The Crucible

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  • Created by: Liv6
  • Created on: 21-05-16 11:22


John Proctor

  • Main Protagonist
  • Strong, powerful and commited Chrsitian - feels guilt after his affair with Abigail - ries to make ammends with his wife
  • His fear and hesitation to reveal the truth is his downfall
  • Openly critises the justice system within the village and doubts the purity of Rev. Parris, his plight within the play becomes symbolic for the village as a whole 
  • The audience attempts to justify his affair (tragic hero) - able to recognise parts of themeselves within him.
  • Key Words to describe: Loyal, Powerful, Religious, Intellectual, Stern, Strong, Morale
  • Function in the play: Symbolises those who were wrongly accused during McCarthyism, not giving into their attacks.  Shows no amount of power you have can stop peril when mass accused 
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Elizabeth Proctor 

  • Elizabeth and John's relationship shown to be strained (Act 2) - this alters her behaviour and emotion.
  • Character who arcs over time - stoic woman to one of great passion and strength. She counsels John with humble wisdom and shows an understanding for his desires to pay penance and cleanse his sins. 
  • Closes the play with the words "He have his goodness now" demonstrating her love for John, by placing his need above her own wish to have him live.
  • Elizabeth acts as a foil for Abigail showing the effects and immoral actions and a corrupt society on a person. 
  • Key Words to describe: Lyal, gentle, devout, reserved, restrained, solemn, virtuous, dependable. Act 4 - passionate and selfless
  • Function in the play:

- Honesty - keeps the plot grounded

- Hope - revelation of pregnancy 

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Abigail Williams 

  • Abigail is without parental guidance and is somewhat of an outcast; attempts to be respectful to Parris but ultimately becomes confrontational.
  • Merely tolerates the other girlsand threatnes them with violence in order to gain control. 
  • John Proctor is Abigail's desire - he symolises her need for attention and the deire to be loved 
  • Tituba's powerful Chritian confession and 'return to God' is the catalyst for Abigail - a chance for control, power and respect - she is the effect of oppression within the puritian society.
  • Audience can feel somewhat sympathetic towards her desire for Proctor's love as she has never known love. 
  • Miller himself does seem to care for her, stating early on in stage directions: 'Endless capacity for dissembling' and writes her as someone constantly trying to manipulate others.
  • Key Words to describe: controlling, defiant, manipulative, devious, sly, decetiful, motivated.
  • Function within the play: 

- Catalyst for the trials and accusations

- Represents the hysteria and false accusation at the time of Salem and McCarthyism (allegory)

- Symbolic of man's weakness and sin

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Reverend Hale

  • Hale's arrival is both good and bad; good because he may see through the false accusations to the truth, but it is bad because he may see it as merely an opportunity to strengthen his name and have his expertise in deciphering signs of withcraft acknowledged.
  • Villagers simply see his arrival as confrimation of the devil being in Salemand their worst fears.
  • Hale extracts Tituba's 'confession' which is his ambition - action catalyst to the story as from here the false accusations begin and Judge Danforth is summoned to conduct the withh trials.
  • Character changes: he becomes disillusioned by the process and tries to help Proctor and other prisoners with false confessions - proof of the injustice and failure of the theocracy in which they live. The executions are clearly immoral and corrupt
  • Hale shouts to Elizabeth and pleads with her to save JP - shows Hale's ignorance to the wider signifance of Proctor's decision to hang for his sins.
  • Key Words to describe: Convinvcing, Influential, Religious, Reasonable, Honest, Adaptable.
  • Function within the play: symbolises the weakness within a theocracy. He represents the reasonable nature that Miller wants the audience to see, and apply to the social context in which it wass written (1950's America): He represents a logical thinking that society should apply in situations so serious.
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Reverend Parris

  • He has enemies within the village and the withcraft scandal could ruin him - as it begins in his house. He therfore bends to suit whomever has the power and influence.
  • Parris instigates the witchcraft hysteria
  • Knows Abigail is lying, but perpetuates the deception because it is in his own self-interest. 
  • Later changes tact in Act 4 when he is praying for the prisoners to give false confessions, after a threat iwas put on his life and Abigail ran away with his money.
  • Key Words to describe: materialistic, paranoid, weak, suspicious, demagogue
  • Function within the play: demonstrates the weakness with theocracy and religion. How the power of fear can influence action.
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Judge Danforth

  • Stern yet practical man more interested in preserving the dignity and stature of the court than in excuting justice or behaving with any sense of fairness. 
  • Described as 'a grave main in his sixties, some humour and sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause'. He ignores clear evidence that the accusations are false and discards the truth.
  • He refuses to pardon the remaining accused because he would lose reputation and respect, as his decision might cast doubt on the autonomy of the court. 
  • To him the law of the church is black and white.
  • Key Words to describe: controlling, cold-hearted, inherent gulibillity, self - righteous, arrogant.
  • Function within the play: He constantly reminds the audience of the impending sense of harm that religion. Danforth is the anthropomorphic representation of the failings and false pretences of religion.
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Francis and Rebecca Nurse

