The Crucible



McCarthyism: The crucible is a response to Miller's experience of America's fear of Communism during the period known as the cold war.

When Miller’s friend was investigated by the Committee, the tension between the power of the state and freedom of the individual became the major theme of his next play, The Crucible. Miller himself appeared before the committee in 1956.

The Crucible portrays witch hunting as something deep within the origins of the American character. Miller shows it arising out of a wide variety of motives, includingunfounded fear, jealousy and revenge, an ugly and unflattering image of America which was far from the way that Americans liked to see themselves.

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Justice and truth.


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Themes: Society

Salem is ran by a theocratic system of Government. 

The moral dictates of religion such as the 10 commandments are not just a matter for individual conscience but are applied by the Government. 

John Proctor's patch church attendance - He 'attends but once in a month' and the fact that he ploughs on a sunday are held against him. 

He is accused of adultery, a violation of the seventh commandment, which is seen as 'The crime of lechery'. 

The ability to recite the 10 commandments is seen as evidence of a good character.

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Themes: Reputation:

Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem.

As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigail’s  actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit.

Meanwhile, 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 dies with dignity.

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John Proctor: A flawed hero:

He appears to be a respected farmer and citizen with a strong, stready character who is not easily lead.

He is haunted with guilt due to his affair with Abigail - He sees himself as a fraud and a sinner.

He has a quick temper which frequently erupts in to  violent action: For example... threatening Mary Warren with whipping and also grasping her by the throat and wrippung up the warrant for Elizabeth's arrest.

He speaks directly and forcefully : For example to Parris and Putnam. He also openly criticises Parris and rejects his authority ... he will not allow his son to be baptised by him and does not attend church.

His dislike for Reverend Parris is misinterpreted that he is not a devout Christian.

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John Proctor: Sin and redemption:

Proctor is a man of principle but is tormented by the fact that through his passion for Abigail he has broken these principles. 

He hates himself for his weakness saying 'I am no good man'. 

The strength of his struggle to resist his feelings emphesises his desire to behave right.

He does show remorse and tried to put things wight with Elizabeth : 'I mean to please you'.

He loves and respects Elizabeth 'my dear good wife'.

Proctor's perception that his failings make him evil leads him to make a false confession. 

Although at the last minute he tears it up as he does not want to blacken his name. 

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Elizabeth Proctor: A good woman:

She is an upstanding woman of good reputation with a strong Christian faith: ' I am a covenated Christian woman'.

She has been deeply hurt by John's unfaithfulness and although she tries to forgive him she still has her suspisions.

She claims that she does not judge him, but John feels that she will never forgive him: ' Your spirit twists around the single error of my life'.

She is truthful: 'Cannot lie'.

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Elizabeth Proctor: Courage

Elizabeth faces testing situations.

She is quick to grasp situations and realises why John is reluctant to denounce Abi in court.

She understands Abi's intentions and motives: 'She thinks to take my place'.

She is sharper than John with his 'Faulty understanding of young girls'.

Elizabeth realises that there is no point railing against the court order and accepts her arrest with dignity. 

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Elizabeth Proctor:Truth and love:

Proctor's confidence in Elizabeth's regard for the truth is so strong that he is convinced she will testify about the affair. 

However, Elizabeth tries to cover for her husband to protect his reputation... Yet on the one occation that she breaks her good morals, John had actually confessed to it. 

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Elizabeth Proctor:The final choice:

In spite of the pressure put on her by Hale, Danforth and her own desire to keep John alive, Elizabeth does not try to pursuade him to confess: ' As you will, I would have it' 

She wants John to forgive himself and she herself takes some of the responsibility for his sin: 'It takes a cold wife to prompt lechtry' who held a 'Cold house' and thought herself unworthy of 'honest love'.

She begs him for forgiveness and her final words proclaim that she has reclaimed his goodness.

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Reverend Parris: Unpopular:

Parris is a widower and the father of the afflicted Betty. He was a merchant before he became a minister and is 'Not used to poverty'. 

He is disliked by those who find his focus on money and material possessions distasteful. 

His preoccupation with hell and discrimination also makes him unpopular.

Parris accuses those who dislike him of being 'unmindful of their obligations' towards him and feels like he is being persecuted. 

He is constantly looking for plots against him and he fears that Betty's condition and Abigail's activities will give his enimies ammunition to get rid of him.

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Reverend Parris: Searching for witchcraft:

He claims that any defence against an accusation is an attack to the court: 'They've come to overthrow the court' ' This is a clear attack upon the court'.

He is particularly quick to accuse Proctor to try to blacken his name. 

He is concerned only for his own reputation and safety, he tries to ruin others an delights in denouncing proctor.

