough to make this rumour fact: 'Why it's sure she did. Mr Collins saw her goin' over Ingersoll's barn, and come down light as bird, he says!' The rumour of Betty 'flying' passes through the community as quickly as a game of telephone. It becomes more factual, and less doubtful. There is no 'proof' as we know it. Even when an older seemingly sensible character enters the room such as Giles, he talks about Betty flying without scepticism: 'I hear she flies.' (Act One) Suspicious acts become the norm for proving witch like behaviour. In Act Two Mary Warren lists the 'proof' for condemning Goody Osborne:

She caused a misty coldness to climb up Mary's back. She mumbled. She caused Mary to have a stomachache. She could not remember the ten commandments.

When John asks again and again for the proof, Mary states, "I told you the proof. It's hard proof, hard as rock the judges said."(Act Two) Since conventional methodology is out the window, Characters go out of their way to write new rules for deciding proof and fact.

Hale has books filled with 'facts' about the behaviour of the devil and of witches. So if someone acts in a behaviour that is in the books, it is taken as fact that they are a witch. Danforth admits that witchcraft is an invisible crime: "But witchcraft is ipsofacto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other." (Act Three) Because there is no conventional proof, he believes the words of the victim are equal to proof and fact. Abigail, Mary Warren and the other 'girls' become officials of the court. They are placed in charge of deciding who is a witch. Their reaction to potential witches is used as proof: "I have seen too many frightful proofs in court." (Act Two, Hale) Abigail herself is a beacon of proof and fact. Her story that Elizabeth put a needle in her stomach, is enough to prove Elizabeth a witch when the needle in the doll is found at her house: 'Tis hard proof! I find here a poppet Goody Projector keeps. I have found it, sir. And in the bellow of the poppet a needle's stuck. I tell you true, Proctor, I never warranted to see such a proof of Hell.' (Cleever, Act Two)


Because of the definition of proof has changed, the usual manners of proof are not acceptable or recognized. John, Francis and Giles try to use conventional steps to prove their cases (that their wives are not witches and the girls are frauds) in front of Danforth:

They have 91 signed testaments from landholders and churchgoers on the character of their wives. They have a first-hand witness in Mary confessing that the girls only pretended to be overcome in front of potential witches. Both John and Giles present written depositions.

Even Hale tries to persuade Danforth to go the conventional route with this case: 'I pray you, sir, this argument let lawyers present to you.' (Act Three) All attempts to provide conventional proof are denounced. It is significant that by Act Four the tables slowly start to turn on the strength of suspicion and rumour. When Parris brings up the rumour of the rebellion in Andover and their suspension of the trials Danforth shoots it down immediately: 'Andover is remedied. The court returns there on Friday, and will resume examinations.' Suspicion and rumour are no longer on the same plane as Proof and Fact.

Activities 1. Play a game of Rumours. 2. Play a game of telephone How much does the sentence change as it moves around the circle? Which is easier to believe the sentence at the beginning or the end? Play the game with a fact about a celebrity, how does it change by the end? Do the same with a rumour about a celebrity.
3. Salem Court Set up an improv court case with a judge/prosecution/defence/defendant/witnesses and jury. Use a modern crime with Salem methods of proof: A person is accused of robbing a bank. They are tried using the same methods they use in the play to convict the witches. (suspicion, rumour, and spectral evidence such as a group of girls who feel ice cold, or get stomachaches) In the world of your improv, all these methods of proof are legitimate, so don't allow modern reactions to interfere. Take the situation and the methods very seriously, as they do in the play. At the end of the improv, the defendant should be giving the opportunity to confess and to name the names of the others involved in the bank robbery. Otherwise, the defendant will be executed. What does the defendant do? Discuss the response to the exercise afterwards. Search the play for dialogue that can be used in the court, as well as specific mentions of suspicion and rumour.


For each character who is accused of being a witch, what are the suspicions/rumours used to convict them? Discuss why the hysterical response of young girls is more trusted than the word of the older men in this situation. Discuss the real Salem witch trials. Why did this event happen? What are the prevalent rumours in the school? Do you take them for truth? Why or why not? Do you take anything as fact in the gossip magazines? Why or why not?

