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THE CRUCIBLE

Arther Miller
(1915-2005)

“A dramatist is one of the audiences who happen


to know how to speak.”
Arther Miller

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LIFE AND WORKS OF ARTHER MILLER
Arthur Miller is one of the leading American playwrights of the
twentieth century and a celebrity of nearly equal notoriety. He was born in
October of 1915 in New York City, the son of a ladies-wear manufacturer
who was ruined during the economic collapse of the 1930s. As a young man
during the Great Depression, Miller was shaped by the poverty that
surrounded him, which demonstrated to him the insecurity of modern
existence. After graduation from high school he worked in a warehouse so
that he could earn enough money to attend the University of Michigan,
where he began to write plays.
Miller’s first public success was Focus (1945), a novel about anti-
Semitism, but it was with All My Sons two years later that Miller emerged
as an important playwright. All My Sons is a drama about a manufacturer of
faulty war materials that strongly shows the influence of Henrik Ibsen. It
was with Death of a Salesman in 1949 that Miller secured his reputation as
one of the nation's foremost playwrights. Death of a Salesman mixes the
tradition of social realism that informs most of Miller’s work with a more
experimental structure that includes fluid leaps in time as the protagonist,
Willy Loman, drifts into memories of his sons as teenagers. Loman stands as
an American archetype, a victim of his own delusions of grandeur and
obsession with success that haunts him in his failure. Miller won a Tony
Award for Death of a Salesman as well as a Pulitzer Prize. The play has
been frequently revived in film, television and stage versions that have
included such diverse actors as Dustin Hoffman, George C. Scott and, most
recently, Brian Dennehy as Willy Loman.
Miller followed Death of a Salesman with his most politically
significant work, The Crucible (1953), a tale of the Salem witch trials that
contains obvious analogies to the McCarthy anti-Communist hearings of
Miller’s contemporary society. Three years later, in 1956, Miller found
himself part of these hearings when he was called to testify before the House
Un-American Activities Committee. Miller refused to name people he
allegedly saw at a Communist writers' meeting a decade before and was
convicted of contempt. However, he appealed this verdict and later won.
That same year Miller married actress Marilyn Monroe. The two divorced in
1961, the year of her death. That year Monroe appeared in her last film, The
Misfits, which is based on an original screenplay by Miller. After divorcing

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Monroe, Miller wed Ingeborg Morath, to whom he is still married. The two
have a son and a daughter.
Miller also wrote the plays A Memory of Two Mondays and the short A
View from the Bridge, which were both staged in 1955. His other works
include After the Fall (1964), a thinly veiled account of his marriage to
Monroe, as well as The Price (1967), The Archbishop’s Ceiling (1977) and
The American Clock (1980). His most recent works include the plays The
Ride Down Mt. Morgan (1991), The Last Yankee (1993) and Broken Glass
(1993), which won the Olivier Award for Best Play.
Although Miller has not written significantly for film, he did pen an
adaptation for the 1996 film version of The Crucible starring Daniel Day-
Lewis and Winona Ryder, which garnered him an Academy Award
nomination. Miller’s daughter Rebecca married Day-Lewis in 1996.
MILLER THE ARTIST
“The American Dream is the largely unacknowledged screen in front of
which all American writing plays itself out,” Arthur Miller has said.
“Whoever is writing in the United States is using the American Dream as an
ironical pole of his story. People elsewhere tend to accept, to a far greater
degree anyway, that the conditions of life are hostile to man’s pretensions.”
In Miller’s more than thirty plays, which have won him a Pulitzer Prize and
multiple Tony Awards, he puts in question “death and betrayal and injustice
and how we are to account for this little life of ours.”
For nearly six decades, Miller has been creating characters that wrestle
with power conflicts, personal and social responsibility, the repercussions of
past actions, and the twin poles of guilt and hope. In his writing and in his
role in public life, Miller articulates his profound political and moral
convictions. He once said he thought theatre could “change the world.” The
Crucible, which premiered in 1953, is a fictionalisation of the Salem witch-
hunts of 1692, but it also deals in an allegorical manner with the House Un-
American Activities Committee. In a note to the play, Miller writes, “A
political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with
diabolical malevolence.” Dealing as it did with highly charged current
events, the play received unfavourable reviews and Miller was cold-
shouldered by many colleagues. When the political situation shifted, Death
of a Salesman went on to become Miller’s most celebrated and most
produced play, which he directed at the People’s Art Theatre in Beijing in
1983.

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A modern tragedian, Miller says he looks to the Greeks for inspiration,
particularly Sophocles. “I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we
are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need
be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity,” Miller writes. “From
Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the
individual attempting to gain his 'rightful' position in his society.” Miller
considers the common man “as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense
as kings was.” Death of a Salesman, which opened in 1949, tells the story of
Willy Loman, an aging salesman who makes his way “on a smile and a
shoeshine.” Miller lifts Willy’s illusions and failures, his anguish and his
family relationships, to the scale of a tragic hero. The fear of being displaced
or having our image of what and who we are destroyed is best known to the
common man, Miller believes. “It is time that we, who are without kings,
took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it
can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man.”
Arthur Asher Miller, the son of a women’s clothing company owner,
was born in 1915 in New York City. His father lost his business in the
Depression and the family was forced to move to a smaller home in
Brooklyn. After graduating from high school, Miller worked jobs ranging
from radio singer to truck driver to clerk in an automobile-parts warehouse.
Miller began writing plays as a student at the University of Michigan,
joining the Federal Theatre Project in New York City after he received his
degree. His first Broadway play, The Man Who Had All the Luck, opened in
1944 and his next play, All My Sons, received the Drama Critics' Circle
Award. His 1949 Death of a Salesman won the Pulitzer Prize. In 1956 and
1957, Miller was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities
Committee and was convicted of contempt of Congress for his refusal to
identify writers believed to hold Communist sympathies.
The following year, the United States Court of Appeals overturned the
conviction. In 1959 the National Institute of Arts and Letters awarded him
the Gold Medal for Drama. Miller has been married three times: to Mary
Grace Slattery in 1940, Marilyn Monroe in 1956, and photographer Inge
Morath in 1962, with whom he lives in Connecticut. He and Inge have a
daughter, Rebecca. Among his works are A View from the Bridge, The
Misfits, After the Fall, Incident at Vichy, The Price, The American Clock,
Broken Glass, Mr. Peters' Connections, and Timebends, his autobiography.
Miller's writing has earned him a lifetime of honours, including the Pulitzer
Prize, seven Tony Awards, two Drama Critics Circle Awards, an Obie, an
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Olivier, the John F. Kennedy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Dorothy
and Lillian Gish prize. He holds honorary doctorate degrees from Oxford
University and Harvard University.
Throughout his life and work, Miller has remained socially engaged and
has written with conscience, clarity, and compassion. As Chris Keller says to
his mother in All My Sons, “Once and for all you must know that there’s a
universe of people outside, and you're responsible to it.” Miller’s work is
infused with his sense of responsibility to humanity and to his audience.
“The playwright is nothing without his audience,” he writes.
“He is one of the audiences who happen to know how to speak.”
THE WITCH-HUNTING AND HISTORICAL SCENES IN THE
TIME OF “THE CRUCIBLE”
“The Crucible” is a political play pertaining to the backdrop midst of
twentieth century in general history of the world. In 1951, America was
passing through difficult circumstances. After the 2nd World War
Communism was having its impact on the world. Most of the countries and
nations were becoming communist e.g. Korea, Vietnam and Algeria.
Capitalism was in its defence.
There was a rivalry in nuclear fields and conquering to star world.
Russia was in escort in this respect. Russia first sent Spuntink-1, China was
expanding but America was trying to stop China. There was a cold war in
Loascom. It was not an open armed conflict between U.S.A and Union of
Soviet. State of Republic, both super power U.S.A and U.S.S.R were trying
to destroy each other though in cold manners. America wanted to check the
growing interest of communists. Intellectuals of the world started to
appreciate the communism e.g. B. Russell.
Early kings of the Russia were called “Czar”. In their period, they
occupied many territories of Iran. But when Communism dominated Russia,
they returned these areas. This thing brought Muslims in favour of
communism. There started a great movement of “Islamic Socialism”. There
is no difference between Islam and Socialism. Both want equality.
In 1936, in Spain, came the Government of France, as the leaders of
Fascists. They were against communism. So he started to crush communists
in Spain. Intellectuals from the entire world started together in Spain to
participate in war. There was a war between rightist and leftist. America and
Britain support France to stop communism.

