About the Book

Book Protagonist: John Proctor
Publication Date: 1953
Genre: Drama, Historical Fiction


The Crucible

By Arthur Miller

'The Crucible' written by Arthur Miller in 1953, is a timeless classic that tells the story of a small Puritan community in Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. This play serves as a powerful allegory to the McCarthyism of the 1950s and its rampant paranoia, fear, and intolerance.

The Crucible‘ is a world-renowned play that is read in schools and universities. It’s best known as a fictional documentation of the Salem Witch Trials in which young women, and some men, were judged by their Puritan peers. Many were executed, including some of the major characters in this play. The main themes of the play, mass hysteria, and religious intolerance, are revealed as paranoia and fear spread.

Spoiler-Free Summary 

The Crucible‘ by Arthur Miller is a classic play set during the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The play follows the townspeople as hysteria and paranoia slowly spread, ultimately leading to the trial and execution of innocent people accused of witchcraft. 

It is a powerful story of individual conscience in the face of oppressive authority and public hysteria, as well as a lesson in the consequences of intolerance. As an allegory for McCarthyism, it serves as an important reminder of the dangers of prejudice and mass hysteria.

Full Summary of The Crucible

Warning – This article contains important details and spoilers

The Crucible‘ by Arthur Miller opens with a group of young girls, led by Abigail Williams, dancing in the forest. When they are discovered by Reverend Parris, Abigail lies about what they are doing and tells him they were only trying out some “silly sport.” This causes Reverend Parris to become alarmed and suspects that witchcraft is occurring in Salem. Prior to this, readers learn that Betty (the daughter of Reverend Parris), another young girl, is suffering from a mysterious illness. 

Soon, it turns out that a witchcraft expert, Reverend John Hale, has been called to investigate the proceedings. All the girls initially deny that there was any witchcraft involved in their meeting. Later, Abigail threatens the other girls, telling them that if they reveal what they are doing in the woods, they’d be injured. 

Readers learn that Abigail had a relationship with John Proctor, her former employer. His wife, Elizabeth, knows what happened and has held that against Abigail.

When Betty wakes up, she’s hysterical, and everyone’s fear of witchcraft increases. As Hale arrives, he learns about Tituba and all the young women who are involved in the town’s mysterious proceedings. Abigail confesses to witchcraft, saying that he’s given herself over to the devil. Betty and Abigail name others who they say they’ve seen with the devil. 

Reverend Hale quizzes John Proctor, asking him to name the Ten Commandments. He misses one: adultery. It’s also revealed that Proctor spoke to Abigail, and she told him that her confession was false. 

Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, is arrested, and Abigail accuses her of murder. The court convicts Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse of witchcraft, and everyone learns that Elizabeth is pregnant and shouldn’t be executed. 

Mary tells the course that she can see spirits and be false in her accusations of witchcraft. Proctor also tries to change things, telling everyone that Abigail is lying about anything to do with witchcraft. Elizabeth is kept in jail, after trying and failing to protect her husband by lying. Proctor is soon the focus of the court, being accused of witchcraft himself. 

He is kept in prison with Rebecca Nurse and his wife, Elizabeth. The court has decided not to execute her until she gives birth. Proctor falsely confesses but then destroys the documents, feeling unwilling to save his own life with a lie. He is executed at the end of the play. 


What is the main conflict in The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

The main conflict in ‘The Crucible‘ is between the characters and their moral conscience as they face accusations of witchcraft and between the accused and their accusers. Readers are asked to question themselves regarding what they’d do if they were one of the accused or were asked to accuse someone else. 

What is the theme of The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

The theme of ‘The Crucible‘ is the dangers of intolerance and the consequences of hysteria, paranoia, and mass hysteria. The play is also about religious extremism and how what seems morally right may not be. 

What is the message of The Crucible by Arthur Miller?

The message of ‘The Crucible‘ is that truth, and justice must prevail even in the face of fear and prejudice. It is a call to stand up for what is right and take responsibility for one’s actions. Unfortunately, the characters in the play do not realize what’s going on and follow through with the executions of multiple people. 

Is The Crucible based on a true story?

Yes, it is based on the true events of the Salem witch trials of 1692. However, Miller takes some liberties with the historical record to create a more dramatic and cohesive story.

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
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