Religion, Law & Witchcraft

'Theology, sir, is a fortress.' (Hale, Act Two) 23

Religion, Law and witchcraft go hand in hand in hand in The Crucible. Historically, Salem operated under a Puritan theocratic government. Theocracy: a form of government in which God is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, with God's laws being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authorities. In other words, church and State are one. The Puritans left England because they weren't allowed to govern themselves the way that they wanted and risked religious prosecution. In a sense, the Puritans were the originators of the American Dream: hard work leads to success and the life of your dreams. For the Puritans this would mean a strict commitment to religious behaviour, and a strict commitment to hard work which would lead to heaven. The downfall of the American Dream is a standby theme in Miller works. The Crucible shows quite clearly the flaws in the Puritan American Dream in the context of the Salem witch trials; a commitment to 'hard work' does not exempt one from the accusation of witchcraft. In a society that firmly follows the Bible and believes that the Devil is just as real as God, it's not difficult to connect the dots from a child acting in bizarre manner, to full-blown witch trials in Salem. Nor is it difficult to see in a theocratic society how witches become officially tried in court. As the belief in witches is part of the religion, that means that the persecution of witches is the responsibility of the law. In the play religion is always spoken of with the authority of the courts of law:

Hale's books that detail the behaviour of the devil are 'weighted with authority' (Act One) When he questions Tituba about the Devil it is as if a lawyer is questioning a witness. (Act One) Forgetting the commandments is lawful proof of the devil and being a witch, as is not going to church, or not having an unbaptized child. (Act Two) Abigail and the Girls are 'officials of the court' for pointing out a witch. Hale mentions that there is 'too much evidence' to deny the presence of witches (Act Two) Hale adds to the 'godly wisdom of the court.' Danforth warns that a person is 'either with this court or he must be counted against it.' That means you are either for God or against God. (Act Three) When Danforth pressures Giles to give the name of his source he cites the 'government and central church.' (Act Three) Danforth equates Church and State when warning the Girls to tell the truth about their accusations: 'Now, children, this is a court of law. The law, based upon the Bible, and the Bible, writ by Almighty God. (Act Three) When Danforth prompts John to confess, John must sign it so that it is 'good and legal proof.' (Act Four)

There are many issues with prosecuting witches under this heavy and equal weight of religion and law, where both are rock solid and unwavering. It is no accident that Miller has Hale describe Theology as a fortress. The equal weight suggests that there is rock solid legal proof of witchcraft, which there is not. It suggests that all those who accuse witches are rock solid individuals and act to the highest order of religion and law, which they do not. Historically, there were many accusations in the Salem trials that were based on selfish and vengeful behaviour - Rebecca Nurse was accused by Ann Putnam, who later issued an apology for accusing an innocent which Miller capitalizes in the play:


Abigail accuses Elizabeth as a witch for her own vengeance. Giles accuses Putnam of naming witches so he can buy their land. Giles says that his wife has been accused by Walcott who has a grudge against Martha.

Further to this there are numerous acts of uncharitable and un-Christian behaviour:

Parris rants about his right to a certain amount of wood. Putnam and John fight about land boundaries. John refuses to have his child baptized because of the way Parris focuses on material needs in the church. Abigail pushes Tituba for a charm to kill Elizabeth. Abigail steals money from Parris to run away.

The culmination of this behaviour shows how impossible the narrow Puritan standards are to uphold. The standards do not account for human behaviour. They are a fortress on uneven ground. Lastly, it is no mistake that Miller again uses stone imagery when John rips up his confession, the 'good and legal proof' that he is a witch. He tells Elizabeth to 'show a stony heart and sink them with it.' (Act Four)


The Puritan lifestyle held many strict and ordered rules. Discuss why the charge of witchcraft (which is the opposite of anything strict and ordered) took over Salem. Why is it important to separate Church and State? How does the rock like nature of theocracy bring about the downfall of the characters in The Crucible?

