'The Crucible' - Study Guide

Arthur Miller's Drama of the Salem Witch Trials

The Playwright:
Over the course of seven decades, Arthur Miller created some of the most memorable stage plays in American Literature. His life was as fascinating and as turbulent as his plays. His first success was All My Sons, followed by his most popular work, Death of a Salesman. Although Death of a Salesman became an instant classic, I believe The Crucible is his finest masterpiece.

About the Play:
Written in the early 1950s, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible takes place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. It recounts the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials. Although it is a work of historical fiction, the playwright also intended it to be a thinly veiled criticism of social injustice in modern day America.

Character Profiles:
Each character plays a vital role in this tragic drama. Some are heroic. Some are wretched. All of them, however, possess very human flaws.

  • John Proctor: The complex protagonist. He is guilt-ridden over an affair with Abigail Williams. He hopes to redeem himself as a husband. However, a new conflict arises when the young women of Salem accuse his wife of witchcraft.
  • Abigail Williams: The young antagonist. When she is jilted by John Proctor, she starts a chain reaction that will consume an entire village.
  • Elizabeth Proctor: The pious wife of John Proctor. Before the beginning of the play, she shuns Abigail Williams from her household. Unfortunately, she becomes the “wicked” girl’s main target.
  • Judge Danforth: The foreboding ruler of Salem's courtroom.
  • Reverend Parris: The self-righteous spiritual leader of Salem.
  • Reverend Hale: The idealistic hunter of witches. He believes in the existence of witches and demons. However, he wants to be careful about seeking the truth. Unlike other characters, he tries not to jump to conclusions.
  • Rebecca Nurse: One of the many innocent victims of The Crucible.

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