The Crucible

by: Arthur Miller

Five Key Questions

1) Why is the played called The Crucible? What is a crucible?

One definition of a crucible is a vessel, often ceramic or porcelain, used for melting down and purifying metal. Another definition is that a crucible is a time or trial of great severity, in which different elements react and something new is formed. This definitely often refers to a courtroom trial in particular. Clearly, both definitions apply to the title of the play. The Salem witch trials end up being a crucible, that is, a time of great testing and purifying, for the townspeople. Some of the trial takes place in the actual courtroom, but the metaphor extends beyond the courtroom scenes. For example, both John’s and Elizabeth’s imprisonments were a kind of testing too. By the end, their true natures are revealed. Miller never actually uses the word “crucible” in the play, perhaps because the entire series of events acts as the purifying trial.