The Crucible by Arthur Miller

Elements of a Drama


Reverend Parris, Abigail Williams, John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Giles Corey, Rebecca Nurse


Salem, Massachusetts; 1692


The Crucible dramatizes the story of a historical incident in Salem in which accusations made by a number of young women set off a witch hunt supported by local authorities. While some characters fiercely support the witch hunt, other resist, trying to stand up for the truth and save the lives of friends and loved ones, sometimes at the cost of their own lives. Elements of plot: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. (See page 473 in lit book for more info).


Most plays consist largely of conversation between characters which helps reveal the plot and characters of the play. The author must speak through the characters. In forming opinions about theme, you should decide which characters, if any, are expressing the author's real beliefs.

Acts and Scenes

The Crucible is a play in four acts, each act taking place in a different location in Salem. Ordinarily the four acts are not divided into scenes, although Miller wrote one version in which act 2 has a second scene. Staying alert helps the audience distinguish between "real time" and drama time.

Meet Arthur Miller

Using page 911 in literature book, complete the outline below:

Early Writing

Miller's Writing Noticed by HUAC

Miller Visits Salem and friend, Kazan

How the Government responded to The Crucible

Life after The Crucible

Vocabulary Preview

Define the following terms using page 912 in your lit book:

Background Notes - Red Scare of the 1950s

(from wikipedia)

'Second Red Scare' (1947–1957)

In United States history, the Second Red Scare took place in the period of 1947-1957. The 'Second Red Scare' coincided with increased fears of espionage by Communists and heightened tension from Soviet oppression in Eastern Europe (beginning in 1946), the Berlin Blockade (1948–1949), Chinese Civil War (1949), and the Korean War (1950–1953). These fears spurred aggressive investigations and the red-baiting, blacklisting, jailing and deportation of people suspected of following Communist or other left-wing ideology.


During the late 1940s several news events caught the public attention, including the trial, conviction and subsequent execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg for espionage (specifically passing atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union), the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe, and the acquisition of an atomic bomb by the Soviet Union. These events influenced the opinions of many Americans regarding their own security, and connected the fear of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union with a fear of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). In testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee, former CPUSA party members Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers testified that Soviet spies and Communist sympathizers had been successful in penetrating several U.S. government agencies during and after World War II.
The testimony of Bentley and Chambers was cited as evidence of active Soviet and Communist infiltration of the United States government. Anti-communists also criticized the history of the Soviet Union and China as evidence of Communism's destructiveness, asserting that Stalin's purges, the creation of the gulag system and other examples of oppression were a function of the Communist ideology.


Thanks in part to the privation of the Great Depression, Communism was an attractive ideology to many in the U.S., especially among intellectual and labor circles. At the height of American Communism's popularity in 1939, the party had 50,000 U.S. members.[8] After the beginning of the war in Europe, Congress passed the Smith Act in 1940, which made membership in any organization advocating the violent overthrow of the government of the United States illegal and required all foreign nationals to register with the federal government. The Act was aimed not only at Communists, but also at members of the German-American Bund and the general Japanese-American population. After Germany invaded the USSR, the CPUSA shifted from an anti- to a pro-war position. During the war, while the USSR and America were allies, the Communist Party opposed labor strikes as detrimental to the war effort and supported an aggressive U.S. military policy. Under the slogan "Communism is Twentieth Century Americanism", CPUSA Chairman Earl Browder advertised that the party had been integrated into the mainstream of US politics.[citation needed] In contrast, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party opposed World War II and supported strikes even in war industries.[citation needed] SWP leaders including Joseph Cannon were convicted under the Smith Act, with the approval of the CPUSA, whose members were not prosecuted.
In 1947, Harry S Truman signed Executive Order 9835, creating the Federal Employees Loyalty Program. The program created review boards to investigate federal employees and terminate them if there were doubts as to their loyalty. The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) and the committees of Senator Joseph McCarthy began investigations of actual or alleged American Communists and their role in espionage, propaganda, and subversive activities, real and imagined.
There were also effects on America's way of life as a result of the Red Scare and the nuclear arms race, which contributed to the popularization of fallout shelters in home construction and regular duck and cover drills at schools. The Red Scare is also cited as one factor that contributed to the rise and popularity of science fiction films during the 1950s and beyond. Many thrillers and science fiction movies of the period used a theme of a sinister, inhuman enemy that was planning to infiltrate society and destroy the American way of life. Even a sports team was affected by the red scare. As noted in Mark Okkonen's Baseball Uniforms of the 20th Century, the Cincinnati Reds changed their team name to "Redlegs" to avoid the association of "Reds" and Communism, despite the utter lack of any such connection. In 1956, the word "Reds" was removed from inside the wishbone-C that the home jerseys carried. The word "Reds" resumed its place there for the 1961 season, just in time for the Reds to win the National League pennant, and the alternate nickname "Redlegs" faded.

