The Crucible

Notes and Act I Review
General Notes
• This is an historical drama – Salem,
Massachusetts and the witch trials.
• This is an allegory - a representation of an
abstract or spiritual meaning through
concrete or material forms; figurative
treatment of one subject under the guise of
• This is a symbolic play – the characters
represent groups of people encountered
today or any time period.
• John Proctor – a kind of Everyman – flawed but
capable of heroism under pressure.
• Elizabeth Proctor – She will undergo a
transformation which will reflect the importance of
self-esteem and forgiveness.
• Abigail Williams – not simply a “promiscuous girl”
but a young woman damaged by her past and
wounded by her lover’s rejection.
• How do the other characters resemble people
Puritan Background
• Trial transcripts show that children were behaving
strangely. This generated suspicion.
• The children blamed Tituba- a house slave least
able to defend herself.
• At first the children targeted low ranking members
of the society, then no one was off-limits.
• Records indicate that before the year was out,
nineteen people were hanged, one was pressed
to death, and four died in prison.
Historical Fiction
• Arthur Miller makes many changes to the
facts. Students must remember that much
of what he writes is fiction.
• However, Salem was fertile ground for a
disaster like the witch hunt as religious
dedication lapsed. There was an
atmosphere of fear, guilt, and resentment.
• Remember that a crucible is defined as a
vessel used to melt metals to remove the
Act I
• The events occur in one day, but they span a
huge emotional distance.
• At the beginning, the townspeople are worried
about sick children; fears and rumors about
witchcraft have begun to surface.
• By the end Tituba and the girls are crying out
accusations, and the hysteria has truly begun.
• The motivation for all of this: Abigail William’s
desire for John Proctor.
Act I
• The affair is over for him, but not for her.
• Reverend Hale is introduced as an expert
at dealing with witchcraft.
• He has good intentions, but is arrogant in
his knowledge.
• His questioning directly prompts the girls’
“crying out.”