"The Crucible"
By Arthur Miller
Act One
Act Two
Act Three
Act Four

Reverend Samuel Parris
A weak, paranoid and suspicious man, Parris instigates the witchcraft panic when he finds his daughter and niece dancing in the woods with several other girls. Parris is continually beset with fears that others conspire against him. Parris knows the truth that Abigail is lying about the dancing and the witchcraft, but perpetuates the deception because it is in his own self interest. Parris fears any defense against the charges of witchcraft as an attack upon the court and a personal attack on him. As a pastor, his primary concern is himself, not his parrish - he strives for monetary compensation, including the deed to the preacher's house and expensive candlesticks.

Betty Parris
The young teenager daughter of Reverend Parris, Betty falls mysteriously ill after Reverend Parris finds her dancing in the woods with Abigail and the other young women of Salem. She goes into hysterics when the charges of witchcraft first form, holding delusions that she can fly and exclaiming with horror when she hears the name of Jesus.

Parris' slave from Barbados, Tituba was with the girls when they danced and attempted to conjure the spirits of Ann Putnam's dead children. She is the first person accused of witchcraft and likewise the first person to accuse others of witchery - particularly when she discovers that the easiest way to spare herself is to admit to the charges no matter their truth.

Abigail Williams
A seventeen year-old girl who is the niece of Reverend Parris, Abigail was the Proctors' servant before Elizabeth fired her. She is a malicious, vengeful girl who, in an attempt to protect herself from punishment after Reverend Parris finds them dancing, instigates the Salem witch trials and leads the charge of accusations. Despite her accusations, Abigail is an unabashed liar who charges witchcraft against those who oppose her. Abigail's callous nature stems partially from past trauma; she is an orphan who watched as her parents were murdered by Indians.

Susanna Walcott
Susanna is one of the girls whom Parris found dancing in the woods, and a confidant of Abigail.

Thomas Putnam
One of the wealthiest landowners in Salem, Thomas Putnam is a vindictive, bitter man who holds longstanding grudges against many of the citizens of Salem, including the Nurse family for blocking the appointment of his brother-in-law to the position of minister. Putnam pushes his daughter to charge witchcraft against George Jacobs, for if he is executed, his land will be open for Putnam to purchase.

Mrs. Ann Putnam
The wife of Thomas Putnam, Ann suspects that there is some paranormal reason for the stillborn deaths of seven of her children and blames Rebecca Nurse.

Mercy Lewis
Mercy Lewis is the Putnam's servant - a sly merciless eighteen year-old girl whom Parris found naked when he spied the girls dancing in the woods.

Mary Warren
The eighteen year-old servant in the Proctor household, Mary is one of the girls found dancing in the woods and is complicit in Abigail Williams' schemes. Although weak and tentative, she challenges the Proctors when they forbid her to go to court. However, Mary eventually breaks down and testifies against Abigail until Abigail charges her with witchery. She is a pliable girl whose actions are easily determined by others.

John Proctor
A farmer in Salem, Proctor serves as the voice of reason and justice in "The Crucible". It is he who tries to expose the girls as frauds who are only pretending that there is witchcraft, and thus becomes the tragic hero of the tale. Proctor is a sharply intelligent man who can easily detect foolishness in others and expose it, but he questions his own moral sense. Proctor questions whether or not he is a moral man, as an event in his past is the only major flaw attributed to Proctor, who is in all other respects honorable and ethical. It is a sign of his morality that he does not feel himself adequate to place himself as a martyr for the cause of justice when he is given the choice to save himself at the end of the play.

Elizabeth Proctor
The wife of John Proctor, Elizabeth shares with John a similarly strict adherence to justice and moral principles She is a woman who has great confidence in her own morality and in the ability of a person to maintain a sense of righteousness, both internal and external, even when this principle conflicts with strict Christian doctrine. Elizabeth can be a cold and demanding woman, whose chilly demeanor may have driven her husband away and whose continual suspicions of her husband render their marriage tense.
Giles Corey
A combative old resident of Salem, Giles Corey is a comic figure in "The Crucible" whose fate turns tragic when he unwittingly effects his wife's charge for witchcraft when he wonders aloud about the strange books she reads at night. Corey is a frequent plaintiff in court, having brought dozens of lawsuits, and he stands with Proctor in challenging the girls' accusations, believing that Thomas Putnam is using charges of witchcraft to secure land.

Ezekiel Cheever
Ezekiel is a clerk of the court who serves the arrest warrants to the persons charged with witchcraft.

