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The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts

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"I believe that the reader will discover here the essential nature of one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history," Arthur Miller wrote of his classic play about the witch-hunts and trials in seventeenth-century Salem, Massachusetts. Based on historical people and real events, Miller's drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town's most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. The ruthlessness of the prosecutors and the eagerness of neighbor to testify against neighbor brilliantly illuminates the destructive power of socially sanctioned violence.

Written in 1953, The Crucible is a mirror Miller uses to reflect the anti-communist hysteria inspired by Senator Joseph McCarthy's "witch-hunts" in the United States. Within the text itself, Miller contemplates the parallels, writing, "Political opposition... is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence."

WIth an introduction by Christopher Bigsby.
(back cover)

143 pages, Paperback

First published January 22, 1953

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About the author

Arthur Miller

265 books2,512 followers
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American literature and cinema for over 61 years, writing a wide variety of plays, including celebrated plays such as The Crucible, A View from the Bridge, All My Sons, and Death of a Salesman, which are still studied and performed worldwide. Miller was often in the public eye, most famously for refusing to give evidence against others to the House Un-American Activities Committee, being the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama among other awards, and for marrying Marilyn Monroe. At the time of his death, Miller was considered one of the greatest American playwrights.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,808 reviews
Author 5 books589 followers
July 9, 2015
I hate to rate this so low when it seems that the only people who do so are those forced to read it by a cruel teacher. I'm even more troubled by the fact that I haven't seen anyone else bring up what bothers me about this play.

Yes, it's well written -- that is, the dialogue is expertly handled. There are truly beautiful passages, such as this one:

I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up.

But when it comes down to it, this is yet another piece of literature in which men HAVE sex, but women ARE sex. Men have complex lives and motivations; women's lives center entirely around men, specifically around attraction to and dependence on men.

Miller brought up the very real issues of property and land-lust that dominated the real trial. Why did he insist on sexualizing the girls involved -- to the point where he had to make one of the girls several years older than she really was? The terrifying thing about what the real "afflicted girls" did was that it comes across as a sort of motiveless malignity. They were lashing out at their own repressive society, possibly egged on by parents who wanted to use them as weapons in battles over land. That's fascinating.

Instead, Miller decided to say that the girls really were engaged in "witchcraft" -- or at least in stereotypical witch behavior: dancing naked in the woods at night, concocting evil brews. He insists that "there are accounts of similar klatches in Europe, where the daughters of the towns would assemble at night and, sometimes with fetishes, sometimes with a selected young man, give themselves to love, with some bastardly results." He doesn't seem to realize that these "accounts" are all from accusers or from the tortured accused. He really seems to believe that this went on.

Then there's the main character: John Proctor. Can't imagine why I have a hard time sympathizing with him.

Imagine you know a family with three young children. They hire an au pair. The dad has an affair with this young woman -- hardly older than a girl, a virgin, completely inexperienced in life or love. The mom suspects that something is going on and fires her, but stays with the dad. The dad bitches at the mom for always giving him that look and not acting happy to see him all the time. The mom breaks down crying and admits that her cold behavior must have pushed him into having an affair. The dad also bitches at the au pair, because this affair got her hopes up and she really thought it meant something to him the way it did to her. He screams at this teenager (who was lucky not to get pregnant, btw, since they didn't use birth control) to get over it, already -- he's married and he's staying that way.

If you heard about something like this -- maybe it happened to a friend of yours, maybe you read about it in a novel -- would your first sympathy really be with the poor, tormented man who has to put up with all these women acting like he owes them something?

Why has no one pointed out how creepy it is that John Proctor is genuinely supposed to be a sympathetic character, and Abigail is a monster?

And by the way -- contrary to what Miller says in his afterword, the only "legend" that "has it that Abigail turned up later as a prostitute in Boston" is the one he started by writing this.

Sorry. I'm not in 9th grade, and I still have problems with this modern classic. I understand why it is one; but I just can't give it the three "I liked it!" stars.
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.7k followers
June 17, 2017
JOHN PROCTOR: What... what are we doing here? Where are we?

ELIZABETH PROCTOR: We're in a review, John.


JOHN HALE: Yes, a review. Newt Gingrich has been encouraging people to read The Crucible. We've agreed to help him.

SAMUEL PARRIS: It's our duty, John. We're in the middle of the second worst witch hunt in American history.

JOHN PROCTOR: The second worst?

SAMUEL PARRIS: Yes, the second worst. After what's going to happen to Donald Trump in 2017. But at least our case is remotely comparable, so it offers people a point of reference.

JOHN PROCTOR: What's going to happen to him? Is he going to be pressed under huge stones like my friend Giles Corey?

SAMUEL PARRIS: I don't think so.

JOHN PROCTOR: Hanged on the basis of false accusations like Rebecca Nurse?

SAMUEL PARRIS: I believe not.

JOHN PROCTOR: Entrapped and then imprisoned like my poor, wronged wife?

