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“Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life.

Because I lie and sign my name to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on
the feet of those that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given
you my soul; leave me my name!!” - Explore the importance of name and
reputation. Your response should analyze what this means to a selection
of characters from the play and refer to the historic setting in which the
play was set and written.
The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller set in 1692, during the Salem witch
trials. It draws a harrowing parallel between that time, and the McCarthyism that set
to Hollywood in the early 1950s. The story focuses around the Puritan community
of Salem, where the women of the village have been dancing around fires in the
forest at night with black slave Tituba. Dancing, of course, is illegal in the village, as
it is against the ‘Puritan way of life’, which all residents must abide by.

However, in the opening scene of the play, we hear that Tituba and the
women have been casting enchantments over an open fire, and screeching
gibberish was coming from Tituba, and that Rev. Parris saw ‘a dress, and a naked
woman running in the trees’, all suggestions of witchcraft. We also soon hear that
Abigail Williams, one of the women involved, was dismissed from the Proctor
house under strange circumstances. We later learn that she had an affair with John

In the opening scene of the play, two children are also seemingly bewitched.
Eventually, Reverend Hale appears from Beverley, a distant village, alongside a book
listing everything the witches don’t want humans to know, and confronts the
women, including Abigail. They all blame Tituba for the witchcraft, and when they
are so easily believed, they realize they can point the finger at anyone they wish,
and thus the witch hunt begins.

Arthur Miller wrote the play in response to McCarthyism, or more specifically

the Hollywood witch hunt which grasped Hollywood through the early 1950s. The
American public and government felt threatened by the communist way of
thinking, and as such set up the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

Miller himself was convicted of communism in a HUAC (House Un-American

Activities Committee) hearing, and sent to jail for 30 days, given a $500 fine, added
to a blacklist, and even denied a US passport. However, when asked to provide the
names of his friends with similar views, he replied that he would not blacken the
names of others, showing that he respected the names and identities of others.
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The blacklist was unanimous bad news for Hollywood, the wives, husbands
and children of those involved risked never having work again due to the vigorous
constraints of living in a community where you are branded a felon. Many of the
people on the list never worked again until being de-listed, and even after delisting,
the suspicion lived on, and they were never as successful again.

The Hollywood community was very similar in the 1950s to that of Salem in
1692. The community of Salem was very segregated, and sectioned off from the
rest of the world, so to get anywhere, you had to get on with everyone. And people
rarely moved. However, the similarities end there.

Salem was a primarily Puritan society. The Puritans lived a very plain life, and
were of Christian origin. They lived a very tight, some would argue too tight,
regime, where all signs of pleasure where replaced with rules and regiment. On a
Sunday, even sewing was forbidden, as it was considered something one might
enjoy. Only the reading of the bible was permitted.

They feared the devil to a point of fanaticism, banning singing and dancing,
which they felt could lead to the devil (this draws a modern day parallel to the story
of ‘Footloose’, In which dancing is forbidden following an accident). Sadly, this
worry about the devil lead to the tragic happenings of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.

During the trials, nineteen men and women, all having been convicted of
witchcraft, were carted to Gallows Hill, a barren slope near Salem, for hanging.
Another man was pressed to death under heavy stones for refusing to submit to a
trial on witchcraft charges. Hundreds of others faced accusations of witchcraft;
dozens were left in jail for months without trials until the hysteria that swept
through Puritan Massachusetts ended.

John Proctor was, both in real life and in the play, one of those men. In the
play, ‘The Crucible’, John Proctor has a few hundred acres of land (the exact
amount is not made clear) on the outskirts of the village, which he uses for farming.
He lives with his life, Goodie [Elizabeth] Proctor, his three children, and one servant.
He has no slaves. Just over seven months prior to the plays opening, Goodie Proctor
dismisses a second servant, or possibly the only servant at the time, Abigail
Williams, after she discovers she has had an affair with her husband.