The Saint and and the Sinner

'I have sins of my own to count.' (Elizabeth, Act Four) Although religion and Law are essentially one and the same, there is a firm line in the sand dividing the Saint and the Sinner in The Crucible. Danforth states in Act Three that, "We live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world. Now, by God's grace, the shining sun is up." For Danforth the world is black and white, good is quite separate from evil, the saint and the sinner are clearly defined in their own boxes. Again, it's no mistake when Parris describes goodness in terms of the colour white in Act One. Miller fully explores the failure of this concept and how it's impossible to divide the saint and the sinner with such clean lines:

Abigail believes the love between John and herself triumphs the sin. (Act One) Abigail through her vengeful acts is described as a saint. (Act Two) John calls Abigail wicked, and it's not exactly a criticism. (Act One) John tells Elizabeth when he sees Abigail he 'may blush for my sin.' (Act Two) John forgets the commandment of adultery. (Act Two) When Elizabeth is accused, John asks of Abigail 'Is the accuser always holy now?' (Act Two) 25

In Act Four Hale returns to Salem to 'do the devils work' to push the accused to lie and confess. When John decides to confess it is because he 'cannot mantle the gibbet like a saint.' (John, Act Four) Elizabeth talks of her her own sin of being a cold wife (Act Four) John refuses to name names when he confesses because those accused 'Think to go like saints.' (Act Four)

Those with 'saintly' characteristics (John and Elizabeth) must come face to face with sin, while those with 'sinner' characteristics (Abigail) are placed in the light of a saint. The world is not as black and white as Danforth suggests and further rocks the stable ground.

In groups, highlight lines that illustrate one of the seven deadly sins. (pride, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, sloth, envy) Create a tableau that shows the sin using the line as a jumping off point. For example, Abigail suffers from a number of the sins. She speaks with envy in Act One when she speaks poorly of Elizabeth she wants to be in Elizabeth's place as John's husband. Take the line, "It is a bitter woman, a lying, cold snivelling woman and I will not work for such a woman!" and create a picture of the line, illustrating envy. For example, Elizabeth and Abigail stand side by side, with Abigail reaching out to scratch at Elizabeth. Do the same exercise, highlighting lines that illustrate one of the ten commandments.


Historically, how do the puritans view sin? Is the way sin is explored in the play historically correct? Historically, how did Puritans view the sin of adultery? Why is Abigail so unfazed by sin? Which characters in the play follow the ten commandments and which do not?

'I'll not hang with you! I love God, I love God!' (Mary Warren, Act Three) Hysteria is at the core of the The Crucible and the Salem witch trials themselves. During the course of the trials, over 180 were accused with 19 hanged. The accused ranged from infants to the elderly. Two dogs were killed as witches. As a hurricane gathers wind and speed, so did the desire to accuse, condemn, and convict. Hysteria is an uncontrollable outburst and in a hysterical world, no one is safe, especially not those who live in a logical, sane manner. What is most interesting though is that Abigail, who is clearly the eye of the hysterical hurricane, remains tightly controlled. She chooses when to push the hysteria, who will carry the hysteria out and who the hysteria affects. Once the hurricane begins to spin, Abigail is out of harm's way and someone else follows through with the dirty work. In Act One, Abigail's story about what happens in the woods changes depending on who is talking to her, and more importantly, who might be accusing her. The activity starts out as common dancing in which no one was conjuring spirits. But when Hale is close to accusing Abagail of being a witch, she ratchets up the hysteria to claim that not only did Tituba make her drink blood, but that she caused Abigail to laugh at prayer. As Tituba becomes sucked into the storm and actually confesses to working for the Devil, Abigail puts the icing on the cake by giving Hale exactly what he wants: the names of witches. The end of the Act is a whirlwind of names: 'I saw Goody Hawkins with the Devil! I saw Goody Bibber with the Devil! I saw Goody Booth with the Devil!'


