Front cover of an edition of The Crucible published by Penguin Books.

The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller. The action is set in the time of the Salem Witch Trials (Salem, Massachusetts, USA, 1692). However, many people saw it as a parallel story to the contemporary period of McCarthyism. While it was based on the Salem trials and uses the names and some facts from that period, The Crucible, is fictional.

The play raises questions about accusers and the accused, guilt, innocence and punishment. It can also be a good starting point for discussions of power, slavery, adultery, loyalty, hypocrisy.

As in the McCarthy hearings, in The Crucible, those who paid the highest price were often people who were innocent of the accusations, but who refused to accuse others. Those who admitted guilt (even if they weren't), who "threw themselves on the mercy of the court" and accused others in their sted were not as heavily punished.

In the play, some young, repressed girls find that they can get attention and rewards for "fits" which they blame on witches. Some (not just the girls) see accusations of witchcraft as a way to get what they want (like neighboring land) or attention. And a series of accusations and trials begins. Once begun, it quickly grows out of control.

Note: Witch trials at that time were not uncommon, but in Puritanical New England there were several waves which were very large. One ended only when the governor's wife was accused.

Main characters

(partial list)

  • Abigail Williams
  • John Proctor
  • Tituba
  • Rebecca Nurse

The play was made into a movie at least twice.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.