  • Morally good - seen as gentle, kind, wise and highly respected.
  • Rebecca is a 'woman of experience' recognise Betty Parris' mischeif when she says "I think she'll wake when she tires of it".
  • Hysteria is at its peak when Rebecca is accused of withcraft and that is a catalytic moment.
  • Rebecca presence at Proctor's confession convinces him of what he must do. Signifies truth, morality and the logic of what his morals implore him to do.
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The Putnams

  • Capitalise from the accustaions of withcraft by buying up the land of those imprisoned and hung, for cheaper prices - gain influence and power through the town.
  • Bitter and encourage the withcraft hysteria, Thomas says: "a murdering witch among us".
  • Ruth turns on Rebbeca Nurse - bitter and malicious.
  • She states "there are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires" - metaphorical of the political games within the trials, and that every comment/ action has a hidden motivation or reason; all is not as it seems.
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Giles Corey

  • Deeply brave and innocent
  • Holds true to his name, his morals and his family - sacrififcing his life to protect what is theirs.
  • He accuses the Putnams - refuses to reveal his sources, declaring "I stand mute". 
  • Described as being 'knotted with muscle' and does not give any credit to public opinions.
  • In the end pressed to death with stones. By admitting and revealing nothing, only repeating "more weight", he ensures his land is passed to his sons, and not eligible to bought and sold, thus demonstrating his intelligence and his knowledge of the law - rather than blind belief in religion. 
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  • Set in Salem, Massachusetts in the late C17th
  • Uncomfortable, with an unfriendly atmosphere.
  • 'narrow window', 'roof rafters are exposed', 'crowded parlour', 'low, dark and rather long romm', 'the room is solemn,every forbidding', 'A cell...a high barred window...a great heavy door.'
  • Through setting and the context of the play, Miller presents Salem as a theocracy and God's laws are being interpreted by the ecclesiastical authoritites - the rev. holds power and the land owners try to sway it.
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Miller uses a combination of structure; prose inserts; dialogue/ and 'reported speech ' to create a realistic stroy of fear and corrpution, where gossip fuels hysteria, paranoia and control.

Act 1 The Accusations (Parris' home, village) - To shock the audience

Act 2 The Proctors (Proctor home) - To provide human tragedy and relationship

Act 3 The Trials (The court in the  village) - To give analysis of the role of justice in the village, and the sense of disbelief and pity which comes to dramatic climax.

Act 4 The Executions (Jail cell) - Refer to Act 3

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Act 1 Tone: blame, accusatory, aggression and at the end - conflict.

Atmosphere: Relevation and relief (the return to God and explanations for their misfortunes). At the end there is a sense of hysteria and ecstasy on stage, whilst the audience feels uneasy.

Act 2 Tone: Solemnly, discontentment when we meet Elizabeth. But dignified as the scene ends and Elizabeth accepts fate.

Atmosphere: suspicious, fraught, tense, uncomfortable, fiery.

Act 3 and 4 Tone: immoral, hypocritical, inspired

Atmosphere: It becomes more intense and oppressive as Salem's hypocrisy and duplicity is revealed.