In Act Two, Abigail's ability to create a hurricane is so powerful she doesn't even have to be on stage. Elizabeth says that the town has 'gone wild' with the hysterical response of Abigail and the girls right in the middle of it all: "And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor the person's clapped in the jail for bewitchin' them." When Abigail does not get the desired results in her initial accusation of Elizabeth, she goes to great lengths to push hysteria over the edge with the needle in the doll story. The first thing Cheever asks for when he enters the Proctor household is if Elizabeth has any 'poppets.' Obviously this is something he has been prompted to ask for, as he find the needle in the doll right away. The hurricane spins out of control as Cheever relays that Abigail suffered from a needle in the stomach at dinner and claimed Elizabeth had been the culprit: '...two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out. And demandin' of her how she come to be so stabbed, she testify it were your wife's familiar spirit pushed it in.' (Cheever, Act Two) Act Three is Abigail's greatest work as she is able to show Mary Warren as a liar and convict John of witchcraft in one fell swoop. John brings Mary Warren in to testify that she, Abigail and the other girls were frauds and only pretending. Once she enters, Abigail starts out calmly and with very little to say. In four pages of script, she has only three lines. It would be very interesting to stage this moment as Abigail stands silently as the other characters swirl about her in text and in movement, in their hysteria. And a hurricane of hysteria it becomes as John reveals the affair, Elizabeth lies which condemns John, Hale attempts to out Abigail, and Abigail mentally pushes Mary to the point that she denounces everything she's said and declares John a witch. 'He wake me every night, his eyes were like coals and his fingers claw my neck...' And as the hurricane builds to a fury with Mary's uncontrollable sobs, John's arrest and Hale's denouncement of the court, Abigail sits silently. Her work is done. There are no hysterical events in Act Four and thus Abigail is missing. Not only is she missing she has run away from Salem altogether. It's a missing piece of the story. Is her tenure at an end as the tide shifts away from supporting the trials? Is it because John has gone to jail and she believes he'll die? Only Abigail knows...


Stage the moment in Act Three mentioned above when Abigail enters and says very little as the hysteria swirls around. How does the scene look if she remains completely still and all the other characters constantly move about her? Explore how Miller helps to push the hysteria in the dialogue through use of pace, rhythm, sentence length, and punctuation. Use Act Three starting from Abigail's line, "It's on the beam! Behind the rafter!" In groups, create a series of three tableaux that show mounting hysteria. If the first scene is a peaceful public park, what happens in the second and third picture to change that peace to hysteria? Do the exercise again, but this time, have in each picture someone who is completely calm. The eye of the storm. What happens if they are the ones who initiates the hysteria? Do the exercise a third time focusing on the events of the play. Again using Act Three, in groups create three pictures moving from Abigail's entrance to John's arrest. Think of Hysteria like a disease. A disease that is definitely catching. What are the internal and external symptoms? What happens to you physically 27

and emotionally? Once you have the elements, play a game of tag in which when someone is tagged, they pass on 'hysteria' to another. Once the rhythm is set have more than one person be 'it.' Keep adding on till there are five or six passing on hysteria. How does that change the tone to have hysteria coming at you from all sides? Questions

What is the opposite of hysteria? Who, if any, are the characters who do not act in a hysterical fashion? What happens to them? Is Tituba pretending when she confesses or is she hysterical? When Mary's hysteria reaches a boiling point she accuses John of being a witch. Does she believe this, or is she pretending? Why or why not? Hysteria seems to stem from fear. What are the characters in the play afraid of? In a society that is so ordered, discuss the ease with which Salem succumbed to hysteria. Are there any parallels between the hysteria of the witch trials and any current events?

he Crucible Act One Themes Abuse of power is most apparent through the character of Abigail. Historically speaking, the Puritan children or young adults had no real voice within the community. Abigail spends the majority of Act One trying to get out of trouble for dancing in the woods and denying that any witchcraft was used there. When Reverend Hale investigates, Abigail is able to shift the blame from herself and the others to Tituba, Parris' slave from Barbados. No longer in any real peril, Abigail could sit back and let Tituba admit that she is a witch and works for the Devil. However, when Hale states: "You are God's instrument put into our hands to cleanse Salem" (Miller 1), Abigail realizes that through admission of witchcraft she now has power to point out the other witches of Salem. Intoxicated by this thought of power, Abigail calls out "I want the light of God...I saw the Devil" (Miller 1). At the end of the scene, the mass hysteria which will overtake Salem has been unleashed.
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The relationship between John and Elizabeth reveals many themes in the play. When forgiveness should be given and how infidelity crushes trust are clear themes established. It has been seven months since the affair between Abigail and John. Elizabeth discovered it and essentially, she ends the relationship. Because John has shown remorse and has "tiptoed" around her trying "to please" her, he feels that Elizabeth should now forgive and trust him. "I see now that your heart twists around the single error of my life and I will never tear it free" (Miller 2). Elizabeth has a very different view. She doesn't feel that that much time has passed and catches John in a lie when he said he spoke to Abigail with a group of people back in Act One. While John feels he is simply protecting Elizabeth, she sees John's lie as true deception. Elizabeth feels, that on some level, John still has feelings for Abigail and doesn't want to hurt her. But the most important difference between John and Elizabeth's viewpoints, and men and women in general can be found in their discussion when Elizabeth finds out that Abigail has mentioned her name during the trials.