SAMUEL PARRIS: I have different information.

JOHN PROCTOR: Well, what then?

SAMUEL PARRIS: People on late night talk shows are going to make a great many sarcastic comments about his tweeting habit. And after a while, he'll have said so many insane and self-incriminating things that a special counsel will be appointed to find out just what the hell is going on.

THE WHOLE COURT: Oh, how dreadful!


JOHN PROCTOR: You're right. We have to do something.

Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
October 31, 2021
The Crucible: a play in four acts, Arthur Miller

The Crucible is a 1953 play by American playwright Arthur Miller. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists.

In 1692, in the small town of Salem (Massachusetts), rumor has it that a young woman has done an obscene curse. The inhabitants accuse each other and fall prey to an unstoppable mass hysteria, and then a trial begins that may lead to fearsome revenge ... Arthur Miller conceived The Salem Witches in the black age of the "witch hunt" deployed in America during McCarthyism. Later he collaborated in its adaptation to the cinema, entitled El Cruol and whose script is offered after the play.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «جادوگران شهر سالم (سیلم ماساچوست)»؛ «ساحره سوزان»؛ «چشم‌ اندازی از پل و گذر از آزمون»؛ «آزمون آنشین»؛ «بوته ی آزمایش»؛ نویسنده: آرتور میلر؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز پنجم ماه اکتبر سال1972میلادی

عنوان: جادوگران شهر سالم - نمایشنامه در چهار پرده؛ نویسنده: آرتور میلر؛ مترجم: مجید امین موید؛ حادثه درویشی؛ تهران، صائب، سال1345؛ در125ص؛ موضوع نمایشنامه های نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م

عنوان: ساحره سوزان؛ نویسنده: آرتور میلر؛ مترجم: فریدون فاطمی؛ تهران، نشر مرکز، سال1368؛ در155ص؛

عنوان: چشم‌ اندازی از پل و گذر از آزمون؛نویسنده: آرتور میلر؛ مترجم: منیژه محامدی؛ تهران، افراز، سال1388؛ در191ص؛ شابک9789642837878؛

عنوان: آزمون آنشین - نمایشنامه در چهار پرده؛ نویسنده: آرتور میلر؛ مترجم: منوچهر خاکسار هرسینی؛ تهران، افراز، سال1389؛ در208ص؛ شابک9789642434626؛

بوته ی آزمایش (ساحره سوزان)؛ نمایشنامه ای در چهار پرده است، و با چهار عنوان به فارسی برگردان شده؛ نمایش‌نامه نخستین‌بار در سال1952میلادی و پس‌ از آن بارها با اجراهای گوناگون روی صحنه آمده است، از ژرفترین درام‌های جهان پس‌از جنگِ دوّم جهانگیر و اثری کلاسیک در نمایش‌نامه‌ نویسی مدرن است؛ داستان محاکمات جادوگری در «سیلم»، از سال‌1692میلادی تا سال 1693میلادی، در «ماساچوست» آمریکاست؛

نمایشنامه، در باره ی باورها، و چگونگی زندگی ساکنان خرافاتی فرقه ی «پوریتان» است، که در شهر «سالم (سیلم) ماساچوست»، روزگار میگذرانند؛ شهری، با پیشینه ی چهل ساله، که توسط پیروان همان فرقه، بنا گردیده، و در آن از هیچگونه تفریح و سرگرمی همانند تئاتر، یا جشن کریسمس و …؛ خبری نیست، و مردمانش موظف هستند، که تعطیلات خود را، تنها با دعا و نیایش به درگاه خداوند سپری کنند؛ در همین راستا، عده ای نیز ماموریت دارند، در سطح شهر گشت زنند، و افرادی را که اوقاتشان را به بطالت، و بدون پرداختن به مناجات سپری میکنند، شناسایی کرده، و آنها را به اداره کنندگان شهر، معرفی نمایند، تا پس از پیگیری، و بررسی وضعیتشان، در صورتی که دلیل قانع کننده ای، برای عمل خود نداشته باشند، مجازات شده و مایه ی عبرت دیگران شوند؛ در قوانین سفت و سخت «سلیم»، شایعاتی مبنی بر اینکه زنان، در حال تمرین جادوگری هستند؛ ترس و سوء ظن مردمان شهر را برمیانگیزد؛ و هنگامیکه یک دختر جوان به نام «الیزابت پروتور» را، به جادوگری متهم میکنند، رهبران خود مختار کلیسا، و اهالی شهر اصرار دارند، که «الیزابت» محاکمه شود؛ بیرحمی دادستانها و اشتیاق همسایه ها به شهادت در باره ی همسایه های خویش، خشونت سرکوب شده ی اجتماع را، روشن میکند؛

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 04/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 08/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
858 reviews5,917 followers
July 27, 2022
Woman in Salem, MA (1692): *Exists*
[Photo Text: House GOP tweeting "This is all heresy"]
Profile Image for • Lindsey Dahling •.
293 reviews612 followers
September 27, 2022
I may be in the minority here, but I love me a female villain that has little to no redeemable qualities. Not even kidding. This could be because *almost* every single thing Americans read in high school involves a male narrator (TKAM is the exception, and Scout Finch is a tomboy, so...) surrounded by terrible women whose sole purpose is to somehow ruin the man’s life.