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  • Caputures a realistic C17th east coast America, with and realistic lexis such as 'Goody'.
  • Creates a realism through the use of direct speech and reported speech, to reflect the 1950's era and makes the audience more inclined to believe the story as it is presented. Gossip reveals much of what happens in the village and is a dramatic device which creates the effect of progressing the plot and revealing character.
  • Metaphor reveals attitudes in Salem, character's views and character traits. For example, Parris declares early on "these stiff neck people" which reveals that he sees the village as being strict and unforgiving.
  • Play is a Parable; moral tale about what will happen when gossip and hysteria are allowed to run riot and all logic is lost.
  • Dramatic Irony used to create the dramatic effect of character revelation, plot progression, mood and atmosphere. For example, in Act 1 Abigail Williams reveals to Proctor that Betty "took fright is all". This reveals to the audience that the claims of withcraft are false and this makes the event that unfold all the more dramatic and tragic to behold. It intensifies the fear and corruption.
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  • The town fears the devil is in the village and the people looki inward, attempting to hide their sins. The paranoid and suspicious society that fuels hysteria. Spiral fear and hatred reaches its peak when justice is lost and the trials end.
  • Putnams fear the loss of their final child, and a loss of influence.
  • Proctor fears his reputation being ruined within the community. His fear is whta allows Abigail to run riot, as his unwillingness to confess his affair allows her name to be 'good' in the village,
  • Parris fears his power and influence being lost.
  • Hale fears that he will be cast out of the church, because he stands up to the court. Fears that nobody else will recognise the lies behind the accusation, and more innocent lives will be lost.
  • Elizabeth fears the loss of John's good name and thus her own reputation within the village. She also fears the extent of Abigail's power when she is take in Act 2.
  • Mary and the girls fear Abigail and her power over them and the town. They dare not cross her.
  • Rebbeca Nurse and Giles Corey are immune to fear; they remain strong true until the end. They die in the knowledge that they are good and without sin of the devil or his lies.
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  • Both Proctor and Elizabeth have strong morals. Evidently, Proctor dies for his name, and Elizabeth lets him. proctor is a man of pride and Elizabeth is frim in her morals and abides ny them in every situation.
  • Danforth does not allow for any exceptions in the court, which is required in the court system. Even when Abigail tries to leave, he does not let her. Even though he is misled ny the girl's lies, he is still remains open minded as to who is to blame.
  • Hale has strong morals at the start, but as the play progresses and he see Abigail for who she really is - a liar, he changes his morals, and quits the court as a result.
  • Abigail has a lack of morals and lies to the court complusively showing little to no compassion to anybody, not worrying about who she hurts or ultimately kills.
  • Corey and Nurse stand true against the injustice taking place and remain truly moral intil the end, when their deathsb signify the tru innocence slaughtered.
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  • In the court we can see the extent of Abigail's power over the girls. She uses this to take control of Mary when she attempts to out he truth about Abigail to the court. 
  • Due to Danfoths's high authority in the court and the court's overall power of the community we can see that he is the character which has the overall say on anything in court.
  • The amount of power tends to decide the fate of the charcters - such as Abigail having a high extent of power and therfore is believed throughout much of the play. Not only do the characters have power over each other, but the idea and  devotion to Religion and the court has set rules which controls the actions of the characters.
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  • Hypocrisy in 'TC' derives primarily fromt the church ands its puritanical values. Theocracy seen in 'TC' demands 'honesty' but holds members of scoiety in a compromising position where they have no other choice but to confess to debauchery even if it is not actually true.
  • Those in power profess to be upholding the tenets of society and impose exacting standards. However, in reality, they demonstrate superficial values as they recite the Bible throughout and claim to live their lives by the church but fail as there is an absence of compassion, forgiveness and humanity.
  • Parris is deemed to be the most hypocritical because he disguises his pride and uses Christian ideas to thinly veil his contempt for Proctor under the crusade of religious morality.
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  • It allows impurities to be extracted under immense heat and pressures. It is symbolic, as it demonstrates that rather than look to the strict rules and problems within society, they look to pin the blame on external factor such as the supernatural/ the devil or communism.
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Miller suggests that one's conscience is organic and your sense of morality is governed by the place, culture and time in which you live. Miller uses morality to symbolises the corruption that power and greed can cause. 

Futhermore, it presents the idea that a theocracy is potentially an explosive situation which sparks rebellion and hysteria through hypocrisy.

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Morality is also represented by light thoughout the play. Act 1: the morning sun streams and a candle still burns. This demonstrates a relevation or change; the 2 lights indicate the need for illumination metaphorically. There are also religious connotations - the sun/ candles being symbolic for hope/ life and God.

Act 2: almost dark, a fire. This demonstrates that there is an enclosed, unwelcoming atmosphere that needs light being injected. However, a fire was still lit and this signifies there is still love within - the warthm is spreading, slowly (as Elizabeth's icy demeanour towards Proctor melts as the play progresses).

Act 3: sunlight pouring through, 2 high windows in the back wall. This implies that in this scene, in the court and church, we can expect justice. We're hopeful it, in fact; we have faith that it will be given. The sun represents the physical presence of God and we expect Abigail to be brought to justice - but this is gradually eroded, as Danforth refuses to accept Proctor and Mary, and Elizabeth lies. The audience realise that - just like the accusations in Act 1 - the symbol of light proves false.    

Act 4: place is darkness except for the moonlight seeping through the bars. This creates an eeire and anxious atmosphere. Being night time creates the typical expectation of when evil is done, and the moonlight is trapped behind bars. However, the 'seeping' indicates that there is still hope that justice will prevail - there is a chance. The bars indicate that the chance of justice will be restricted and foreshadows the tragic ending to come.


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Betty is said to have flown "I hear she flies", "starts for the window" which is taken as a sign of witchcraft and the devil. This motivates Parris to send for Hale to come and investigate.

Abigail pretends to see a yellow bird in the court, to represent Mary's spirit. She claims its 'wings spreading' and that it has 'claws'. Abigail implies that she and the girls are prey and need protecting from this danger.

At the end, Proctor is described as 'sits like some great bird' to signify his strngth, pride and his desire for freedom. This also symbolic of Salem's desire to be free from the trials and the justice within them. The village desires freedom from hypocrisy, sacrifice and a society ruled by a religion.

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Other Animals

Cheever notes that "many cows wandering the high road" which could be symbolic, implying that eventually nature with overcome man's conventions and balance will be restored again.

In Act 2, Elizabeth describes her interaction with the rabbit. She tells John the 'rabbit walked in ... like she came to visit'. This account foreshadows the sacrifices to come:

  • John's confession
  • Elizabeth's lie
  • John's death
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Oh your'e nice

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