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According to Elizabeth, "There is a promise made in any bed. Spoken or silent a promise is surely made" (Miller 2). Elizabeth feels that because of John's sexual relationship with Abigail that Abby will interpret this gesture as a promise of a future together. John, on the other hand, claims that "the promise that a stallion gives a mare" (Miller 2) is all he is gave Abigail Williams. In essence, John Proctor feels that the act of sex is just that; emotions and promises are not involved. Symbols of Act Two are the rabbit stew which Elizabeth makes John and the golden candlesticks that Proctor tells Hale about when he questions him about why he dislikes Parris. The stew is a symbol of the dysfunction of John and Elizabeth's relationship. At the beginning of the scene, John tastes it and is dissatisfied; he adds seasoning. When Elizabeth asks him about the flavor, he lies. The golden candlesticks are a clear symbol of Parris' greed. Another member of the church, Francis Nurse handmade pewter candlesticks. These were not good enough for Parris so he replaced them.

Act Three Themes

Act Three consists of the trials and the court. The most important theme here is the idea of concealment. The truth is hidden and character's true motives are unclear. The entirety of the act is spent in a desperate attempt to expose the truth. Unfortunately, although there is a moment when it seems as though Danforth will see Abigail for what she truly is, Elizabeth ends up hiding the truth; something she never normally does. Act Three ends when John states that he "hears the boot of Lucifer...and...see[s] his filthy face" (Miller 3). Proctor goes on to say that he is the Devil, but so is Danforth because both have failed "to bring men out of ignorance" (Miller 4). Both characters have sinned, but both remain concealed for the time being.

The Final Act

The most important concept in Act Four is that forgiveness comes from within and that goodness is not just determined by society's standards. John begs Elizabeth for forgiveness and approval to give a false confession to save his life. John's view is that he is already tarnished because he committed adultery. But Elizabeth points out that if he cannot live with his own decisions, her opinion won't matter. "It's not my soul John, it's yours" (Miller 4). What Elizabeth also goes on to say is that no matter what, John Proctor is a good man. This issue of the affair, which at the beginning of the play seems clearly one-sided in terms of blame, takes on a new dimension. Elizabeth also takes responsibility for her part in the affair; her own insecurity pushed her away from John, and she was unable to show him love. "Suspicion kissed you when I did" (Miller 4). Finally, the idea of a person's name and reputation is emphasized in the final scene. John signs a false confession to give to Danforth. But John quickly realizes that he is "blackening" the reputation of his friends who are set to hang with the sunrise. "How can I teach my sons to walk like men in the world when I have sold my friends" (Miller 4). You are only given one name; if you ruin it, it is tarnished forever. John dies a sinner, but there is "a shred of goodness." John Proctor stands up for what is right and dies for those beliefs.

Read more at Suite101: The Crucible Themes | Suite101.com http://suite101.com/article/the-crucible-themes-a284034#ixzz1wVOUgd7e



This play was written in the context of the anti-communist political witch hunts of the 1950s, and its central theme is established society's irrational fear of people and beliefs that are different. Other themes include the bad side of society - revenge, irrational fear, prejudice, betrayal, greed and ambition - and the good sides of society - integrity, reason and loyalty.

If you look back at the 'context' section at the beginning of these notes you will remember that Miller wrote this play at a time when powerful American politicians, especially Senator Joseph McCarthy, were trying to hunt out communists in America, bring them to trial and punish them. This political witch hunt of the 1950s shows us the central theme of the play - established society's irrational fear of people and beliefs that are different.