Why do I love these despicable women? Because it’s fun finding reasons they’re motivated to be awful while everyone else in the audience is busy loathing them (looking at you, Cersei Lannister and Delores Umbridge).

John Proctor can call Abigail Williams a whore all the live-long day, but she’s not the one who is cheating on anyone. She’s also half his age. She also lived in a society that repressed absolutely everyone, women in particular, and ever citizen lived in fear of their own shadow thanks to the hellfire-loving God and snooping neighbors. Children were seen, not heard. Puritans spent all day, every day working and praying (except Sunday—then you were just praying). Girl had a lot of pent up energy. So, when John Proctor showed her a way to...ehm...channel that energy...there was no going back.

Also, people in Salem were all tripping balls thanks to ergotism poisoning, so she probably actually did see a few of those “spirits” flying around the courtroom.

She was still a horrible human being. But, I sure do love revisiting the insanity of 1692 every so often.

Finally, of course I also love the play because Arthur Miller wrote it to remind us of why [literal and metaphorical] witch hunts are dangerous. Sadly, it’s 2019 and we still aren’t listening to him. Our witch hunts take place online now. Maybe we’d pay attention if Abigail had a Twitter account.

P.S.—Giles Corey was a badass. I’m positive historical censorship rewrote his last words, because they most absolutely had to be, “More weight, motherfuckers.” 🎤
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 29 books13.7k followers
July 1, 2009
This is a magnificent play about what happens when hysteria takes over a society, and evil people gain access to the levers of power; something, alas, which happens all too frequently.

The focus of the story is John Proctor's struggle to redeem himself from the horrible guilt he has suffered since committing adultery with Abigail. This is indeed very moving. But, for some reason, the part I think of most often is a detail concerning one of the minor characters, Giles Corey, who dies offstage halfway through. Giles is one of many citizens falsely accused of witchcraft by Abigail and those who are exploiting her. He is an impossible situation; irrespective of whether he pleads guilty or innocent, he is doomed. But Giles has a long history of litigation, and knows the law very well. He simply refuses to enter any plea at all.

They fetch huge stones, and lay them on top of him, to force him to say something. But the only words he ever utters are "More weight". And so he dies uncompromised, and his farm is inherited by his children. The person telling the story finishes, and adds, "It was a fearsome man, Giles Corey".


I just looked it up on Wikipedia; apparently it's all true. The article is very good.

Profile Image for Brian.
689 reviews332 followers
December 25, 2018
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life.”

"The Crucible" is many things. A piece of great American theatre, a gift to actors, and a wonderful read! One thing it is not is a piece of history, so be warned. Too many people read this as a historical text, despite Arthur Miller's explicit instructions in the play's notes to not do so, and thus they miss the forest for the trees. This is not an examination of the Salem Witch Trials, but rather a fictional rendering of a historical event, in order for the modern reader or viewer to examine their own bias, prejudices, hypocrisy, or concepts of honor.
To me, this play is about one's man's personal redemption. The protagonist of the play, John Proctor, is a fallen man for many reasons, and the play really traces his moral progression to final absolution through honor, truth, and dignity. The events of Salem in 1692 are used for dramatic purposes to tell this story. And what a story it is.
Every time I read this play I feel intense hatred for theocracy and dogmatic religion wherever it may be found, and I also find myself examining my own personal code of ethics and seeing how I stand in the world of moral affairs. I should add this play makes me hate rigid dogma in all areas. Politics, religion, philosophy, science, etc. Mob mentality, politics above all else, etc. are not exclusive to the world of religion or a certain political or scientific philosophy. If you think they are, you are the dogmatic fool this play takes on.
"The Crucible" is wonderfully structured in four acts, each one better than the one that preceded it, and it builds to a crescendo and a very abrupt ending that leaves the reader with a pounding heart, an angry mind, and a moral quandary. No small feat!
The text has a very large cast of characters, but in this edition all of Miller's notes are included, and so it reads like a novel, and is a very enjoyable experience, even if one never actually sees it in performance. In the hands of a bad acting company it would be deadly dull, but done well it is exciting. The film version, for which Arthur Miller also wrote the screenplay, is not bad either. Daniel Day Lewis is an excellent John Proctor, and it captures the spirit of the text very well.
The climactic moment of the play is preceded by a very tender and brutally touching scene between a husband and wife, both of whom have had their moments of not loving the other one well. My heart ached and soared while reading it.
If you don't know this seminal American work, you should. Read it, let it take you on a very emotional journey, and then self-reflect.
The greatest literature makes us do just that.
Profile Image for Guille.
757 reviews1,554 followers
February 5, 2023

En Todos eran mis hijos me quejaba un poquito de cierto esquematismo en la construcción de los personajes, de la falta de matices. Pues bien, aquí todo ello es mucho más llamativo, pero es que aquí, realmente, no hace falta más, de hecho, es lo apropiado.