Marshal Herrick
Marshal is one of the local constables who guards the jail cells while nearly drunk.

Reverend John Hale
A scholar from Beverly, Reverend Hale comes to Salem on Reverend Parris' request to investigate supernatural causes for Betty Parris' suspicious illness and thus instigates the rumors of witchcraft. Hale approaches the situation precisely and intellectually, believing that he can define the supernatural in definitive terms. Despite his early enthusiasm for discerning the presence of witchcraft in Salem, Hale soon grows disillusioned with the witchcraft accusations that abound and defends Proctor when he challenges Abigail. Hale does this out of guilt, for he fears that he may have caused the execution of innocent persons.

Judge Hathorne
Hathorne is the judge who presides over the Salem witch trials. He remains largely subservient to Deputy Governor Danforth, but applies the same tortured reasoning to charges of witchcraft.

Deputy Governor Danforth
The deputy governor of Massachusetts presides over the Salem witch trials. He is a stern yet practical man more interested in preserving the dignity and stature of the court than in executing justice or behaving with any sense of fairness. He approaches the witchcraft trials with a strict adherence to rules and law that obscure any sense of rationality, for under his legal dictates an accusation of witchery automatically entails a conviction.
Sarah Good
One of the first women charged with witchery by the girls, she is a homeless woman who confesses to witchcraft to save herself and continues the charade with Tituba, comically claiming that Satan will take her and Tituba to Barbados.

Hopkins is one of the guards at the jail cell.

Francis Nurse
Francis is the husband of Rebecca Nurse, and a well-respected wealthy landowner in Salem. Francis Nurse joins Giles Corey and John Proctor in their challenge against the court when their respective wives are charged with witchcraft.

Rebecca Nurse
One of the most noble and well-respected citizens of Salem, this elderly woman is kindly and sane, suggesting that Betty's illness is simply a product of being out too late in the cold. Rebecca Nurse is the clear martyr in the play, the most pure and saintly character accused of witchcraft.

Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
"The Crucible" is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are one, and the religion is a strict, austere form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. Because of the theocratic nature of the society, moral laws and state laws are one and the same: sin and the status of an individual’s soul are matters of public concern. There is no room for deviation from social norms, since any individual whose private life doesn’t conform to the established moral laws represents a threat not only to the public good but also to the rule of God and true religion. In Salem, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the devil; dissent is not merely unlawful, it is associated with satanic activity. This dichotomy functions as the underlying logic behind the witch trials. As Danforth says in Act III, “a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it.” The witch trials are the ultimate expression of intolerance (and hanging witches is the ultimate means of restoring the community’s purity); the trials brand all social deviants with the taint of devil-worship and thus necessitate their elimination from the community.

Reputation is tremendously important in theocratic Salem, where public and private moralities are one and the same. In an environment where reputation plays such an important role, the fear of guilt by association becomes particularly pernicious. Focused on maintaining public reputation, the townsfolk of Salem must fear that the sins of their friends and associates will taint their names. Various characters base their actions on the desire to protect their respective reputations. As the play begins, Parris fears that Abigail’s increasingly questionable actions, and the hints of witchcraft surrounding his daughter’s coma, will threaten his reputation and force him from the pulpit. Meanwhile, the protagonist, John Proctor, also seeks to keep his good name from being tarnished. Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls’ accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctor’s desire to keep his good name leads him to make the heroic choice. By refusing to relinquish his name, he redeems himself for his earlier failure and dies with integrity.

Another critical theme in "The Crucible" is the role that hysteria can play in tearing apart a community. Hysteria supplants logic and enables people to believe that their neighbors, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing absurd and unbelievable crimes—communing with the devil, killing babies, and so on. In "The Crucible", the townsfolk accept and become active in the hysterical climate not only out of genuine religious piety but also because it gives them a chance to express repressed sentiments and to act on long-held grudges. In the end, hysteria can thrive only because people benefit from it. It suspends the rules of daily life and allows the acting out of every dark desire and hateful urge under the cover of righteousness.

Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

The witch trials empower several characters in the play who are previously marginalized in Salem society. In general, women occupy the lowest rung of male-dominated Salem and have few options in life. They work as servants for townsmen until they are old enough to be married off and have children of their own. In addition to being thus restricted, Abigail is also a slave to John Proctor—he strips away her innocence and he arouses her spiteful jealousy. Because the Puritans’ greatest fear is the defiance of God, Abigail’s accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship immediately command the attention of the court. By aligning herself, in the eyes of others, with God’s will, she gains power over society, as do the other girls in her pack, and her word becomes virtually unassailable, as do theirs. Tituba, whose status is lower than that of anyone else in the play by virtue of the fact that she is black, manages similarly to deflect blame from herself by accusing others.