The Play - Study Questions

Act I

1. What is Reverend Parris praying about at the beginning of act 1? What else might explain why he is praying so desperately?
2. What reasons does Abigail give Parris for her discharge as the Proctors' servant? What might be another reason? What can you infer about Abigail from her words?
3. Describe the feelings the characters have toward each other: the Putnams toward John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, Proctor toward the Putnams and Parris, and Parris toward the congregation. What effect might these feelings have on the future action of the play?
4. How does Tituba first respond to Hale's accusation of witchcraft? How does she change her response? Why might she, as well as Abigail and Betty, make accusations at the end of act 1?
5. What is the overall atmosphere, or prevailing mood, of act 1? How does Miller create this atmosphere?
6. What similarities do you see between the interactions among the Salemites of 1692 and interactions among people today?
7. Which character do you feel the most sympathy for? Why?

Act II

1. What has been going on between the close of act 1 and the opening of act 2? What role has Abigail Williams been playing in the proceedings?
2. Why might Proctor have previously hesitated to tell the court what Abigail told him about witchcraft? What does this hesitation suggest about his character?
3. What does the court accept as evidence that someone is a witch? Which characters seem to consider this evidence valid, and which do not? What, do you think, accounts for their differences of opinion?
4. Why does Hale come to the Proctors' house? How does Hale seem to feel about his own judgment and the court's? Explain.
5. How does Proctor react to Mary Warren's fears and her claim that Abigail will charge Proctor with lechery? What do you think Proctor means when he says, "...we are only what we always were, but naked now"?
6. Which character do you feel the most sympathy for now? Why? Does your answer differ from your answer in act 1?
7. What is your opinion of Hale's questions to the Proctors? Do his methods of uncovering the devil's work seem valid to you? Explain.
8. How do the lies that are spoken and the truth that is revealed in act 2 compare with those of act 1? How might truth and lies relate to the development of the play's theme?


1. How and why does Giles Corey interrupt the court proceedings? What does the response of the judges to him and Frances Nurse suggest about the way the trials are being conducted?
2. Why does Proctor bring Mary Warren to court? How does Mary Warren's confession threaten Danforth, Parris, and Hathorne?
3. At what point does Abigail first begin feeling cold? What effect does this event have on Danforth? What does it suggest about her motives?
4. How does Danforth test Proctor's confession? Hale says that Elizabeth Proctor's response is a "natural" lie, but he condemns Abigail for her "falseness." What might account for the difference in his views?
5. What does Abigail do when Hale gives his opinion of her? What can you infer about the general emotional state surrounding these events?
6. What would you identify as the key conflict of act 3 and why? Do you consider this struggle the most important conflict of the play so far? Explain.
7. Which character or characters are undergoing a test at this point?
8. Based on what you now about the HUAC hearings, do you think Miller successfully compared them to the Salem witch trials.? Why or why not?

Act IV

1. What has happened in Salem during the three months since the end of act 3?
2. What news does Parris give Danforth about Abigail?
3. What recommendation does Parris make about the condemned?
4. What has Hale been trying to do with the condemned?
5. Summarize the conflict that John Proctor is experiencing. How does Proctor finally meet the test before him? (See page R3)
6. Describe the mood of Slaem at the beginning of act 4. In what ways might this mood be responsible for what finally happens?
7. What is Danforth's reaction to Parris's news about Abigail? Why do you think he reacts this way?
8. What might Parris's motives be for his pleas with the judges and his attempts to get Proctor to confess? What is ironic about the officials' discussion of which of the condemned might be "brought to God"?
9. What do Hale's dealings twith the condemned reveal about his values and his character?
10. What might Proctor's decision mean for him? for Salem? What might Elizabeth mean when she says that John has "his goodness now"?
11. Which characters in this play are static, or unchanging, and which ones are dynamic characters, capable of growth?
12. Besdies the events of the 1950s, what other historical events might be similar to those covered in the play?