El título original de la obra es “El crisol”, lo que nos indica desde el principio que el texto no es tanto una obra de personajes, una crítica de actitudes y comportamientos, que también, sino una forma de hacer entendible como un despropósito del calibre de lo narrado puede, pudo, llegar a suceder y advertirnos de algo que a menudo olvidamos, que siempre puede volver a ocurrir. Es la dramatización de una histeria colectiva en la que el protagonista es el miedo. El miedo como estructura de convivencia, el miedo como excusa de aceptación de lo inaceptable, el miedo como herramienta de sometimiento, el miedo como desencadenante de la tragedia. Nos encontrarnos en un escenario de frontera, territorial e ideológico, de sospecha hacia todo y hacia todos. Un caldo de cultivo apropiado para la intolerancia, el puritanismo, el cierre de filas, la superstición, la religiosidad más primitiva y la tolerancia de un pueblo al poder más autoritario.
"Tu celo es muy valioso, si estás en lo correcto; pero si estás equivocado, entre más grande sea tu celo mayor será tu maldad." Platón
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.3k followers
October 15, 2022
“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!”—Proctor

One of the major plays in the canon of American theatre, which is probably why the Goodreads average is so low for it: If you are forced to read it in school, or maybe it’s the way it is taught, or that you have to take tests about it? But having taught it myself in school and seen it a few times in great productions, I have always loved it. Maybe you should at least listen to an audio version to get a sense of the hysteria at its core, and to appreciate the many great speeches in it. The play is ostensibly Miller’s take on the Salem Witchcraft trials, taking place in the Puritan period and in a place Miller describes as governed by theocracy, a form of government that many religious right folks still want to put in place today.

“Great stones they lay upon his chest until he plead aye or nay. They say he give them but two words. ‘More weight,’ he says. And died”—of Giles Corey, who refused to confess what he had been accused of—being a witch, or trafficking with witches; he also refused to name others to save his life.

The play was produced in 1953, during a time when another kind of “witchhunt” was taking place in America, the House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, or HUAC, or the (Joseph) McCarthy Trials, which sought to discover if people were or ever had been members of the Communist Party, a process that ruined the lives of people, many of them in the arts—who became blacklisted. Miller himself was questioned in 1956 and convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.

In Salem and in DC, if you had a grudge, if you wanted revenge for something someone had done to you, if they were not loyal to you or a cause for which you advocated, you could call people names, you could call them witches, or Communists, and denial might be seen as evidence of guilt. If you turned people in as evil, you got patriotic/religious points from those in charge. Miller says, “Political opposition. . . is given an inhumane overlay, which then justifies the abrogation of all normally applied customs of civilized behavior. A political policy is equated with moral right, and opposition to it with diabolical malevolence.”

“Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem—vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”—Proctor

I love this play, as manic as it sometimes is, with all its screaming wild teenaged girls pretending they are being possessed by so many (boring, devout) adults, who they convinced the courts should hang. It’s just great drama, so I can’t imagine just having to read it and never see it. I like it in part for wild speeches like this:

“A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud—God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!”—Proctor

Proctor is no saint—he has committed adultery with one of the girls making (jealous, vengeful) accusations against his wife, and then him, among many other people, so he doesn’t want to hang and give the impression he is as good as so many who have hanged for refusing to admit they were witches. But he makes the right, though tragic choice, and as his wife says,

“He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!”—Elizabeth
Profile Image for James.
Author 19 books3,581 followers
May 16, 2020
Book Review
I may be a little unpopular with my 3 of 5 stars rating for The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller, but in my world, a 3 means it's your generally good book/play/movie with some great things, some bad things, and an overall "yeah, you should probably read it."

The topic: Salem Witch Trials, one of my absolute favorite time periods in American history to research. Miller is brilliant, I acknowledge it. He bring suspense, timing and charisma in everything he does. But when this is about an episode from our history over 250 years before the play was written, I expected something a bit different / stronger. Too many scenes were too dry for me.

So many schools put this play on as a high school production. Even in colleges sometimes. I was tempted to look for it on Broadway... I mean, I do live in NYC. Why wouldn't I go try it out? Really... I blame myself here.

Characters are great. You do feel strong emotions towards them. I think what I wanted more of... was the mysterious air surrounding those deemed a witch. There are some scenes where it's almost there for me, but ultimately... I wanted more. I should probably give it another chance... it's been almost 25 years.