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Under American instructions, there started Islamic movements from
Turkey to Indonesia and they say that communists are heathen and are not
like Muslims. So most of Islamic movements are the creation of them.
Mujahedeen were produced in order to encounter the communists. In this
way the influence of communism was tried to break. In this regard there
started the search of communists in America and the whole world.
American feels that communist had entered in their Government. In the
area from Turkey to Indonesia, communists were banned by America and
Islamic religious parties were brought to front. U.S, Senate created a
committee called Un American Activities Committee. They arrested
everyone whom they suspected to be communist by declaring them witches.
This was called witch hunting. There was no way for agents of communism.
They either, punished them or put into prisons or sent into madhouses. If one
wanted to escape from the charge of communism. There is only one way, to
name other one. Many were killed, many went underworld, and many
committed suicide. Everyone felt unsafe.
Miller, the great artist, wrote his play in this context. He found an
artistic way of bringing up the political issue in aesthetic style. He picked up,
from the history of U.S.A, a well known case of witch hunting in
seventeenth century in a town of Salem. He wrote about the incidents of the
seventeenth century. There were rumours that witches were in this town and
they picked up children. People started to use these rumours for their
personal interest. The play was very successive but the reference to 19th
century witch hunting was too obvious. The chairman of Un American
Activities Committee was Senator Joseph McCarthy investigated
particularly university teachers, trade unionists and artists of all kinds.
That’s why Miller was restricted to go to foreign countries.
Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, is based upon actual events in
Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Some facts, as Miller admits in the
introduction, have been changed. Abigail, for instance was only 11 at the
time of the trials and John Proctor was 60. An affair between the two of
them is a somewhat far-fetched idea. Betty Parris, who was six at the time,
became strangely ill sometime after February 1692. She complained of a
fever and crashed about the house in pain.
There is much speculation about the actual cause of her symptoms. A
man named Cotton Mather had recently published a book called Memorable
Providences describing the suspected witchcraft of a woman in
Boston. Betty’s behaviour in many ways mirrored that described in the
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book. Closer attention was paid when Abigail Williams, eleven-year-old
Ann Putnam Jr. (called Ruth in Miller's play), seventeen-year-old Mercy
Lewis and Mary Walcott (Susanna) began to exhibit similar symptoms.
When Dr. Griggs could not cure the children, he naturally suggested that
some supernatural force must be at work. An increasingly larger group,
which also grew to include adults, began to complain of afflictions.
Sometime after February 25, Betty and Abigail named their tormentors with
such consistent stories that it seems that the girls must have been working
their stories out together. The first people to be accused of witchcraft
(Tituba, Sarah Osborn, and Sarah Good) were outsiders.
It was easy for the pious townspeople to believe that those who differed
from them were influenced by the devil. The antics in the court proceedings
went much as Miller portrayed. Displays of the victim’s apparent affliction
when in the presence of the witch were considered valid evidence of guilt.
The fervour may have died down at that point but Tituba, who had been
adamantly denying involvement in witchcraft, proclaimed that she had been
approached by a tall man who asked her to sign his book. She stated that she
and four others, including Sarah Good and Sarah Osborn, were in fact
witches and flew through the air on poles. At this point, the witch hunting
took off. Even the four-year old daughter of Sarah Good, Dorcas, was
accused and jailed. Bridget Bishop, the sixty-year-old owner of a house of
ill repute was the first brought to trial. She was the most likely of the
prisoners to be convicted considering her deviant behaviour (in terms of the
standards at the time). After her conviction however, one of the judges,
Saltonstall, resigned in disgust. (It is interesting to know that the author
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a descendant of Judge Hathorne. The w was
added to distinguish future generations from the shameful actions of the
Salem judge.) Bridget Bishop was hanged on June 10, 1692.
As time went on the accused were not as disreputable as Bishop.
Rebecca Nurse was actually found not guilty but Chief Justice Stoughton
urged the jury to reconsider and she was condemned. John Proctor was
actually a tavern owner (not a farmer as in the play) and was openly critical
of the witch-hunts. He was an example of what would happen to those who
spoke out against the proceedings. Proctor was hanged August 19, 1692.
Doubt in the validity of the accusations finally began when the Ex-Reverend
George Burroughs was hung. He recited the Lord’s Prayer perfectly, which
was thought impossible for one in league with the Devil. Cotton Mather, the

