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The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller, an adaption of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials in Massachusetts, where over a hundred people accused of witchcraft, some of them executed for that.

The Crucible begins with a group of young girls dancing in the forest, doing hysterical things and “conjuring spirits”, which was considered unacceptable in their society. When she is questioned by her uncle Reverend Parris, Abigail, one of the girls who were dancing in the forest, defends herself and the other girls by accusing their slave Tituba of conjuring dead spirits. Soon after, in hysteria, the girls start accusing other people of witchcraft. An investigator, Reverend Hale, and a group of judges are called to the town when Salem is turned into a hostile and terrifying environment of people pointing fingers at each other.

Although it is less popular than Death of a Salesman, The Crucible is a moving play. Through the hysteria of witchcraft accusations, the play focuses on Elizabeth and John Proctor. Abigail, who is having an affair with John Proctor, gets fired by Elizabeth when she discovers this. Now Abigail, like many others, has a chance to take vengeance, so she accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft. John Proctor, ashamed of his unfaithfulness, tries to convince the judge of Abigail’s untruthfulness to defend Elizabeth, who is known for never telling a lie. Now Elizabeth is put to the test in front of the judge to prove her innocence.

The Crucible is Arthur Miller’s response to McCarthyism and Communism, where envy and hostility lingered in the air. The Crucible is very dramatic, even when read. Because of corrupt judges and injustice, many people were executed. To me, the crucial points in the play were the accusers’ chances to admit their involvement in witchcraft and be spared execution. Yet there were memorable people such as Rebecca Nurse who refused to tell a lie and faced execution for that. The superficially impenetrable judges and officials, such as Deputy Governor Danforth and Reverend Hale, are revealed for their hypocrisy when things turn out worse than expected.

A thing I was thinking about while reading the play and after that was Abigail, an untruthful and vicious girl, a bully. She was actually the one who started all this havoc by first accusing Tituba of witchcraft. Girls can be very deceiving.

I highly recommend the Viking Library Critical Library edition of the Crucible. It doesn’t just include the play, but also commentary by Arthur Miller himself and essays and reviews of the play and its production. It also has documents and records of the Salem Witch Trials. It certainly enriched my experience of the play.

An excellent movie adaptation of The Crucible is the 1996 film starring Daniel Day Lewis as John Proctor.


The Crucible movie poster

The Crucible Shmoop studyuide

wikipedia

The Salem Witch Trials

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