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Profile Image for Nandakishore Mridula.
1,243 reviews2,257 followers
June 23, 2016
Recently, a group of students allegedly shouted anti-India slogans at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Delhi, and the political and religious conservatives in India went virtually mad. Soon, any criticism of India was seen as unpatriotic and traitorous. The JNU, a leftist stronghold and a thorn in the flesh of the Hindu Right-Wing government at the centre, was termed a positive hotbed of crime and vice and a recruiting ground for terrorists. Many a Muslim, unless he wore his love of India on his sleeve for all to see, was branded a Pakistani agent - the refusal to say "Bharat Mata ki Jai" (Victory to Mother India) resulted in intimidation and even physical abuse in many places.

What is interesting about this phenomena is that it is not only an orchestrated move from the right-wingers: many Indians are genuinely frightened that Pakistanis are in our midst, bent on destroying the country with the support of the leftists. There is a paranoia that is being exploited by the political vultures.

I am frightened by how much this resembles McCarthyism - the madness that gripped America from 1950 to 56 and destroyed many lives and careers. Wikipedia says

During the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts later overturned, laws that were later declared unconstitutional, dismissals for reasons later declared illegal or actionable, or extra-legal procedures that would come into general disrepute.

It seems that human beings don't learn anything from history, and therefore keep on repeating it.

But then, according to Arthur Miller, the Red Scare of the fifties was a repeat of a much darker event from the seventeenth century - the Salem Witch Trails. He wrote this play in 1953 to remind fellow citizens on how mass hysteria can engulf a society and demolish civilisation.

in 1692, a group of children in Salem were afflicted by diseases which showed classical symptoms of hysteria, but were soon diagnosed as demonic possession by the church authorities based partly on the children's own confused utterings. Soon, people were being denounced left and right as witches and executed. Malicious people with revenge and other material interests (such as grabbing a condemned person's property) seems to have contributed enthusiastically to the madness. As John Proctor, an accused, says in the play:

Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem - vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!

These words are chillingly applicable to both McCarthyism and the events I quoted at the beginning: common vengeance is writing the law. Anybody can be accused - proof is not required, accusation is proof enough. Any kind of fair dealing and neutrality would be seen as potential collaboration, so the safest thing is to side with the accusers. Verily, the term "witch hunt" has entered the English language with strong credentials.

A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud - God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!

We will. We, the conformists who let the madness continue to save our own islands of comfort in this burning sea of paranoid anger.


From the Oxford English Dictionary:

1 A ceramic or metal container in which metals or other substances may be melted or subjected to very high temperatures

1.1 A situation of severe trial, or in which different elements interact, leading to the creation of something new

It is evident that Arthur Miller put a lot of thought into the naming of his play. He wanted to emphasise the heat and the fire, the hatred and the horror: at the same time, he also wanted to point out that after the melting process, a refined product would come out. Times of extreme tribulations in society are usually followed by a period of rejuvenation.

The playwright takes a lot of liberty with history to make his point. This is nothing new: Shakespeare regularly did this, it seems. So in the play, the historical 11-year-old Abigail Williams, the niece of the puritan minister Reverend Parris of Salem is transformed into an oversexed teen. She has seduced John Proctor in whose house she was working as a servant, and has apparently tried out some black magic to kill his wife. During such a magic session in the woods with Tituba and other kids, the Parris's Caribbean servant, they are surprised by the minister. Betty, the minister's young daughter, falls into a dead faint and cannot be cured by the doctor. Abigail immediately shouts witchcraft, and others join in; and soon the subterfuge becomes mass hysteria.

Miller has chosen John Proctor to be tragic hero of this play; haunted by guilt at his infidelity (even more so because his wife forgives it), he seeks punishment for himself, at least inside his soul. His torment is further compounded as his wife Elizabeth is denounced as a witch by Abigail. To make matters worse, there is the cunning Thomas Putnam, abetting the hysteria to settle scores against old opponents and grab their lands. As the roller-coaster of paranoia rolls on towards its destructive end, Proctor himself is sentenced to hang for witchcraft but Elizabeth ironically escapes as she is pregnant.

At the insistence of friends and a few sane people who want to stop the madness, John Proctor confesses at the last moment: however, he immediately sees the falsehood and cowardice in it and immediately withdraws it.

HALE: Man, you will hang! You cannot!

PROCTOR[his eyes full of tears]: I can. And there's your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs.

Yes indeed: the courage to stand up for what one thinks is right is ultimately the refined product that comes out of the crucible.


The character who impressed me most in the story was Giles Corey, an 81-year-old man who refused to confess or refute when faced with charges of witchcraft. He was subjected to a horrendous form of torture called "pressing" (thankfully it occurs offstage in the play) where more and more rocks were piled on his chest in an effort to make him speak. Giles endured this for a whole two days before he died - his last words, reportedly, were "more weight". There's guts for you!

Profile Image for Thomas.
1,462 reviews8,570 followers
February 25, 2016
A fascinating exploration of the consequences of unquestioned power, though an awful portrayal of women. I appreciated Arthur Miller bringing attention to the Salem Witch Trials and anti-communist hysteria. I hated how he treated Abigail and the other female characters in this story as crazy and antagonizing. Yes, Abigail's actions posed major problems - but Miller portrays John Proctor, the man who has illicit sex with her, as a martyr. Miller grants the men in this play complexity and autonomy; he relegates women to the role of one-dimensional witches. You could blame my feminist side, but you could also blame Miller for failing to seize an opportunity to question the patriarchal standards so salient in Salem.