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author, was in attendance that day and it was his intervention that brought
the people back to supporting the trials.
After all, an innocent person would not be convicted. Giles Corey was
as the play reports, pressed to death for refusing to enter a plea to the charge
of witchcraft against him. His wife Martha was hanged three days later with
7 other convicted witches. Her group would be the last to die. Salem was
regaining its senses. Reverend John Hale and the villagers found it
increasingly harder to believe that so many respectable people would turn to
the Devil all at once. Increase Mather, the father of Cotton, began to argue
against the use of spectral evidence (Cotton had been a strong force in
allowing its use). Without spectral evidence, most of the remaining trials
ended in acquittals. Reverend Parris was replaced though he tried to blame
those around him. Many of those involved also tried to place the blame on
others. Those still in prison were released and in later years, the families of
the executed were compensated. The people of Salem still remember the
terrible events of their history. The Salem Witch Museum is an integral part
of the town as is a stone wall with jutting slabs bearing the names of the
dead.
When John Proctor is asked to recall his Ten Commandments (a witch
could not), he forgets adultery just as he literally forgot when he chose to
have an affair with Abigail.
Proctor calls Hale Pontius Pilate. Hale sees the injustice being done yet
he is willing to go along with the will of the people (the court) in order to
protect himself as the biblical figure allowed the crucifixion of Jesus. Hale
is not acting in a just manner. By the time he changes his ways, it is too late
for him to have any influence. If Hale is Pontius Pilate, the innocent victims
of the tragedy are like Jesus. Christians believe that Jesus died to save future
generations. Those who learn from the deaths in Salem are also saved.
They are saved from repeating history and suffering another great loss of
life.
A SHORT SUMMARY OF “THE CRUCIBLE”
In the Puritan New England town of Salem, Massachusetts, a group of
girls goes dancing in the forest with a black slave named Tittuba. While
dancing, they are caught by the local minister, Reverend Paris. One of the
girls, Parris's daughter Betty falls into a coma-like state. A crowd gathers in
the Parris home while rumours of witchcraft fill the town. Having sent for
Reverend Hale, an expert on witchcraft, Parris questions Abigail Williams,
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the girls’ ringleader, about the events that took place in the forest. Abigail,
who is Parris's niece and ward, admits to doing nothing beyond “dancing.”
While Parris tries to calm the crowd that has gathered in his home,
Abigail talks to some of the other girls, telling them not to admit to anything.
John Proctor, a local farmer, then enters and talks to Abigail alone.
Unbeknownst to anyone else in the town, while working in Proctor's home
the previous year she engaged in an affair with him, which led to her being
fired by his wife, Elizabeth. Abigail still desires Proctor, but he fends her off
and tells her to end her foolishness with the girls.
Betty wakes up and begins screaming. Much of the crowd rushes
upstairs and gathers in her bedroom, arguing over whether she is bewitched.
A separate argument between Proctor, Parris, the argumentative Giles
Corey, and the wealthy Thomas Putnam soon ensues. This dispute centre s
on money and land deeds, and it suggests that deep fault lines run through
the Salem community. As the men argue, Reverend Hale arrives and
examines Betty, while Proctor departs. Hale quizzes Abigail about the girls’
activities in the forest, grows suspicious of her behaviour, and demands to
speak to Tittuba. After Parris and Hale interrogate her for a brief time,
Tittuba confesses to communing with the devil, and she hysterically accuses
various townsfolk of consorting with the devil. Suddenly, Abigail joins her,
confessing to having seen the devil conspiring and cavorting with other
townspeople. Betty joins them in naming witches, and the crowd is thrown
into an uproar.
A week later, alone in their farmhouse outside of town, John and
Elizabeth Proctor discuss the ongoing trials and the escalating number of
townsfolk who have been accused of being witches. Elizabeth urges her
husband to denounce Abigail as a fraud; he refuses, and she becomes
jealous, accusing him of still harbouring feelings for her. Mary Warren, their
servant and one of Abigail's circle, returns from Salem with news that
Elizabeth has been accused of witchcraft but the court did not pursue the
accusation. Mary is sent up to bed, and John and Elizabeth continue their
argument, only to be interrupted by a visit from Reverend Hale. While they
discuss matters, Giles Corey and Francis Nurse come to the Proctor home
with news that their wives have been arrested. Officers of the court suddenly
arrive and arrest Elizabeth. After they have taken her, Proctor browbeats
Mary, insisting that she must go to Salem and expose Abigail and the other
girls as frauds.

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The next day, Proctor brings Mary to court and tells Judge Danforth that
she will testify that the girls are lying. Danforth is suspicious of Proctor's
motives and tells Proctor, truthfully, that Elizabeth is pregnant and will be
spared for a time. Proctor persists in his charge, convincing Danforth to
allow Mary to testify. Mary tells the court that the girls are laying. When the
girls are brought in, they turn the tables by accusing Mary of bewitching
them. Furious, Proctor confesses his affair with Abigail and accuses her of
being motivated by jealousy of his wife. To test Proctor's claim, Danforth
summons Elizabeth and asks her if Proctor has been unfaithful to her.
Despite her natural honesty, she lies to protect Proctor's honour, and
Danforth denounces Proctor as a liar. Meanwhile, Abigail and the girls again
pretend that Mary is bewitching them, and Mary breaks down and accuses
Proctor of being a witch. Proctor rages against her and against the court. He
is arrested, and Hale quits the proceedings.
The summer passes and autumn arrives. The witch trials have caused
unrest in neighbouring towns, and Danforth grows nervous. Abigail has run
away, taking all of Parris’s money with her. Hale, who has lost faith in the
court, begs the accused witches to confess falsely in order to save their lives,
but they refuse. Danforth, however, has an idea: he asks Elizabeth to talk
John into confessing, and she agrees. Conflicted, but desiring to live, John
agrees to confess, and the officers of the court rejoice. But he refuses to
incriminate anyone else, and when the court insists that the confession must
be made public, Proctor grows angry, tears it up, and retracts his admission
of guilt. Despite Hale’s desperate pleas, Proctor goes to the gallows with the
others, and the witch trials reach their awful conclusion.

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A CRITIQUE OF THE CRUCIBLE
The Crucible is a fictional retelling of events in American history
surrounding the Salem witch trials of the seventeenth century, yet is as much
a product of the time in which Arthur Miller wrote it, the early 1950s, as it is
description of Puritan society. The Salem witch trials took place from June
through September of 1692, during which time nineteen men and women
were hanged at Gallows Hill near Salem, while another man, Giles Corey,
was pressed to death for refusing to submit to a trial on witchcraft charges.
Hundreds of other persons faced accusations of witchcraft and dozens more
languished in jail without trials. As the play describes, the witchcraft trials
began because of the illness of Betty Parris, the daughter of the Salem
minister, Reverend Samuel Parris, a former merchant in Barbados. Before
Betty Parris fell ill, Cotton Mather had published “Memorable Providences,”
describing the suspected witchcraft of an Irish washerwoman in Boston, and
Betty Parris' hysteria mirrored those of the suspected Irish witch. Other girls,
including Ruth Putnam and Mercy Lewis also exhibited similar symptoms.
However, actual events diverge from the narrative of the play. The Parris'
slave, Tituba (who was likely a South American Arawak Indian and not
African), immediately came under suspicion. As a form of counter-magic,
Tituba was ordered to bake a rye cake with the urine of the afflicted victim
and to feed the cake to a dog. This added to suspicions of witchcraft by
Tituba, and led to the slave becoming one of the first women accused, along
with Sarah Good and Sarah Osburn. Although most of the women first
accused of witchcraft were considered disreputable, several reputable
members of the community were soon executed, including Rebecca Nurse
(featured in the play), the most controversial execution, George Burroughs,
the former minister in Salem. One of the most flamboyant of the women
executed was Bridget Bishop, a woman who had been married several times
and was known as the mistress of two Salem taverns and had a reputation for
dressing more artistically than the women of the village.
Sir William Phips, the Governor of Massachusetts, created a new court
to oversee the witchcraft cases. The Chief Justice of this court was William
Stoughton, an avid witch-hunter who allowed many deviations from normal
courtroom procedure including the admission of spectral evidence
(testimony by afflicted persons that they had been visited by a suspect’s
spectre) and private conversations between accusers and judges.