Village hall in Massachusetts The play is set in New England in the 17th century. This was where the first North European settlers in America came to live. Interestingly, most of them were running away from religious persecution in their European homes; they were looking for freedom and tolerance. The Salem witch trials were real historical events. Miller has used the historical story for his own theme. He appears to be saying that the outbreak of fear of communists in 1950s America is no less irrational and hysterical than the 17th century witch trials that all Americans look back on with some amazement and shame. Spreading out from this central theme are several related themes: Miller shows the integrity of some characters, the greed and ambition of others, the motive of revenge. Miller is very much dealing with the forces of good and evil in society. So it is convenient to divide his themes into those dealing with each side. But remember that not all the characters are simply 'black' or 'white' even though the themes are.


The bad side

Irrational fear

Fear and hysteria spreads through the town during the witch trials

Miller has no tolerance of irrational fear or religious mysticism. He shows the fear of witches as something that is totally destructive. It hurts individuals and it hurts society. Those who embrace it most completely are the villains of the play - the greedy, vengeful, selfish characters like Abigail, Thomas Putnam and Reverend Parris. They seem to be more influenced by these bad motives than by actual fear of witches. We can assume that Miller thinks pretty much the same about the influential anti-communists in America in the 1950s. Those who are apparently genuinely frightened are the weakest members of the Salem community - Ann Putnam, the girls, the minor townspeople.


People like Sarah Good, Proctor and Giles Corey and his wife are nonconformists. They are different to the majority and therefore they become ready targets for accusations. Miller's family had experienced this as Jews. They came from Europe to America to escape prejudice and to find freedom in the 'land of opportunity'. But they found prejudice in America too. Miller's only novel, Focus, deals directly with anti-Semitism. Miller saw prejudice becoming part of official policy in the anticommunist actions of the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Senator McCarthy's investigations of the 1950's. He is concerned in the play to show that prejudice is a universal evil of human society

The bad side (continued)


There are at least two characters who see the witch fear as an opportunity to get revenge on their enemies; they are Abigail Williams and Thomas Putnam. 31

Abigail wants revenge on Elizabeth Proctor for dismissing her. She also wants her out of the way so that she can pursue her greedy desire for John Proctor. Thomas Putnam wants revenge on Francis Nurse with whom he has quarrelled. By joining the accusations of witchcraft against Rebecca Nurse he becomes one of the villains of the play, a man who will use the fear of witchcraft to get revenge against his enemies.


The 1950's anti-communist "witch hunts" left Miller feeling particularly raw about betrayal. Many former friends and colleagues confessed to having been or having known communists. In particular perhaps his closest theatrical friend and colleague, the director Elia Kazan, betrayed him. Salem society is riddled with betrayals. Neighbours betray one another to the authorities, often for bad motives. Worst of all is Abigail, who betrays both John and Elizabeth Proctor, as well as her uncle (Parris) and Tituba.

Greed and Ambition

There are characters who see the witch fear as an opportunity to satisfy greed and ambition. Putnam is the chief example here also. There is a faction in Salem - a struggle for power and influence between different groups of people. Putnam has joined 'sides' with Reverend Parris even though he has no respect for him. Putnam is clearly greedy and ambitious to be on the side of the most influential people in Salem. Putnam is grasping. He buys up his neighbours' land cheaply when they are arrested and unable to work it, or after they are executed.

The good side


The justice system in Salem fails to uncover the truth


John Proctor is, perhaps, more a man of common sense than reason, but he is unswervingly rooted in the real world and sees no imaginary witches. Proctor is presented by Miller as an honest man without overwhelming personal ambition or vanity. His rational attitude to the world around him and his awareness that others are using the witch scare to pursue their own purposes is seen as part of this same honesty. Hale is probably the most important representative of reason. He begins with a great deal of theoretical book-learning about witches and arrives in Salem to put it into practice. But he gradually realises that the 'facts' of the case will not support all the accusations. He could easily have ignored these facts and pursued his own ambition. But he is an honest man who gradually tries to undo the harm that the witch trials are doing.

The good side (continued)


Proctor is the best example of integrity. In a private conversation with his wife about whether he should confess and save his life he says, "I think it is honest, I think so [to confess]. I am no saint. Let Rebecca go like a saint; for me it is a fraud." This shows his genuine struggle with himself to do what is honest. He does not like concealing the truth about his affair with Abigail, but he does so in order to protect his wife from Salem scandal and gossip. When he finally confesses to it in court, in order to undermine Abigail's witness and prove that she is a liar, he pulls no punches. He uses language that underlines his disgrace - "In the proper place - where my beasts are bedded." At the end he chooses death rather than to sign the court document. The reason is that he cannot truthfully put his name to a false confession. It is a lie. "I have given you my soul; leave me my name!"