A good, emotional read, with solid writing and a compelling plot. It may make you angry, and if it does, I encourage you to think about who to direct your anger at in this play - the oppressed women, or the men who take advantage of them.
Profile Image for Brett C(urrently overseas again).
784 reviews167 followers
May 2, 2021

I enjoyed rereading this one. Again, for me this was a book I overlooked in high school because I was too busy being immature. This book is more than a story of accusations, spectral evidence, and the fallout of witchcraft. It shows the social component associated with fear and anxiety on a large scale. Historically speaking, the book is prime example of the social angst and hysteria that swept early Colonial Massachusetts because of witchcraft.

The book is filled with dramatic dialogue, intense trial and court, fear and retribution, religious fervor, and many characters both pious and sinful. The narrator gives historical context surrounding the plot which I thought was helpful. Something interesting I found was in Act III, in the court room, Proctor quotes from the Book of Tobit, from the Apocrypha, the verse 12:7 "Do that which is good, and no harm shall come to thee."

I read this was an allegory to the 1950s McCarthy-era communist witch hunts. I see the relation and the panic and fear that was the result of accusations and gossip. Overall I enjoyed this quick read and would recommend it to anyone. Thanks!
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
644 reviews4,264 followers
December 12, 2018
“The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone...”

Based on historical people and real events, The Crucible is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria.

The Crucible provides such an interesting insight into the mass hysteria and paranoia brewing in Salem, Massachusetts in the seventeenth century. Although, perhaps watching a production of this play would be more enthralling than reading it. I was tad bored at times and it took me far longer than it should to get through 150 pages of it!

My major irritation was that a number of the characters had similar names - Proctor, Parris and Putnam, oh my!! And given that these characters would often be interacting with each other, I was constantly doing a double check in my head “oh yep, that’s the reverend... and that’s the rich guy who had a thing with Abigail”... obviously I can’t gripe about this too much as these are REAL character names based on REAL events, but I am complaining because it’s my review and I can! *enter sass emoji*

Speaking of Proctor, I’ve got some issues. I gather that he is being portrayed as the “flawed protagonist” and that we should view him as some kind of martyr? Yet by the end I still didn’t feel that sympathetic towards him. Some of his actions/reactions just didn’t sit well with me, so the ending etc just wasn’t as impactful.

However, Miller perfectly depicts the hysteria, paranoia and fear that brews in Salem in the wake of accusations of witchcraft. It’s pretty mind-blowing that an accusation was as good as evidence, and the only way you could “prove” yourself innocent and escape death was if you confessed?! Insanity! I still find it hard to accept that these witch trials actually happened.

I’m glad I finally read this one, but maybe should have read it before I went to Salem, I might have appreciated the history even more! The Crucible is definitely worth picking up if you have any interest in the witch trials. Giving this one 3.5 stars!
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,002 reviews
April 9, 2022
مسرحية متميزة أدبيا وفكريا صدرت عام 1953 للكاتب الأمريكي آرثر ميلر
تدور أحداثها عن حدث تاريخي مشهور ومؤسف.. هو محاكمة الساحرات في بلدة سالم عام 1692
يرمز ميلر من خلالها للواقع الأمريكي فترة المكارثية الكارثية في بداية خمسينيات القرن الماضي
يعرض صور لشخصيات تدّعي الأفضلية ويحكمها الجهل والشك, الكراهية والمصالح
في مجتمع يجتاحه الهياج واللاعقلانية يحارب شرور لا وجود لها بحجة الدفاع عن الدين والأعراف
ويتناول مفردات السلطة, العنف, الخرافة..والضمير والنفس البشرية في مواجهة المآسي والضغوط
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
996 reviews512 followers
October 26, 2017
Estoy sin palabras... Realmente estremece ver hasta dónde es capaz de llegar la gente por estupidez, envidia y lujuria. Pero lo que más me ha gustado ha sido la fuerza moral de Proctor; impresionante.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
June 24, 2013
"I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem—-vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!"

Such is the power of those noticeable quotes in Arthur Miller's play The Crucible; the power to cause the audience to question the issues arising when vengeance is allowed to write common law. Arthur Miller's play was created to be challenging for this very purpose.

This was written at a time when the House of Un-American Activities (HUAC) was in full swing. When authors, film makers and musicians could be blacklisted and named as communists if they displayed any 'anti-American' sentiments. As such due to its historical links this is a play that is important historically as well as powerful dramatically. And yet this tale is more than a simply moving historical drama it is a challenge to the actions of the modern man. This is a work of fiction which recalls the idea that those who forget the actions of the past are doomed to repeat them.