John appears to have a relatively good name in the village at the start of the
play, and seems to be in a position of some authority, but isn’t trusted by his wife,
who during a confrontation during the early part of the play is labelled with the
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“Your justice would freeze beer”

This confrontation is made easier to direct thanks to the very specific stage
directions provided throughout the scene by Miller, that help to show the concern
of the characters. For example, the above line, delivered by Proctor, should be

“[Laughing bitterly]”

This could show a level of discontent with Elizabeth, or a general mistrust of

her. It also shows that Proctor finds her arguments amusing but in an offensive way.
It could be described as ‘playing down’ the effect of her argument, and to this
degree could be seen as a defensive ploy to lower her grasp of the argument.

The use of these tactics shows the defensive nature of John and Elizabeths
relationship, and suggests that they are no longer a close couple. As such, this
scene could be directed with a large gap between Elizabeth and Proctor, even
during the conflict. For example, a long table could be used with them sitting at
opposing ends. This layout would resemble a boardroom, and would further the
suggestion of separate parties, in a layout almost looking like a meeting between
divorcees to argue about assets.

At this point in the play, Mary Warren enters the scene. We can see from the
stage directions provided by Miller, followed by John’s dialog, that he is worried
about Mary.

“[MARY WARREN enters. As soon as he sees her, he goes directly to her and
grabs her by the cloak, furious.] How dare you go to Salem when I forbid it? Do you
mock me? [Shaking her.] I’ll whip you if you dare leave this house again!”

We can see from these lines that Proctor is worried about Mary’s involvement
with the court, and also the worry about being mocked shows he cares a lot about
his reputation. The worry that increases later in the scene, when Warren makes a
shocking revelation.

“[Pointing at Elizabeth] I saved her life today!”

At this point in the scene, when Mary reveals that Elizabeth was accused of
witchcraft, the stage directions show anger towards Warren from Proctor, but later,
once she is left, the stage directions tell a different story, that shows there is still
compassion in the relationship, which is not seen in the script.
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“[He speaks quietly, trying to keep his wits.]”

In my eyes, this shows that Proctor really cares about Elizabeth, and is truly
worried about her, and as such I would direct this scene so at this point the
characters move closer together, to share this moment of fear and worry together.
However, Elizabeth has still shown worry in this key scene that Proctor may still has
feelings for Abigail.

When we first see him alone with Abigail in the play, however, he makes it
very clear that he is not interested in pursuing another relationship with her, but she
retaliates by saying that he still loves her, and she still loves him. While he shows
some signs of disgust at this, he does not specifically deny it, even admitting it at
one point.

“Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand
before I’ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.”

However, by the latter parts of the play, the relationship and trust between
Elizabeth and John is increased, after he is convicted of communicating with the
devil. Reverend John Hale, who does not believe that Proctor is guilty of witchcraft,
convinces the town to offer Proctor a plea bargain and set him free from the noose,
which leads to a high octane scene of the play in which Proctor refuses to sign his

“Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my life. Because I lie

and sign my name to lies! Because I’m not worth the dust on the feet of those that
hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my

This shows John’s obvious concern about losing his name and reputation in a
tight knit community such as Salem, however, John also acknowledges that a name
is not important only to him, but also to future generations of his children, and his
relatives, when he is asked to name his friends as worshipers of the devil:

“I have three children - how may I teach them to walk like men in the world,
and I sold my friends?”

This attitude showing a refusal to sell out on his friends, and name them as
devil worshippers is also shown earlier in the scene, where he states:

“I speak my own sins; I cannot judge another. I have no tongue for it.”

This is a strikingly similar line to that used by Miller during his trial at the HUAC,
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which was:

“"I could not use the name of another person and bring trouble on him.”

These two lines both show disgust at the idea of sharing, or with the strong
implication from Miller, fictionalizing, names of people to accuse. Some would say
that this is one of the strongest suggestions in the play of a direct correlation
between the Crucible and Millers experience at HUAC.

Proctor refuses to sign his name because he is worried about the effects on
himself and his family, but he is not the only character in the Crucible to whom
name and public opinion is important. People like his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, who
makes the decision to lie about the elicit relationship between Abigail and her
husband in court, sadly leading to his eventual conviction.