He 'Praise God' when Mary accuses John.

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Reverend Parris: Too little too late:

Parris warns the executions to be delayed and desperately wants Rebecca and Proctor to confess.

However, he is still motivated by self-interest, scared for his own life that now the public opinion has turned against the court.

When Abi runs away with his money, he is more concerned of loosing his money rather than loosing his niece. 

"I am peniless, he sobs".

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Reverend Hale: Clever and enthusiastic:

He takes pride in his specialist knowledge and welcoms the opportunity to seek out the Devil if he is present and "Crush him utterly". 

In his interrogation of Betty and Abigail, he refers to the signs of the Devil that "are definate as stone".

In his enthusiasm for his work, he does not seem to realise that Tituba's confession is a confused responce to suggestions that he makes to her.

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Reverend Hale: Having doubts:

Hale's approach is precise and logical.

He sees no harm in Martha Corey reading books and has no suspision. 

He visits all of those who are accused to form his own opinion of their character.

He realised that Rebecca and the Proctors are good people and perhaps naively believes that the charge against Rebecca nurse will not stand. 

However his belief that the devil is 'Subtle' and is 'Alive in Salem' means that accusations must be followed up, and he cannot judge if people are 'guilty or innocent'.

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Reverend Hale: Striving for justice:

Throughout the court hearings, Hale becomes increasingly agitated.

He points out that every defence is being interpreted as an attack on the court and that people are being influenced by their fear of the court. 

His fear that justice has not and will not be served is seen in his desire that Proctor's case should be presented by a lawyer and by his statement that now there must be 'Proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it'. 

His conscience leads him to speak passionately on behalf of John and Elizabeth, and he storms out of the court in anger and dispair at the injustice of the proceedings.

Hale is disgusted with himself for the fact that he ends up councilling Christians to lie just to save their lives.

He has been led to abandon his principles.

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Danforth: The voice of authority:

He is the rulling of the court with firmness and authority but he also displays his human side: For example being 'Respectfully silent' when Giles is destressed.

He can show good judgement.

Danforth is convinced that he is doing God's work in combating the forces of evil.

He believes passionately in the power of the Devil and wants to get confessions from those who have made 'Compact with Lucifer'. 

He speaks in the name of 'The government and the central church' with devine authority.

Although Danforth questions Abigail and suggests that she might have been seeing an illusion, he is 'Horrified'  and 'Hysterical' when she and the other girls pretend to see the yellow bird and believes Mary's hysterical accusation of Proctor. 

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Danforth: Reputation and court status:

Danforth's belief in the judical court system means that he believes the innocent people should have nothing to fear in the court 'The pure in heart need no lawyers' .

His fierce protection of the courts status leads him to interpret defence statements as attacks on the 'Highest court of the supreme government of this province'.

His focus on the courts reputation and his desire to be firm may be seen in his decisions to proceed with execusions in order to not be seen to flounder and to push for Proctor's confession as an example to the village.

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Abigail Williams: Self Preservation:

Abi has survived seeing her parents murdered by Indians, having an affair with her employer John and then being sacked and thrown out of the house when Elizabeth found out about it. 

She is driven by her instinct for survival and by her conviction that she i destined to be John Proctor's wife and that only Elizabeth stands in her way. 

She does not hesitate to implicate others in order to protect herself, as when she declares that Tituba and Ruth conjured spirits and that Tituba forced her to drink blood ...

Eventhough it was Abi that chose to drink the blood as a charm to kill Elizabeth.

One of her favourite tactics when accused of something is to turn the blame on to somebody else.

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Abigail Williams: Power:

Abi dominates the other girls through threats of violence.

She also uses psychological power as when she begins to accuse everyone and Betty joins in.

A tactic that reaches a dramatic climax is the yellow bird in the court room.

Mary is so scared of Abi and so dominated by her that she lies about Proctor is court.

Abi's position as leader of the girls raises her status from being the lowly objector of gossip and condemnation who's name is 'Soiled' to being the one whos word van have people thrown in to prison even when they are completely innocent. 

She uses her acting ability to bring about hallucinations in which the girls 'Scream and howel and fall to the floor' in order to again condemn the innocent people.

Eventually she even has the confidence to threaten danforth himself.

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Abigail Williams: A malicious plot:

Abigail believes that the only obsticle that is preventing her and Proctor from being together is his 'Cold and snivelling' wife Elizabeth.

She first accuses people of a low status then prepares her ground for naming Elizabeth by pretending to be stabbed by the needle in the poppet that Mary made and gave to Elizabeth. 

Abi's flight with her uncle's money marks her as guiltu but she is never called to account for all of the distruction that she had caused.