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By the early autumn of 1692, the cries of witchcraft began to ebb and
doubts began to develop concerning the validity of the charges. The
educated elite of the colony began efforts to end the witch-hunting hysteria
that had enveloped Salem. Increase Mather, the father of Cotton, published
“Cases of Conscience,” which argued that it “were better that ten suspected
witches should escape than one innocent person should be condemned.”
Mather urged the court to exclude spectral evidence. A period of atonement
soon occurred in which Samuel Sewall, one of the judges, issued a public
confession of guilt and apology, and Reverend Parris admitted errors in
judgment. He did, however, attempt to shift the blame to others. Governor
Phips shifted the blame to Stoughton, who became the next Governor of
Massachusetts.
However, Miller wrote The Crucible not simply as a straight historical
play detailing the Salem witch trials. Indeed, a good deal of the information
in the play misrepresents the literal events of the trial: John Proctor was not
a farmer, not a tavern owner, and during the time of the trials he was sixty
years old and Abigail Williams only eleven. Rather, the play has as much
significance as a product of the early Cold War era in which Miller wrote the
play. The play is a parable for the McCarthy era, in which similar Witch
hunts’ occurred targeting citizens as communists rather than disciples of
Satan.
Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy was an undistinguished member of
the Senate until February 1950, when he made the public charge that 205
Communists had infiltrated the State department. Upon subsequent
testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, McCarthy
proved unable to produce the name of any “card-carrying” communists, but
he gained increasing popular support for his campaign of accusations.
Although he was later denounced, he promoted unfounded accusations and
suspicions of communism in many quarters, most prominently within the
entertainment industry through the House Un-American Activities
Committee (HUAC).
HUAC investigated communism within Hollywood, calling a number of
playwrights, directors and actors known for left-wing views to testify.
Although some of these, including film director Elia Kazan, testified for the
committee to avoid prison sentences, but the Hollywood Ten, a group of
entertainers, refused to testify and were convicted of contempt and sentenced
to up to one year in prison. Over three hundred other entertainers were
placed on a blacklist for possible communist views and were thus forbidden
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to work for major Hollywood studios (many of these were writers who
worked under pseudonyms at the time, including Dalton Trumbo and
Michael Wilson). Arthur Miller was one of these blacklisted. The blacklist
prevented these men from receiving screen credit during this time, until
actor Kirk Douglas pushed for Trumbo to receive screen credit for his
adaptation of Spartacus for Stanley Kubrick in 1960, thus finally breaking
the blacklist.
Early in the year 1692, in the small Massachusetts village of Salem, a
collection of girls fell ill, falling victim to hallucinations and seizures. In
extremely religious Puritan New England, frightening or surprising
occurrences were often attributed to the devil or his cohorts. The
unfathomable sickness spurred fears of witchcraft, and it was not long before
the girls, and then many other residents of Salem, began to accuse other
villagers of consorting with devils and casting spells. Old grudges and
jealousies spilled out into the open, fuelling the atmosphere of hysteria. The
Massachusetts government and judicial system, heavily influenced by
religion, rolled into action. Within a few weeks, dozens of people were in
jail on charges of witchcraft. By the time the fever had run its course, in late
August 1692, nineteen people (and two dogs) had been convicted and
hanged for witchcraft.
Drawing on research on the witch trials he had conducted while an
undergraduate, Miller composed The Crucible in the early 1950s. Miller
wrote the play during the brief ascendancy of Senator Joseph McCarthy, a
demagogue whose vitriolic anti-Communism proved the spark needed to
propel the United States into a dramatic and fractious anti-Communist
fervour during these first tense years of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.
Led by McCarthy, special congressional committees conducted highly
controversial investigations intended to root out Communist sympathizers in
the United States. As with the alleged witches of Salem, suspected
Communists were encouraged to confess and to identify other Red
sympathizers as means of escaping punishment. The policy resulted in a
whirlwind of accusations. As people began to realize that they might be
condemned as Communists regardless of their innocence, many
“cooperated,” attempting to save themselves through false confessions,
creating the image that the United States was overrun with Communists and
perpetuating the hysteria. The liberal entertainment industry, in which Miller
worked, was one of the chief targets of these “witch hunts,” as their
opponents termed them. Some cooperated; others, like Miller, refused to
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give in to questioning. Those who were revealed, falsely or legitimately, as
Communists, and those who refused to incriminate their friends, saw their
careers suffer, as they were blacklisted from potential jobs for many years
afterward.
At the time of its first performance, in January of 1953, critics and cast
alike perceived The Crucible as a direct attack on McCarthyism (the policy
of sniffing out Communists). Its comparatively short run, compared with
those of Miller’s other works, was blamed on anti-Communist fervour.
When Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were accused of spying for the Soviets
and executed, the cast and audience of Miller’s play observed a moment of
silence. Still, there are difficulties with interpreting The Crucible as a strict
allegorical treatment of 1950s McCarthyism. For one thing, there were, as
far as one can tell, no actual witches or devil-worshipers in Salem. However,
there were certainly Communists in 1950s America, and many of those who
were lionized as victims of McCarthyism at the time, such as the Rosenberg
and Alger Hiss (a former State Department official), were later found to
have been in the pay of the Soviet Union. Miller’s Communist friends, then,
were often less innocent than the victims of the Salem witch trials, like the
stalwart Rebecca Nurse or the tragic John Procter.
If Miller took unknowing liberties with the facts of his own era, he also
played fast and loose with the historical record. The general outline of events
in The Crucible corresponds to what happened in Salem of 1692, but
Miller's characters are often composites. Furthermore, his central plot
device—the affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor—has no
grounding in fact (Proctor was over sixty at the time of the trials, while
Abigail was only eleven). Thus, Miller’s decision to set sexual jealousy at
the root of the hysteria constitutes a dramatic contrivance.
In an odd way, then, The Crucible is best read outside its historical
context—not as a perfect allegory for anti-Communism, or as a faithful
account of the Salem trials, but as a powerful and timeless depiction of how
intolerance and hysteria can intersect and tear a community apart. In John
Proctor, Miller gives the reader a marvellous tragic hero for any time—a
flawed figure who finds his moral centre just as everything is falling to
pieces around him.

