The Crucible Summary

Arthur Miller

The Crucible

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The Crucible Summary

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The Crucible by renowned American playwright Arthur Miller was first staged in 1953, winning a Tony Award for Best Play. It tells the story of the Salem witch trials, which took place between February 1692 and May 1693. Miller uses the Salem witch trials as an allegory for the McCarthyism of the time.

Act One begins in Salem, Massachusetts in Puritan New England. Betty Parris lies motionless in a coma-like state. She is the ten-year-old daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris. The night before, she and a group of girls danced in the forest for a Barbadian slave named Tituba. Reverend Parris catches the girls dancing in what appears to be a ritual. The Reverend questions his niece, Abigail Williams, the leader of the group. Abigail denies involvement with any witchcraft and says they were just dancing. An expert on witchcraft, Reverend Hale, is summoned to investigate.

Abigail speaks to other girls involved in the incident. This includes Betty, who briefly regains consciousness. All the girls are afraid of being labeled as witches. Abigail threatens them to not admit to anything. They are all to say they were dancing in the woods, when in fact they had tried to conjure a curse.

John Proctor, a local farmer who had had an affair with Abigail, confronts Abigail alone. Abigail had worked in his home until his wife, Elizabeth, discovered the affair and fired her. Abigail, who still has feelings for Proctor, argues with him when he denies having feelings for her. While they are arguing, Betty wakes up and begins screaming. Members of the crowd outside rush upstairs into Betty’s bedroom and argue whether Betty is bewitched.

Reverend Hale comes to the home. After examining Betty and questioning Abigail, he becomes suspicious. He asks to interrogate Tituba. According to Abigail, Tituba forced her to drink blood. Tituba accuses Abigail of begging her to conjure a deadly curse. After being threatened to be whipped to death, Tituba falsely confesses that the devil has bewitched her and other people in the town. Both Abigail and Betty also identify members of the town as witches. Reverend Hale orders that everyone named be arrested and tried.

Act Two begins in the Proctor’s farmhouse outside of town a week later. John and Elizabeth Proctor discuss that Abigail and the other girls have accused almost 40 people of witchcraft. When they were alone together, Abigail had told John that none of the accusations were true. Elizabeth insists that John denounce Abigail as a fraud, but he refuses.

Meanwhile, the Proctor’s servant, Mary Warren, returns from witnessing the trial in Salem. Mary tells them that Elizabeth was also accused of witchcraft, but charges were dropped after she defended her. Elizabeth guesses that Abigail was her accuser. Elizabeth again begs her husband to tell the courts the truth about the girls’ lies. John does not want his affair with Abigail to be revealed.

Reverend Hale arrives to interview Elizabeth because she was named at court. Elizabeth urges her husband to tell Hale the truth about the girls. Giles Corey and Francis Nurse suddenly enter the house to tell them that their wives have been arrested. Officers arrive and arrest Elizabeth. John orders Mary to expose the girls in court, but she refuses. Mary knows that this will also expose John’s affair. Despite the danger to him, John insists that the truth is more important.

In Act Three, Mary tells the truth in court to Judge Danforth. The girls then accuse Mary of bewitching them. John explains to the court that Abigail is jealous of his wife due his past affair with her. Elizabeth, unaware of John’s confession, denies that this true to protect him.

Confusion arises in the court. Abigail and the girls scream that Mary’s spirit is attacking them. To save herself from hanging, Mary takes back her allegations against them. Mary accuses John Proctor of being taken over by the devil. John Proctor is then arrested. Reverend Hale leaves denouncing the court’s proceedings.

Act Four takes place in the town jail early in the morning three months later. Abigail ran away with all Reverend Parris’ money. The accused witches, who are begged by Reverend Hale to save their lives by making false confessions, refuse. Everyone accused is hanged to death at the gallows.

Arthur Asher Miller was born on October 17, 1915, in Harlem, New York. His best-known plays are All my Sons (1947), The Crucible (1953), A View from the Bridge (1955) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Death of a Salesman (1949). From the late 1940s until the 1960s, Miller was often in the public eye for testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee and his marriage to Marilyn Monroe. He died at the age of 89 on February 10, 2005, which happened to be the 56th anniversary of the Broadway debut of Death of a Salesman.