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Giles Corey: Outspoken and argumentative:

Giles speaks his mind and does not care what people think of him.

He is in his 80s and still has large energy for dispute.

He is quick to spot wrongs and has taken people to court 33 times.

His questioning approach badly backfires when his questions about his wife reading books leads her to being questioned of witchcraft. For this he says he will 'Burn in hell'.

He speaks up in court for Proctor saying that other Christians plough on Sunday also. 

He also accuses his neighbour Thomas Putnam of 'Killing his neighbours' to get their land.

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Giles Corey: Knowledge of law:

Giles rightly prides himself on his legal knowledge and he knows his rights.

He is well versed in court and says he cannot be arrested for contempt at a hearing.

He knows that the law says those who are hanged for witchcraft forefit their property.

Giles is arrested for refusing to name the 'Honest man' that gave him information against Putnam.

He remains true to his decleration 'I stand mute' until death when refusing to enter a plea in order to protect his sons' inheritance. 

His great strenght of character is seen in the only two words he speaks as he is pressed by stones to death: 'More weight'.

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Thomas Putnam: Dispute and grudges:

Putnam is a rich and powerful landowner 'With many grievences'.

Putnam relentlessly pursues proof of witchcraft and is accused in court  of getting his daughter to accuse people so that they will be imprisioned so that he can buy their land.

Ann Putnam is also a troubled woman due to the death of her 7 babies and the strange condition of their one surviving child Ruth.

She believes that a 'Power of darkness' is at work and is quick to name tituba and to suggest that the midwife Goody Osborne is to blame for the death of the babies: ' My babies always shrivelled in her hands' 

Finally Rebecca Nurse is charged with murdering the children.

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Rebecca and Francis Nurse:A charitable woman:

Rebecca is widely renowned for her 'Great charities' and is 'The very brick and mortar of the church'.

She speaks with calm common sense and counsels 'Good prayer' rather than looking for 'Loose spirtis' to blame.

A peacemaker, she fears that Hale's presence will 'Set us all arguin' again in the society.

She tells John that he cannot 'Break charity' with Parris. Her arrest for the murder of the Putnam's babies illustrates the enormity of the situation.

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Rebecca and Francis Nurse:A moral example:

Rebecca speaks with the courage of her convictions. 

She is horrified that Ann Putnam sent Ruth to conjure spirts and gently tells Paris that his fierce preaching is unpopular. 

However, she is not judgemental and shows compassion towards proctor when he confesses. 

She encourages John to 'Fear nothing' as they go together to their deaths.

After waiting 3 days, Fransis Nurse finally speaks out at the court on behalf of Rebecca and denounces the girls as frauds. 

He has gone from house to house getting endorsements of Rebecca's good character and is appalled when the signatiories get arrested.

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Themes: Hysteria:

Hysteria replaces logic and enables people to believe that their neighbors, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing absurd and unbelievable crimes.

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, by making scapegoats of people like Proctor who question his authority.

Putnam gains revenge on Francis Nurse by getting Rebecca, Francis’s virtuous wife, convicted of the murders of Ann Putnam’s babies.

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Structure: Act 1:

Parris' anxiety for his reputation.

Putnams' belief in evil spirits.

The conflict between Parris and Proctor.

Proctor and Abigails affair.

Hale's determinaion to take on the devil.

This scene is set for dramatic events to unfold.

The central theme of witchcraft frames the act: Begings with Betty's trace and ends with the name chanting.

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Structure: Act 2:

Fast building action.

Salem's hysterical reaction to witchcraft.

Fulled by rumours.

Accusers rise to power and the innocent are condemned.

Proctor: Is a central figure.

    Guilty of adultery.

    Fears for his own reputation.

    Can speak out to prove that the girls are lying.

The act closes on a dramatic and emotional climax.

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Structure: Act 3:

The act begins with a movement towards the final resolution. 

The court: An arena for the display fo personal conflict and a battle between reason and prejudice.

Proctor's belated naming of Abi is in vain.

Abi succeeds in manipulating situations.

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Structure: Act 4:

Tension is maintained: Focus on Proctors dilema.

Being true to himself or losing his life.

Key moment: Signing the confession -> His lowest point.

             This pauses the play's movement towards a satisfying conclusion.

Document tearing up = Catharic makes him a hero.

(Emotional release experienced by the characters and audience when powerful feelings find an outlet with a satisfying conclusion)

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Turning points:

Turning points are significant moments which increase the tension that shock, frustrate or delight the audience:

Elizabeth named in court.

Abigail and the needle and poppet.

Proctor going to court.

Proctor denouncing Abi.

Elizabeth's lie to protect John.

The yellow bird.

Mary accusing Proctor.

Proctor signing the confession then tearing it up.

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