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MOST EXPECTED QUESTIONS
Q: WHAT IS “THE CRUCIBLE” ABOUT?
Q: WHAT ARE THE MAIN THEMES DEALT IN “THE
CRUCIBLE”?
Ans:
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a
literary work. 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 individual's soul are matters of public concern. There is no room for
deviation from social norms, since any individual whose private life doesn’t
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
Danaforth says,
“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 community's purity); the trials
brand all social deviants with the taint of devil-worship and thus necessitate
their elimination from the community.
Another critical theme in The Crucible is the role that hysteria can play
in tearing apart a community. Hysteria step into the shoes of logic and
enables people to believe that their neighbours, 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.
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The wealthy, ambitious Thomas Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse
by getting Rebecca, Francis’s virtuous wife, convicted of the supernatural
murders of Ann Putnam’s 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 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 Abigail’s increasingly questionable
actions and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s 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, Proctor's 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. By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his
earlier failure and dies with integrity.
Q: WHAT IS A MOTIF? WHAT ARE THE MAIN MOTIFS USED
IN THE PLAY”THE CRUCIBLE”?
Q: DISCUSS SYMBOLISM IN “THE CRUCIBLE”?
Ans:
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can
help to develop and inform the text's major themes. Here some of the main
motifs are discussed used in “The Crucible”.
Empowerment is one of the basic themes in “The Crucible”. The witch
trials empower several characters in the play that are previously
marginalized in Salem society. In general, women occupy the lowest rung of
male-dominated Salem and have few options in life. They work as servants
for townsmen until they are old enough to be married off and have children
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of their own. In addition to being thus restricted, Abigail is also slave to
John Proctor’s sexual whims–he strips away her innocence when he
commits adultery with her, and he arouses her spiteful jealousy when he
terminates their affair. Because the Puritans’ greatest fear is the defiance of
God, Abigail's accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship immediately
command the attention of the court. By aligning herself, in the eyes of
others, with God's will, she gains power over society, as do the other girls in
her pack, and her word becomes virtually unassailable, as do theirs. Tittuba,
whose status is lower than that of anyone else in the play by virtue of the
fact that she is black, manages similarly to deflect blame from herself by
accusing others.
Accusations, confessions, and legal proceedings are common recurrings
in “The Crucible”. The witch trials are central to the action of The Crucible,
and dramatic accusations and confessions fill the play even beyond the
confines of the courtroom. In the first act, even before the hysteria begins,
we see Parris accuse Abigail of dishonouring him, and he then makes a
series of accusations against his parishioners. Giles Corey and Proctor
respond in kind, and Putnam soon joins in, creating a chorus of indictments
even before Hale arrives. The entire witch trial system thrives on
accusations, the only way that witches can be identified, and confessions,
which provide the proof of the justice of the court proceedings. Proctor
attempts to break this cycle with a confession of his own, when he admits to
the affair with Abigail, but this confession is trumped by the accusation of
witchcraft against him, which in turn demands a confession. Proctor’s
courageous decision, at the close of the play, to die rather than confess to a
sin that he did not commit, finally breaks the cycle. The court collapses
shortly afterward, undone by the refusal of its victims to propagate lies.
Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colours used to represent
abstract ideas or concepts. The technique is effectively used in this play.
There is little symbolism within The Crucible, but, in its entirety, the play
can be seen as symbolic of the paranoia about communism that pervaded
America in the 1950s. Several parallels exist between the House Un-
American Activities Committee's rooting out of suspected communists
during this time and the seventeenth-century witch-hunt that Miller depicts
in The Crucible, including the narrow-mindedness, excessive zeal and
disregard for the individuals that characterize the government's effort to
stamp out a perceived social ill.

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Further, as with the alleged witches of Salem, suspected Communists
were encouraged to confess their crimes and to “name names,” identifying
others sympathetic to their radical cause. Some have criticized Miller for
oversimplifying matters, in that while there were (as far as we know) no
actual witches in Salem, there were certainly Communists in 1950s America.
However, one can argue that Miller’s concern in The Crucible is not with
whether the accused actually are witches, but rather with the unwillingness
of the court officials to believe that they are not. In light of McCarthyist
excesses, which wronged many innocents, this parallel was felt strongly in
Miller’s own time.
Q: MILLER IS A MODERN TRAGEDY WRITER, WHO HAS
GIVEN SOME GREAT AND LIVELY CHARACTERS,
DISCUSS?
Q: “THE CRUCIBLE” PRESENTS THE REAL CHARACTERS
FROM REAL AMERICAN SOCIETY, ELABORATE?
Ans:
In a sense, The Crucible has the structure of a classical tragedy, with
John Proctor as the play's tragic hero. Honest, upright, and blunt-spoken,
Proctor is a good man, but one with a secret, fatal flaw. His lust for Abigail
Williams led to their affair (which occurs before the play begins), and
created Abigail's jealousy of his wife, Elizabeth, which sets the entire witch
hysteria in motion.
Once the trials begin, Proctor realizes that he can stop Abigail's
rampage through Salem but only if he confesses to his adultery. Such an
admission would ruin his good name, and Proctor is, above all, a proud man
who places great emphasis on his reputation. He eventually makes an
attempt, through Mary warren's testimony, to name Abigail as a fraud
without revealing the crucial information. When this attempt fails, he finally
bursts out with a confession, calling Abigail a “whore” and proclaiming his
guilt publicly.
Only then does he realize that it is too late, that matters have gone too
far, and that not even the truth can break the powerful frenzy that he has
allowed Abigail to whip up. Proctor’s confession succeeds only in leading to
his arrest and conviction as a witch, and though he lambastes the court and
its proceedings, he is also aware of his terrible role in allowing this fervour
to grow unchecked