In the town of Salem one young girl named Abigail is found dancing in the woods with several other young girls and her Jamaican slave. One of the girls, the daughter of the local pastor falls into an apparent faint and does not stir for hours. As a result the girls are suspected of having committed witchcraft and another reverend - an expert on defeating supernatural evil - is summoned to observe the scenario. What follows is the scenes of a town thrown into disarray as neighbour turns on neighbour, accusing them of witchcraft to gain what his neighbour owns.

Thus Arthur Miller parallels the historical insanity in the Salem witch trials with the political aims of what I have heard called the 'McCarthyist regime'. His point is that ultimately humans will use legislation and violence to their own ends, that if a human being simply dislikes another they would use communism as an apparent guise to have their enemy blacklisted by society and condemned. It has gone on throughout history. Even Jesus at his trial had biased witnesses come forth to proclaim him guilty.

The question that must be raised by this play is how do we as modern humans treat others. Do we sit by content to watch others cast false condemnation or do we become the John Proctor of our society? Because I believe that there are many modern issues that we as people are content to watch with apathy and do nothing. For evil exists when good men and women do nothing.

That is why I love this play and rate it as one of my favourite plays. Because of the reaching power of its narrative and its prose. Many do not like the challenge issued by the text. They find it too confronting. But I think we need to be confronted every so often. As Ray Bradbury writes in Fahrenheit 451: "we need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?"
Profile Image for Melki.
5,805 reviews2,342 followers
May 15, 2016
" - the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!"

Though Miller claims to have had an abiding interest in the Salem Witch Trials, we all know this play was written as a gigantic Screw You! to Senator Joseph McCarthy and his investigations into alleged Un-American activities. The amazing thing is how well the play works on its own. Even if you know nothing of McCarthyism, you will still be moved by the plight of a small Massachusetts village wracked by lies, spitefulness and cruelty.

"I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!"

In one of the most chilling scenes, young girls begin rattling off the names of seemingly every woman in the village. That the townsfolk would take the word of a few of teenagers seems hard to believe, but darker forces were at work here. Men more concerned with their reputations and the chance to fill their coffers than they were fearful of actual witchcraft were in charge, and they grabbed the opportunity to settle old grudges and steal a neighbor's land. The girls, many stinging from slights both real and imagined, reveled in their newly found power to wreak vengeance against their former mistresses and employers.

This is truly a depiction of humanity at its worst.

When John Hale, a visiting reverend who has been charged with investigating Salem's little witch problem, declares: "No man may longer doubt the powers of the dark are gathered in monstrous attack upon this village." - he has no idea how right he is, though this darkness has nothing to do with the supernatural. It seems we are always willing to believe the worst in others; that they might be witches, or Communists or terrorists.

It seems that no matter what the evidence, we continue to believe what we want to believe.

If nothing else, this play serves as a cautionary tale.

Will we listen and learn?
Profile Image for Lisa.
977 reviews3,327 followers
September 25, 2019
Preparing to watch a performance of The Crucible on stage, I start to feel almost nauseous.

When I read Arthur Miller's play some twenty years ago, the kind of witch hunts he described could technically be seen as a distant or not-so-distant past, depending on whether you looked at them as the actual Salem events or as a paraphrase on the McCarthy era, but they were definitely past!

Now, however, the waters are increasingly muddy, and the hunters yell "witch hunt" while burning innocents for their pleasure and power. The perpetrator as a victim is a new take on witch hunting, where more subtle knowledge than Orwell's Doublethink is required to understand what is going on and why.

When a president is called out for criminal behaviour, he yells witch hunt and turns into a symbolical innocent woman who needs to be saved. When a sexual predator is put on trial, he calls "witch hunt", and people actually commiserate with his destroyed life, as if "witches" had the double function of destroying the honourable society of dignified men and of turning those men into the hunted witches whenever that serves a purpose.

In the era of MeToo this is a play that is particularly painful to read and watch. Mass hysteria in young women serves the men in power well, and they use it to discredit witnesses. The trap for the girls is of sadistic perfection: if you threaten them that they will die if they do not confess untruth, you can later use the confession of untruth to discredit truth confessed.

Threaten a woman that she will lose her status, her job, her honour if she speaks up, and you you can blame her later for "not speaking up in time".

Either way, you lose!
Profile Image for Jill.
514 reviews808 followers
August 28, 2017
I'll never stop thinking about this... it was incredible
Profile Image for Timothy Urgest.
506 reviews264 followers
July 18, 2020
When it is recalled that until the Christian era the underworld was never regarded as a hostile area, that all gods were useful and essentially friendly to man despite occasional lapses; when we see the steady and methodical inculcation into humanity of the idea of man’s worthlessness—until redeemed—the necessity of the Devil may become evident as a weapon, a weapon designed and used time and time again in every age to whip men into a surrender to a particular church or church-state.

Misinformation is the Devil. What conjures more hate and destruction than a lie that corrupts a society?