Loyalty is the flip side of betrayal and there is not much of it in Salem. The clearest example is seen in both the Proctors. Although in one sense John Proctor has betrayed Elizabeth by having an affair with Abigail, there was certainly fault in Elizabeth's emotional coldness. When it comes to Elizabeth being put on trial for witchcraft, however, Proctor's loyalty is unwavering. He refers to her in court as "my wife, my dear good wife" and he confesses his adultery in order to undermine Abigail's false witness against her. Similarly Elizabeth is loyal to her husband. She testifies in court to his being "a good and righteous man" and she tries to get him out of trouble by lying when directly asked if he is an adulterer. The dreadful thing about the Salem witch trials is that they turn loyalty into a force that destroys both Elizabeth and John Proctor.



John Proctor Elizabeth Proctor Abigail Williams Deputy Governor Danforth Reverend Samuel Parris Reverend John Hale Giles Corey Mary Warren Tituba Thomas Putnam Rebecca Nurse Judge Hathorne Francis Nurse Betty Parris Sarah Good Ezekiel Cheever Mrs. Ann Putnam Mercy Lewis Susanna Walcott Marshal Herrick Hopkins

+++++++++++ John Proctor A farmer in Salem, Proctor serves as the voice of reason and justice in The Crucible. It is he who exposes the girls as frauds who are only pretending that there is witchcraft, and thus becomes the tragic hero of the tale. Proctor is a sharply intelligent man who can easily detect foolishness in others and expose it, but he questions his own moral sense. Because of his affair with Abigail Williams, Proctor questions whether or not he is a moral man, yet this past event is the only major flaw attributed to Proctor, who is in all other respects honorable and ethical. It is a sign of his morality that he does not feel himself adequate to place himself as a martyr for the cause of justice when he is given the choice to save himself at the end of the play.


Elizabeth Proctor The wife of John Proctor, Elizabeth shares with John a similarly strict adherence to justice and moral principles She is a woman who has great confidence in her own morality and in the ability of a person to maintain a sense of righteousness, both internal and external, even when this principle conflicts with strict Christian doctrine. Although she is regarded as a woman of unimpeachable honesty, it is this reputation that causes her husband to be condemned when she lies about his affair with Abigail, thinking it will save him. However, Elizabeth can be a cold and demanding woman, whose chilly demeanor may have driven her husband to adultery and whose continual suspicions of her husband render their marriage tense. Abigail Williams A seventeen year-old girl who is the niece of Reverend Parris, Abigail was the Proctors' servant before Elizabeth fired her for having an affair with John. She is a malicious, vengeful girl who, in an attempt to protect herself from punishment after Reverend Parris finds them dancing, instigates the Salem witch trials and leads the charge of accusations. Despite her accusations, Abigail is an unabashed liar who charges witchcraft against those who oppose her, even Elizabeth Proctor in an attempt to take her place as Proctor's wife. Abigail's callous nature stems partially from past trauma; she is an orphan who watched as her parents were murdered by Indians. Deputy Governor Danforth The deputy governor of Massachusetts presides over the Salem witch trials. He is a stern yet practical man more interested in preserving the dignity and stature of the court than in executing justice or behaving with any sense of fairness. He approaches the witchcraft trials with a strict adherence to rules and law that obscure any sense of rationality, for under his legal dictates an accusation of witchery automatically entails a conviction. Danforth shows that his greatest interest is preserving the reputation of the court when he prompts Proctor to sign a confession, thus precluding the backlash of his execution. Reverend Samuel Parris A weak, paranoid and suspicious demagogue, Parris instigates the witchcraft panic when he finds his daughter and niece dancing in the woods with several other girls. Parris is continually beset with fears that others conspire against him. Parris knows the truth that Abigail is lying about the dancing and the witchcraft, but perpetuates the deception because it is in his own self interest. Parris fears any defense against the charges of witchcraft as an attack upon the court and a personal attack on him. As a pastor, his primary concern is personal aggrandizement - he strives for monetary compensation, including the deed to the preacher's house and expensive candlesticks. Reverend John Hale A scholar from Beverly, Reverend Hale comes to Salem on Reverend Parris' request to investigate supernatural causes for Betty Parris' suspicious illness and thus instigates the rumors of witchcraft. Hale approaches the situation precisely and intellectually, believing that he can define the supernatural in definitive terms. Despite his early enthusiasm for discerning the presence of witchcraft in Salem, Hale soon grows disillusioned with the witchcraft accusations that abound and defends Proctor when he challenges Abigail. Hale does this out of guilt, for he fears that he may have caused the execution of innocent persons. Giles Corey An irascible and combative old resident of Salem, Giles Corey is a comic figure in The Crucible whose fate turns tragic when he unwittingly effects his wife's charge for witchcraft when he wonders aloud about the strange books she reads at night. Corey is a frequent plaintiff in court, having brought dozens of lawsuits, and he stands with Proctor in challenging the girls' accusations, believing that Thomas Putnam is using charges of witchcraft to secure land. When Corey refuses to name the person who heard Putnam declare these intentions, Corey is charged with contempt of court and dies when the court orders him to be weighted with stones to coerce him to admit the name. Mary Warren