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Proctor redeems himself and provides a final denunciation of the witch
trials in his final act. Offered the opportunity to make a public confession of
his guilt and live, he almost succumbs, even signing a written confession.
His immense pride and fear of public opinion compelled him to withhold his
adultery from the court, but by the end of the play he is more concerned with
his personal integrity than his public reputation. He, still, wants to save his
name, but for personal and religious reasons rather than public reasons.
Proctor’s refusal to provide a false confession is a true religious and
personal stand. Such a confession would dishonour his fellow prisoners, who
are brave enough to die as testimony to the truth. Perhaps more relevantly, a
false admission would also dishonour him, staining not just his public
reputation, but also his soul. By refusing to give up his personal integrity
Proctor implicitly proclaims his conviction that such integrity will bring him
to heaven. He goes to the gallows redeemed for his earlier sins. As Elizabeth
says to end the play, responding to Hale's plea that she convince Proctor to
publicly confess:
“He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”
Of the major characters, Abigail is the least complex. She is clearly the
villain of the play, more so than Parris or Danforth: she tells lies,
manipulates her friends and the entire town, and eventually sends nineteen
innocent people to their deaths. Throughout the hysteria, Abigail's
motivations never seem more complex than simple jealousy and a desire to
have revenge on Elizabeth Proctor. The language of the play is almost
Biblical, and Abigail seems like a Biblical character—a Jezebel figure,
driven only by sexual desire and a lust for power. Nevertheless, it is worth
pointing out a few background details that, though they don’t mitigate
Abigail’s guilt, make her actions more understandable.
Abigail is an orphan and an unmarried girl; she thus occupies a low
rung on the Puritan Salem social ladder (the only people below her are the
slaves, like Tituba, and social outcasts). For young girls in Salem, the
minister and the other male adults are God’s earthly representatives, their
authority derived from on high. The trials, then, in which the girls are
allowed to act as though they have a direct connection to God, empower the
previously powerless Abigail. Once shunned and scorned by the respectable
townsfolk who had heard rumours of her affair with John Proctor, Abigail
now finds that she has clout, and she takes full advantage of it. A mere
accusation from one of Abigail's troop is enough to incarcerate and convict
even the well-respected inhabitant of Salem. Whereas others once
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reproached her for her adultery, she now has the opportunity to accuse them
of the worst sin of all: devil-worship.
John Hale, the intellectual, naïve witch-hunter, enters the play in Act I
when Parris summons him to examine his daughter, Betty. In an extended
commentary on Hale in Act I, Miller describes him as “a tight-skinned,
eager-eyed intellectual. This is a beloved errand for him; on being called
here to ascertain witchcraft he has felt the pride of the specialist whose
unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for.” Hale enters in a
flurry of activity, carrying large books and projecting an air of great
knowledge. In the early going, he is the force behind the witch trials,
probing for confessions and encouraging people to testify.
Over the course of the play, however, he experiences a transformation,
one more remarkable than that of any other character. Listening to John
Proctor and Mary Warren, he becomes convinced that they, not Abigail, are
telling the truth. In the climactic scene in the court in Act III, he throws his
lot in with those opposing the witch trials. In tragic fashion, his about-face
comes too late—the trials are no longer in his hands but rather in those of
Danforth and the theocracy, which has no interest in seeing its proceedings
exposed as a sham.
The failure of his attempts to turn the tide renders the once-confident
Hale a broken man. As his belief in witchcraft falters, so does his faith in the
law. In Act IV, it is he who counsels the accused witches to lie, to confess
their supposed sins in order to save their own lives. In his change of heart
and subsequent despair, Hale gains the audience's sympathy but not its
respect, since he lacks the moral fibre of Rebecca Nurse or, as it turns out,
John Proctor. Although Hale recognizes the evil of the witch trials, his
response is not defiance but surrender. He insists that survival is the highest
good, even if it means accommodating oneself to injustice—something that
the truly heroic characters can never accept.
Q: DISCUSS “THE CRUCIBLE” AS A MODERN TRAGEDY?
Q: “THE CRUCIBLE” DRAMATIZES THE CRUELITY OF
McCARTHYISM AND COMMUNISM IN AMERICAN
SOCIETY, ELABOURTE?
Ans:
“The crucible” is a modern tragedy written in the perspective of a
historical incident of Salem’s witchcraft (17th century) but, the play

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highlights the vindictiveness of McCarthyism and Communists trails in
America in 20th century.
The play contains almost all the elements of a modern tragedy. Though
it is quite different from other tragedies as it brings forth a story of historical
importance, yet the protagonist of the play, John Proctor, shares a lot with a
modern man. Miller has blended intellectual, social, moral and
psychological problems of a modern man in the character of Proctor.
There are many arguments whether this play is a tragedy or not. The left
hand critics declare “The Crucible” is not a tragedy as it does not fulfil all
the conditions set by Aristotle, that the protagonist should be a royal birth
and the centre of attention of everyone as it is common in the plays of
Sophocles and Shakespeare to be able to arouse the feelings of pity and fear
associated to a tragedy. But this accusation does not hold much strength, as
in the world of today kings and princes are not present with similar pomp
and show. So, the presentation of a royal figure would be unrealistic and
fictitious.
Moreover, modern man is not confronted with supernatural elements
like the heroes of classical plays. Rather today man is at war with society to
have a dignified and a respectable position in it. Now everyman is a centre
of his own attention. The basic problem of modern man is to determine his
place in his surroundings. So, the concept of tragedy should be changed
according to the requirements of time and age. Thus, a modern tragedy is a
tragedy of a layman because a modern man is a layman. So, modern tragedy
is a tragedy of everyman.
Arthur Miller stands head and shoulders above the modern American
dramatists. He keenly observes the conflict between the aims and objectives
of an individual and his social surroundings, and beautifully presents these
conflicts in his plays. In this play he presents the image of a “guilt-ridden
man”.
John Proctor is a common countryman, a farmer by profession. He is
respected for his uprightness and fear for his sharp dealing with hypocrites.
The writer says that in his presence “A fool felt his foolishness instantly”.
But Proctor also holds guilt on his name. He has been sexually involved with
a girl, Abigail. Proctor is deeply repentant on his sin of adultery and on
betraying his wife, Elizabeth. He cannot came out of this guilt till the end
and feels that his salvation is not possible and that he cannot climb up the

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altar steps with the dignity of righteous people. Consider his statement to
Elizabeth:
“Let them that never lie, die now to keep their souls. It is a pretence
for me, a vanity that will not blind God nor keep my children out of
the wind”.
But he reaches a dignified position through proper decision in the end.
Thus the attention of the playwright is on the moral choice of Proctor.
Though he is a sinner, yet he is a man of good conscience.
It is also to be noted that in Miller’s plays, the catastrophe rises from
some sexual sin. In fact, he wants to enhance the importance of family life, if
the rules of marriage are not abided by the downfall in sure to come in one
or the other way. Miller says:
“I cannot live apart from society”.
He thinks that moral honesty cannot be separated from a commitment to
the society. Though a man and the environment do not merely interact, yet
they are the part of each other “a fish is in water and the water is in fish”.
Miller implies this dictum to every human being and proves it through his
protagonist that every person has to live in harmony with his surroundings.
Proctor has been presented as a rebel of society. He leads a life of
isolation –partly because of his shame and partly of his stubborn manner and
this isolation and inactivity becomes his flaw. At first, Proctor denies the
importance of society stays away from the trails of witch hunt and even
during his trail takes selfish decision to save his life. But later, he has to
accept that he is nothing without his surroundings. He realizes what he owes
to his neighbours. He knows that his acceptance of being a witch would
greatly demoralize the people and they would not fight against this brutal
act.
“I blacken all of them when this (my confession) is nailed to the
church the very day they hang for silence”.
Miller presents self-discovery of his protagonist within all the action of
the play. The self-quest of Proctor begins when Elizabeth repeatedly pleads
him to judge him. He has lost faith in his goodness and needs some outer
action to invoke him to a certain decision. But Elizabeth pushes him to take
his decision and then he asks for divine help and cries out:
“God in Heaven! What is John Proctor!”

