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The Crucible

Arthur Miller
Main Ideas

Key Facts

Main Ideas Key Facts

full title  The Crucible

author  Arthur Miller

type of work  Play

genre  Tragedy, Allegory, Historical Fiction

language  English

time and place written  America, early 1950s

date of first publication  1953

publisher  Viking Press

narrator  The play is occasionally interrupted by an omniscient, third-person narrator who fills in the background for the characters.

climax  John Proctor tells the Salem court that he committed adultery with Abigail Williams.

protagonist  John Proctor

antagonist  Abigail Williams

setting (time)  1692

setting (place) Salem, a small town in colonial Massachusetts

point of view The Crucible is a play, so the audience and reader are entirely outside the action.

falling action The events from John Proctor’s attempt to expose Abigail in Act IV to his decision to die rather than confess at the end of Act IV.

tense Present

foreshadowing  The time frame of the play is extremely compressed, and the action proceeds so quickly that there is little time for foreshadowing.

tone  Serious and tragic—the language is almost biblical.

themes  Intolerance; hysteria; reputation

motifs  Empowerment; accusation, confession, legal proceedings in general

symbols  Though the play itself has very few examples of symbolism beyond typical witchcraft symbols (rats, toads, and bats), the entire play is meant to be symbolic, with its witch trials standing in for the anti-Communist “witch-hunts” of the 1950s.