The eighteen year-old servant in the Proctor household, Mary is one of the girls found dancing in the woods and is complicit in Abigail Williams' schemes. Although weak and tentative, she challenges the Proctors when they forbid her to go to court. However, Mary eventually breaks down and testifies against Abigail until Abigail charges her with witchery. She is a pliable girl whose actions are easily determined by others. Tituba Parris' slave from Barbados, Tituba was with the girls when they danced and attempted to conjure the spirits of Ann Putnam's dead children. She is the first person accused of witchcraft and likewise the first person to accuse others of witchery - particularly when she discovers that the easiest way to spare herself is to admit to the charges no matter their truth. Thomas Putnam One of the wealthiest landowners in Salem, Thomas Putnam is a vindictive, bitter man who holds longstanding grudges against many of the citizens of Salem, including the Nurse family for blocking the appointment of his brother-in-law to the position of minister. Putnam pushes his daughter to charge witchcraft against George Jacobs, for if he is executed, his land will be open for Putnam to purchase. Rebecca Nurse One of the most noble and well-respected citizens of Salem, this elderly woman is kindly and sane, suggesting that Betty's illness is simply a product of being out too late in the cold. However, because she served as midwife to Mrs. Putnam, Rebecca Nurse is charged with the supernatural murder of Putnam's children, who were each stillborn. Rebecca Nurse is the clear martyr in the play, the most pure and saintly character hanged for witchery. Judge Hathorne Hathorne is the judge who presides over the Salem witch trials. He remains largely subservient to Deputy Governor Danforth, but applies the same tortured reasoning to charges of witchcraft. Francis Nurse Francis is the husband of Rebecca Nurse, and a well-respected wealthy landowner in Salem. Francis Nurse joins Giles Corey and John Proctor in their challenge against the court when their respective wives are charged with witchcraft. Betty Parris The young teenager daughter of Reverend Parris, Betty falls mysteriously ill after Reverend Parris finds her dancing in the woods with Abigail and the other young women of Salem. She goes into hysterics when the charges of witchcraft first form, holding delusions that she can fly and exclaiming with horror when she hears the name of Jesus. Sarah Good One of the first women charged with witchery by the girls, she is a homeless woman who confesses to witchcraft to save herself and continues the charade with Tituba, comically claiming that Satan will take her and Tituba to Barbados. Ezekiel Cheever Ezekiel is a clerk of the court who serves the arrest warrants to the persons charged with witchcraft. Mrs. Ann Putnam The wife of Thomas Putnam, Ann suspects that there is some paranormal reason for the stillborn deaths of seven of her children and blames Rebecca Nurse.


Mercy Lewis Mercy Lewis is the Putnam's servant - a fat, sly merciless eighteen year-old girl whom Parris found naked when he spied the girls dancing in the woods. She runs away with Abigail at the end of the play. Susanna Walcott Susanna is one of the girls whom Parris found dancing in the woods, and a confidant of Abigail. Marshal Herrick Marshal is one of the local constables who guards the jail cells while nearly drunk. Hopkins Hopkins is one of the guards at the jail cell.