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And soon he gets the answer. In the final moments of his life, he
realizes that he has not yet lost tall of his virtue, for at least he knows his
responsibility towards his neighbours. He utters:
“I do think I see shred of goodness in John Proctor”.
On a broader level, “The Crucible”, is also a social tragedy. Miller
describes now innocent people are mercilessly convicted and murdered only
to save an ideology. By the time of the settings of the play, Puritan’s church
and government is losing control over individuals. This is because of the
corruption of priests, presented by Parris in the play. The weirdly vanity and
hellish sermons of such priests take people away from the church. So church
has an ever increasing fear of losing authority over the masses of people and
this fear actually becomes the root cause of such wide spread blood-shed.
Thus Puritan church and government make desperate attempt to hold the
people in their grip by using a quotation of Bible which says:
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”.
However, this attempt proves futile but deadly, which rather than
shifting the minds of people towards the Puritan church causes their death
and destruction.
Miller’s play is taken on an allegorical level, for though today subjects
have changed so far but the subject matter is ever the same. The individual is
bound to society in the same way, as John Proctor is in the play, while the
authorities are as furious and anxious to hold their power as the Puritan
church and government in Salem.
Q: MILLER IN THE CRUCIBLE WANTS TO SHOW HIS LIFE
LONG CREED THAT SOCIETY AND MAN ARE
INTERRELATED, ELABORATE?
Q: DISCUSS JOHN PROCTOR AS A TRAGIC HERO?
Q: DESCRIBE THE CHARACTER AND ROLE OF JHON
PROCTOR?
Ans:
In a sense, The Crucible has the structure of a classical tragedy, with
John Proctor as the play’s tragic hero. Honest, upright, and blunt-spoken,
Proctor is a good man, but one with a secret, fatal flaw. His lust for Abigail
Williams led to their affair (which occurs before the play begins), and
created Abigail’s jealousy of his wife, Elizabeth, which sets the entire witch
hysteria in motion.

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Once the trials begin, Proctor realizes that he can stop Abigail's
rampage through Salem but only if he confesses to his adultery. Such an
admission would ruin his good name, and Proctor is, above all, a proud man
who places great emphasis on his reputation. He eventually makes an
attempt, through Mary warren's testimony, to name Abigail as a fraud
without revealing the crucial information. When this attempt fails, he finally
bursts out with a confession, calling Abigail a “whore” and proclaiming his
guilt publicly.
Only then does he realize that it is too late, that matters have gone too
far, and that not even the truth can break the powerful frenzy that he has
allowed Abigail to whip up. Proctor's confession succeeds only in leading to
his arrest and conviction as a witch, and though he lambastes the court and
its proceedings, he is also aware of his terrible role in allowing this fervour
to grow unchecked.
Proctor redeems himself and provides a final denunciation of the witch
trials in his final act. Offered the opportunity to make a public confession of
his guilt and live, he almost succumbs, even signing a written confession.
His immense pride and fear of public opinion compelled him to withhold his
adultery from the court, but by the end of the play he is more concerned with
his personal integrity than his public reputation. He still wants to save his
name, but for personal and religious, rather than public, reasons. Proctor's
refusal to provide a false confession is a true religious and personal stand.
Such a confession would dishonour his fellow prisoners, who are brave
enough to die as testimony to the truth. Perhaps more relevantly, a false
admission would also dishonour him, staining not just his public reputation,
but also his soul.
By refusing to give up his personal integrity Proctor implicitly
proclaims his conviction that such integrity will bring him to heaven. He
goes to the gallows redeemed for his earlier sins. As Elizabeth says to end
the play, responding to Hale's plea that she convince Proctor to publicly
confess: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”
John Proctor is the central character and the protagonist of the play. He,
as a character reflects Miller’s mastery in portraying his characters. Miller
gives very delicate touches in digging the subtleties of Proctor’s relationship
with his wife, Elizabeth, and Abigail. Miller also shows very skilfully
Proctor’s attitude towards Puritans, Witchcraft, Parris, Hale and court and
towards his friends in the end when he was going to be punished for being a

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witch. Miller also highlights the conflict and the moral choice, which Proctor
had to face at the cost of his life.
Although, Proctor is the central figure yet he has not been idealized as a
hero. He is a blunt, stubborn countryman, though not excessively sensitive
yet capable of being tender, especially towards woman. According to John
Mahoney:
“The attention of the playwright is on Proctor’s moral choice”.
Miller, himself, says in his introduction of the play that he wants to
draw the image of “a guilt ridden man” who has a sense of guilt that he has
betrayed his wife, Elizabeth by playing adultery with Abigail, who is a very
cunning and fraudulent girl. And this shame holds him from taking positive
action at the right moment and consequently suffers a great loss of his life.
Then Proctor is a practical farmer, struggling to win a living for his
family but he still finds time to take a sensuous delight in his surroundings.
He is a strong man, physically strong, cool tempered and not easily
provoked. He emerges as a down-to-earth man who speaks his mind and is
not afraid of confronting those in authority –the authority of society, priest
and that of court. Only his guilt of all with Elizabeth makes him indecisive
until very last.
John Proctor is also good independent minded Christian who is fed-up
from dogmatic and the strict values of the church only in order to maintain
their authority. He also does not care about his infrequent presence in
church. He openly condemns Parris and his greedy and hellish sermons. It is
Parris hellish preaching, which prompt John Proctor to stay away from
church and explain his absence as follows:
“I have troubled enough, I come five mile to hear him preach only
hellfire and bloody damnation … others stay away from church these
days because you (Parris) hardly ever mention God anymore”.
He is an honest man and sees himself as a sinner and unworthy to
follow the martyrs like Rebecca and Giles.
Proctor never interferes with the affairs of others. Miller gives his social
views that man can’t isolate himself from the trials of community and the
man, who refuses to be committed to some cause, will face tragic result. If a
man is to be a part of society, he must function and participate in all the
aspects of society.
Proctor tries to avoid any involvement in Salem witchcraft trails. He is
afraid of the disclosure of his secrets of adultery with Abigail which was
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probably no more than a moment of passion prompted by the impetuosity
and it also characterizes many of his other actions speeches.
John Proctor retains a very strict attitude towards witchcraft. He does
not believe in it and takes it as an irrational act. He does not want to be
involved in the court probe about witchcraft but in the end he has to do so.
When he learns that Elizabeth has been accused, he says:
“Is the accuser always holy now? Where they born his morning as
clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem –vengeance
is Salem. We are what we always were in Salem but now the little
crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and comfort
vengeance writes the law!”
But in the end, we see that Proctor is accused of being a witch because
of his rebellion against the church and the court. He wants to prove the
fraudulent behaviour of the girls but he is accused in return. He is sentenced
to death if he does not confess to be a witch. As first, because of the pressure
on him he becomes agree to confess and signs it but his innocence and soul
does not let him to confess, therefore, he tears out the confessions. He says:
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!
Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How
may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my
name”.
He does not want to lose his true identity and to be called a witch.
Therefore, he sacrifices his body and saves his soul.
Once he abandons the society at its own, but society does not let him
maintain himself in the critical junctures of his life. He remains in critical
and complex situation of hope and fear and life and death. He remains
caught up in a web of moral dilemmas woven by society. He requires an
enormous moral courage to make right choice, the choice, which makes all
the difference, and we see that Proctor chooses for his soul. This is what
Miller wants to tell us. He says:
“My central impulse for writing at all was not the social but the
interior psychological question”.