We are living in the Information Age. One would think that with the ease of access to unlimited information and knowledge that we would not fall for the manipulations of misinformation. Well, look at us now. Misinformation has become the norm, and we must dig through the detritus to find the Truth.

Now, imagine living at a time when access to information is nonexistent, when those in authority are just as easily swayed by fallacies (often crafted themselves) as those that they condemn because facts and opinions play together in the mouths of accusers—wait, that sounds like today’s political climate. That’s my point. The witch hunts of yesterday mirror the witch hunts of today—and I am not referring to the politician that claims to be the victim of a mass witch hunt. I am referring to the lies that bleed into society via manipulated information that result in the mass destruction of human minds and lives and the mass destruction of our collective society. Racism is a witch hunt. Genocide is a witch hunt. War is a witch hunt. We create the lie in order to conjure a reason for action. Sell the lie and find enough believers, then sides will be taken and enemies will be made. This is the power of a lie. But do we play the part of Proctor or do we play the part of Danforth? Too many actors refuse to play their part. And that is the problem. Refute the lie or invoke it—just be careful which side of history you end up on.

I say—I say—God is dead!
Profile Image for Helga.
893 reviews125 followers
August 22, 2019
"Oh, the noose, the noose is up!"

What an intense and disturbing read!

The crucible is a play written by Arthur Miller in 1953, about the destructive nature of superstition, ignorance, fear, corruption, greed and vengeance. It is ostensibly based on the witch trials in Salem in the seventeenth century, but is truly inspired by the persecutions of communists and “unAmericans” by Senator McCarthy.
Profile Image for pinkgal.
173 reviews47 followers
July 18, 2007
It was one of those rare books that are forced upon you and then when you read it, you fall. Hard. While Miller might have written it with the McCarthy Era in mind, it applies very well to the current era of singling out a group of people and labeling them as 'evil'. I reread it a few months back and it still gave me the chills. Proof of what the power of fear has. I'd recommend this to anyone and everyone, though if you're not one for symbolism and parallels, this might not work as well. ;)
Profile Image for Bren fall in love with the sea..
1,576 reviews270 followers
June 3, 2023
You know when you're reading a ten star book.

You are so engrossed you might just forget to eat.

I do not know why I did not read this classic play years ago. It checks all the boxes for me.

It is about the Salem Witch trials which have long fascinated me. It is a play and I love reading plays.

It's hard to write a review of such a fantastic classic. It is the best read so far of 2023 (But I have a few Mythology books coming up so it may not stay that way.)

What I felt reading it is the same rage, the pain, the anger, I feel much of in today's times.

I feel it when books are banned from school classrooms in Florida. I feel it when a woman's desire to make her own decisions about her body are taken away from her.

I feel it when I hear of school shootings and when I hear about ugly threats made to members of congress and to school board members.

Have we really come so far? I am not so sure we have.

As fascinating as I find that time period, it also scares the shit out of me too. It shows the darkest side of humanity and it shows what we as a people are capable of.

There was a time when I was not so sure I could grasp that it happened.I was wrapped in cotton padding a bit and grew up quite sheltered. I would think about that time and marvel and wonder -- could mankind really have been so evil?

I believe it now.
Profile Image for Calista.
3,887 reviews31.2k followers
August 5, 2017
What a gripping story. This could be redone into a dystopian YA novel and it is set in history. It is a powerful work. How terrifying it is that people can be so brutal to each other. A very dark bit of American history. Not the best story to read during 45. I hope we don't repeat this sort of history. The story is good and it leaves me in a dark mood. I don't think I'll read this again and I'm glad of the reminder of it. I need something lighter now.
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,868 reviews16.5k followers
August 15, 2017
About as perfect an allegory as can be created – a story about a witch hunt meant to be an extended metaphor for - a witch hunt.

“You are pulling down heaven and raising up a whore” 

Arthur Miller’s brilliant 1953 play about the infamous Salem witch trials is also a scathing indictment of the McCarthy communist hearings of the early 50s and how hysteria – whether theocratic or jingoistic / political – can lead to nasty results.

“Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it.” 

Miller’s fictionalized account of the trials brings to life some of the themes present in the actual Salem trials as well as his contemporary McCarthy hearings such as justice, fairness, and the rule of law. Allegations were as good as proof of guilt and someone could only “prove” themselves innocent with a confession. Such an upside down world must have seemed as illogical and insane in the 1600s as in the 1950s.

“We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”

Miller’s John Proctor is one of the great tragic figures in modern drama. Tormented by his own sins, and incapable of forgiving himself, Proctor is nonetheless man enough to finally stand up to the tyrants. The final scenes with him are high points on the stage in any era.

“Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!” 

One of the works of literature and drama that should be read or seen at least once.

Profile Image for Olivia (Stories For Coffee).
594 reviews5,604 followers
February 12, 2020
This was such a wonderful play depicting mass hysteria, how corrupt a government can get once Church becomes intertwined with State, and how easily people will turn against one another to protect their own skin. I was immediately sucked into the play and was baffled by it. It sure was something to behold.
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