Accusations, Confessions, and Legal Proceedings
The witch trials are central to the action of "The Crucible", and dramatic accusations and confessions fill the play even beyond the confines of the courtroom. In the first act, even before the hysteria begins, we see Parris accuse Abigail of dishonoring him, and he then makes a series of accusations against his parishioners. Giles Corey and Proctor respond in kind, and Putnam soon joins in, creating a chorus of indictments even before Hale arrives. The entire witch trial system thrives on accusations, the only way that witches can be identified, and confessions, which provide the proof of the justice of the court proceedings. Proctor attempts to break this cycle with a confession of his own, but this confession is trumped by the accusation of witchcraft against him, which in turn demands a confession. Proctor’s courageous decision, at the close of the play finally breaks the cycle. The court collapses shortly afterward, undone by the refusal of its victims to propagate lies.


Symbols are objects, characters, figures, or colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.

The Witch Trials and McCarthyism
There is little symbolism within "The Crucible", but, in its entirety, the play can be seen as symbolic of the paranoia about communism that pervaded America in the 1950s. Several parallels exist between the House Un-American Activities Committee’s rooting out of suspected communists during this time and the seventeenth-century witch-hunt that Miller depicts in "The Crucible", including the narrow-mindedness, excessive zeal, and disregard for the individuals that characterize the government’s effort to stamp out a perceived social ill. Further, as with the alleged witches of Salem, suspected Communists were encouraged to confess their crimes and to “name names,” identifying others sympathetic to their radical cause. Some have criticized Miller for oversimplifying matters, in that while there were (as far as we know) no actual witches in Salem, there were certainly Communists in 1950s America. However, one can argue that Miller’s concern in "The Crucible" is not with whether the accused actually are witches, but rather with the unwillingness of the court officials to believe that they are not. In light of McCarthyist excesses, which wronged many innocents, this parallel was felt strongly in Miller’s own time.

Vocabulary and Important Terms

List One – Dramatic Literary Terms

  1. Act – a division within a play, like the chapters of a novel
  2. Aside – lines that are spoken by a character directly to the audience
  3. Cast – a listing of the characters who appear on the stage
  4. Comedy – a humorous work of drama
  5. Dialogue – Conversation between two or more characters
  6. Drama – a work of literature designed to be preformed in front of an audience
  7. Dramatic Irony – when the audience or reader knows something that the characters in the story do not know
  8. Foil – a character who is much like another character in class, rank, and background, but has opposite traits which provide a contrast and conflict between the two characters
  9. Monologue – a long speech spoken by a character to himself, another character, or to the audience
  10. Scene – a division of an act into smaller pieces
  11. Stage Directions – italicized comments that identify parts of the setting or the use of props or costumes, give further information about a character, or provide background information
  12. Tragedy – a serious work of drama in which the hero suffers catastrophe or serious misfortune, usually because of his/her own actions
  13. Tragic hero – a protagonist with a fatal flaw which eventually leads to his/her demise

List Two – Time Period Vocabulary

Act One

Hearty – well

Bid – told

Aye – yes

Opened – been honest

Nay – no

Sport – a game

Goody – Mrs.

Blink – pay no attention to

Naught – nothing

Mark – listen to; remember

Clapped in the stocks – placed in the stocks (a punishment device in which the offender was secured by the hands and feet or head and hands and was left outside to be publicly humiliated or abused)

Wintry – unfriendly

Charge – accusation or reason

Writ – court order

Pray – please

Incubi and Succubi – (plural form for incubus and succubus) male and female demons, respectively, who were believed to abuse people when they were asleep

Irons – iron restraints

Act Two

Strip – cut into smaller pieces, disassemble

Would – wish; wish to

Bewitchin’ – putting a curse on; using magic or other supernatural force against

Fraud – lie or person who lies

Let you – you should

Be – were; are

Weighty – important

Base – immoral

How comes it – why is it

Quail – show fear or apprehension

Text – pretext; a made-up reason or excuse

Act Three

Broke charity – broke trust; turned against

Put-upon – treated badly

Ipso facto – because of that very fact

Suck a scream – accuse

What say you – what do you have to say

Act Four

With child – pregnant

Marked – scheduled

Bridegroom – groom or male suitor

List Three – Text Vocabulary

Act One











Act Two











Act Three











Act Four