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The Crucible

Arthur Miller

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.