Why would Elizabeth lie for her husband? Reputation. We can only assume
that Elizabeth is embarrassed about what her husband did with Abigail, as any
human being would be, as Proctor explains to the court:

“She only thought to save my name”

Elizabeth, indeed, shows a significant amount of concern at the proceedings

after she discovers John had already confessed with her reply of “Oh God”, showing
that she had realized the problem she had caused for both herself and indeed for
her husband. In the same scene, however, Reverend John Hale also risks his

Not much is known about Reverend John Hale, a man of knowledge who
travels to Salem from another village. He travels alone with a book that the devil
cannot hide from, but found no evidence of witchcraft in the village he was last. He
promises the people of Salem that he will conduct a fair search for witches, but the
villagers soon become far too eager to point the finger at family and friends. Hale is
the second person to know of the dancing after Parris, and ensures that all of the
girls who where dancing are rounded up for questioning. Unfortunately, in an
attempt to save themselves from the whip, they choose to play false witness in

However, once Elizabeth is removed from the court, Hale states:

“Excellency, it is a natural lie to tell; I beg you, stop now before another is
condemned! I may shut my conscience to it no more - private vengeance is
working through this testimony! From the beginning this man has struck me true.
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By my oath to Heaven, I believe him now, and I pray you call back his wife…”

At the end of the act, Hale walks out on the court, saying:

“I denounce these proceedings […] I denounce these proceedings, and I quit

this court!”

Here, Hale puts his reputation on the line to try and save someone else’s name
and reputation, which shows an unbeknown selfless nature to his character, a
quality that does not befit Abigail Williams, who is another central character in the

Abigail’s uncle is Reverend Parris, who ordered the witch hunt at Salem, and
she lives in the same house as the black slave Tituba, the first person to be accused
of witchcraft, and also Betty Parris, the daughter of the Reverend, and the first to be

Abigail has a self proclaimed ‘good name in the village’ even following having
an affair with John Proctor. She was then dismissed from the Proctor house, but
when asked why states:

“She hates me uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bitter
woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!”

The above quote, referring to Goody Proctor, shows one of the many times
Abigail is willing to lie to accent and increase her reputation as a reliable member of
society at large. She accuses others of witchcraft, but there is a real possibility that
she herself was the one partaking it it, as we hear in the first scene of the play a
story of her dancing in the wood with Tituba. Abigail, of course, eventually blames
Tituba for releasing the devil into the village, a clear example of racial hatred, and
exploitation of the less educated.

To conclude, every principle character in the Crucible holds a lot of power

based on reputation, and we are shown quite how dangerous power in the wrong
hands can be with the character of Abigail Williams, who is willing to lie to an open
court, and make falsehoods about people because she does not like them, or, in the
case of Elizabeth Proctor simply want them out of the way. Abigail's plan, however,
falls apart when John refuses to escape with her across the state boundary, and
instead chooses to hang himself.

In the 1950s Hollywood witch trials, Miller was also offered an escape clause, a
chance to not to go jail or be fined if he gave up the names of his friends, but
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showing similar determination to Proctor, he refused, and accepted the

consequences of the HUAC, which cost him 30 days in jail, and nearly a year of his
life wasted on the blacklist, and his reputation tarnished for even longer.

The same tarnishing of reputation is seen in the story of Salem also, as even
when the ‘witches’ are released from their cells and cleared of all charges, a sense
of suspicion remains throughout their village, and also for the children of those who
hanged for years after the event.

To the people of Salem, a name was very important. It couldn’t be changed,

and as it was hard or impossible to move from Salem during 1692, it would stay
with you all your life. Your name is directly linked to your reputation, more so than
your appearance, or your character. Everybody knows you by your name before
anything else.

So is reputation given too much presence in our society? Is there too much
power provided by good reputation that it can be exploited by those who wish to
use it for no good? Does our social status effect our reputation? I’m sure most of us
would be more likely to trust a police officer than a manual laborer, even if the first
is less genuine than the second.

People still make decisions based on names and ranks, and while it is now
easier to change your name and loose some of your reputation, reputation is still
just as important, just as essential, as it was all those years ago. People care about
their names because names are a passport to our future, a reference point for
employers, friends and colleagues, and while the world is bigger for us than for the
people of Salem, the access of the internet brings the world together far more
closely than ever before.

Our world needs more people like Arthur Miller. People who in times of strain
will not give up their name. People who will stand for what they believe for,
because those people are the future.
Mark Howson