Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible highlights accusations of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600s. While this story is based on fictional characters, the premise of the novel is based on true events which occurred in 1692. The story begins when a group of girls is caught by Reverend Parris while they are dancing in the forest with a slave named Tituba. Betty, who is Reverend Parris’s daughter, suddenly faints and does not wake. She is taken home and the townspeople gather to see her condition. Reverend Hale is called to the scene, and the girls are questioned about their behavior in the forest. Abigail, who was amongst the girls, advises the other girls to not admit anything. They attest they were simply dancing. When Tituba is questioned separately, she admits to have been talking to the Devil and claims other townspeople have seen and communicate with the Devil. Tituba’s claims spur a wild series of accusations about witchcraft and the town is turned upside down. When Betty wakes up, she and Abigail join in the confessions and starting point out townspeople who have been involved in witchcraft. Witch trials begin in Salem and many of the women of the town are under fire. A man whom Abigail had an affair with, John Proctor, becomes more involved when his wife, Elizabeth, is arrested on accusations of witchcraft. Abigail and her friends suddenly start accusing the Proctor’s servant Mary of bewitching them. Abigail’s behavior is suspected to be out of jealousy, as she still desires Proctor. As the trials continue, many townspeople confess to witchcraft to avoid being hanged. Abigail is still instigating accusations, and Mary becomes swept up in her craze. Mary tells the judge that Proctor made her sign the “Devil’s Book”, and he is sent to jail. John Proctor refuses to confess for sins he did not commit, and is eventually hanged for his refusal. Main Characters: John Proctor- A local farmer who is brought down by his secret affair with Abigail, and is eventually hanged. Abigail Williams- Conniving and smart, Abigail is the ringleader of the group of girls caught up in the accusations of witchcraft. Tituba- The Parris’s slave who admits performs Voodoo and communicates with the Devil. Reverend Parris- Betty’s father and Abigail’s uncle who also owns Tituba. Eliabeth Proctor- John Proctor’s wife who is angry about his affair with Abigail.
Symbolism: The Crucible does not contain many obvious symbols, but some people argue that the play itself is a symbol for accusations that occurred in American history. During the 1940s and 50s, the American Government was concerned about citizens participating in communism and “un-American activities”. The accusations were imposed and investigated and thousands of people’s lives were damaged. This is similar to The Crucible in the fact that both events of hysteria help very little evidence to support such exaggerated claims. About the Author: Arthur Miller was born in New York in 1915. While at the University of Michigan, Miller wrote several plays which gained him attention and awards. The play Death of a Salesman created quite a stir and won Miller a Pulitzer Prize. The Crucible was published in 1953 and was inspired by research Miller studied during his undergraduate years.
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