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Q: DESCRIBE THE IMPORTANCE OF WITCHCRAFT IN THE
CRUCIBLE?
Q: THE CRUCIBLE PRESENTS A SUPERSTITIOUS PICTURE OF
THE SOCIETY, DISCUSS?
Q: WHAT IS McCARTHYISM? HOW DOES IT AFFECT THE
COURSE OF THE PLAY?
Ans:
The theme of Witchcraft is the central to the play. Through this theme
Miller wants to tear the veil off conservatisms, dogmatism, American
nationalism and McCarthyism. During the seventeenth century and into the
eighteenth century, belief in the reality of witches was widespread both in
America and in Europe.
Thousands of innocent people were executed during the period and a
few people questioned the actual existence of witches but none was able to
identify a witch. The same was the situation in twentieth century in America
after the 2nd World War that the people were accused of being communists
and without any justified legal proceeding they were sentenced to death.
This aggravated situation became so much grave that American liberalism
was in extreme danger, for there was a mass hysteria in the people.
Miller dramatizes all this situation of communistic witch-hunting in the
historical background of Salem’s witch hunting in seventeenth century by
the so-called Puritans. Miller picks up the famous event of witchcraft from
the history in order to highlight his experience of the fear and hysteria in
twentieth century, caused by McCarthyism. Under McCarthyism, thousands
of innocent people were accused of being a communist, a witch, and were
killed without any proof against them.
There was a law of jungle and the innocent people either have to be to
die or to commit suicide or to go underworld. The play emphasizes upon the
power of he accusers; as in Salem, the power of Danforth, in seventeenth
century and the mischievous girls who were dancing in the jungle at
midnight and on the other hand, the power of McCarthy and the member of
his committee in twentieth century.
The play also highlights the difficulty of proving innocence of those
people who are accused to be a witch, in Salem, and on the other hand, who
are accused to be communists, in twentieth century and the danger of refusing
to confess the crime of which they have been accused by the authorities; and
even the false accusation was enough to damage the repute of a person and his
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chances for employment. Thus even the accused were forced to accuse other
innocent people only in order to save their skin and this chain of false
accusation was not coming to an end.
In the play, we see that a group of girls are found mysteriously dancing,
at midnight, in the jungle. They are enjoying witchcraft. Two of them, Betty
and Ruth, being younger, fall ill due to the fear of being caught while
dancing. Their illness is not a direct cause of being involved in witchcraft
but because of the over excited response to the event in the woods. Thus a
neurotic guilt is developed, because of participating in what they believe to
be a forbidden occult rite. In other words, it is a psychosomatically induced
illness caused not by witchcraft but by belief in witchcraft. As Mrs. Putnam
believes that the death of her seven children is because of witch.
Now, the girls, to save their skin, start to accuse the other people of
town of being witches, to whom they suspect indifferent towards
community. Abigail, the most fraudulent girl, Betty and Mary accuse many
town women of being witches. Most of the accused people are those with
whom these girls have personal indignation. For example, Abigail accuses
Elizabeth because she considers her a bone between her and Proctor. Giles
Corey also has been accused of being a witch but he cannot protest against
in the court.
The response of the adults to witchcraft is ridiculous. Reverend Parris’
response towards witchcraft is of dual nature. He doesn’t want to believe in
the existence of her witches and that Betty’s unconscious state is the result
of her being bewitched. Because in this case his own reputation is in danger,
what the people will think about him. And it is an ironic situation that Parris
has to seek the help of Hale, an occultist, to confirm about the influence of
witch on her daughter. But in the end of the play, we see that Parris has
accepted that witches do not exist there and all this witchcraft is a wrong
practice.
Hale, an occultist, at first is very anxious to prove his occult knowledge
authentic and considers his books very authentic in identifying. Witches,
realizes in the end that human beings do not act according to rules described in
occult books. The books say something and his observation and experience
tells him something else. In the beginning, he believes in his books and says:
“Here is all the invisible world, caught, defined and calculated. In
these books the Devil stands stripped of all his brute disguises. Here
are all your familiar spirits –your incubi and succubi; your witches

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that go by land, by air, and by sea; your wizards of the night and of
the day. Have no fear now …”
But in the end, he reaches the conclusion and urges Elizabeth to
introduce her husband to sign:
“…Leave to no faith when faith brings blood, it is mistaken law that
leads you to sacrifice. Life woman, life is God’s most precious gift; no
principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it …”
But Danforth remains stick to his believes because he thinks that the
humour of the court is more precious than justice. He has his pseudo
precision and says:
“…You must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or he
must be counted against it, there is no road between”.
This is the same situation as the, Puritan theologian, John Preston,
writes:
“All men are divided into these two ranks, either they are good or bad,
either they are polluted or clean, either they are such as sacrifice or
such as sacrifice not: there is no middle sort of men in the world;”
John Proctor, the protagonist of the play, retains a very strict attitude
towards witchcraft. He does no believe in it and takes it as in irrational etc.
He does not want to involve in the court probe about witchcraft but in the
end he has to do so. When he learns that Elizabeth has been accused, he
says:
“Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as
clean as God’s fingers? I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem –vengeance
is Salem. We are what we always were in Salem but now the little
crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and comfort
vengeance writes the law!”
But in the end, we see that Proctor is accused of being a witch because
of his rebellion against the church and the court. He wants to prove the
fraudulent behaviour of the girls but he is accused in return. He is sentenced
to death if he does not confess to be a witch. At first, because of the pressure
on him he becomes agree to confess and signs if but his innocence and soul
does not let him to confess, therefore, he tears out the confession. He says:
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life!
Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How
may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my
name”.
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He does not want to lose his true identity and to be called a witch.
Therefore, he sacrifices his body and save his soul.
The rules and regulations of McCarthyism in twentieth century were no
different from the rules in Salem. They put the innocent people in the crucible
to prove or disprove their suspect, of being a communist, about them.

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