Why is the play 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.

Did the girls really see the Devil or witches?

No. The girls were caught dancing in the woods with Tituba, who was apparently performing love charms for them. It’s not clear whether Tituba was actually practicing some kind of magic that she believed in and learned in Barbados, or if she made up the “charms” to keep the girls happy. Abigail definitely wanted to believe Tituba could come up with a spell to kill Elizabeth, but Tituba most likely didn’t believe in her own spells. Nevertheless, none of them actually saw the Devil. Tituba falsely confessed to save herself from being beaten to death, and the girls went along with her confession, making up new lies. Abigail went along with the girls as a way out of the trouble she was in with her uncle. Later, she and others in the town realized that an accusation of witchcraft was an effective way to punish people they were angry with.

Why did Tituba confess to dancing with the Devil?

As a slave, Tituba had no status in Salem. Parris could have legally beaten her to death to try to get her to confess. So while we don’t have direct knowledge of her thoughts, we can infer that having realized how dire her situation was, she concluded that it was better to give the townspeople what they wanted by confessing to something she did not do. She ended up in jail, but at least she was not beaten to death. She hates John Parris, who was cruel to her, and she uses her confession to scare him by telling him that the Devil told her “Mr. Parris no goodly man.” In her confession, Tituba says the Devil offered to fly her back to Barbados, an opportunity for Tituba to be released from slavery and returned to her home, which she misses terribly. Once she’s decided to confess to something she didn’t do, Tituba indulges the fullness of her fantasy, which ironically makes her confession seem very convincing in its detail and anger.

Was John still in love with Abigail?

John’s feelings for Abigail are not entirely clear to us at the beginning of the play. He spends time with her in the first act, and is kind to her, although he also makes it clear that he is not going to resume their affair. Arthur Miller wrote a second scene for the second act of the play which he later cut and isn’t performed now when the play is staged. In that scene, Abigail and John confront each other again, and John tells her he will ruin her to save his wife. In the third act, John does indeed tell the court about his affair with Abigail to try to save Elizabeth. This confession seems to indicate if John ever loved Abigail, he loves Elizabeth much more. John has already realized he should not have cheated on his wife with Abigail, but he doesn’t believe Elizabeth at first when she tells him Abigail wants her dead. By the end of the play, he believes Elizabeth, and hates Abigail.

Why didn’t more people sign false confessions that they were witches to save their lives?

Plenty of people did sign false confessions, in which they were required to name others that they saw with the Devil. But many other people could not bear to falsely accuse their friends, neighbors, and families, especially since the only way those people could clear their names would be by implicating more members of the community. Like John Proctor, some people in Salem preferred to die rather than sign something that they knew was a lie. These people may have had strong religious beliefs and felt God would damn them for lying, and they may also have realized that their reputation would be restored after the witch trials were over, even if they had lost their lives. At the same time, it’s not hard to understand why someone would sign a false confession. For some, it was easier to lie and say they were witches so that they could return to their lives and families. They may have thought that they could confess to falsely confessing and be forgiven at some future point.

What is Reverend Parris’s biggest concern?

Reverend Parris is most concerned with being highly regarded and treated well. He says to his niece, Abigail Williams: “I have fought here three long years to bend these stiff-necked people to me, and now, just now when some good respect is rising for me in the parish, you compromise my very character.” Parris is worried that his career in Salem as the town’s minister is in jeopardy because his daughter Betty, his maid Tituba, and his niece Abigail have seemingly practiced witchcraft. He is also concerned with getting paid sufficiently well and complains that he has not been provided with firewood. In response to Parris’s complaints, John Proctor observes, “Mr. Parris, you are the first minister ever did demand the deed to his house[.]”

What causes tension between John and Elizabeth Proctor?

John Proctor’s past infidelity with Abigail Williams causes continued tension between John and Elizabeth Proctor. John feels Elizabeth’s lingering suspicions and thinks she is not sufficiently forgiving. In a heated moment, John says to Elizabeth, “You forget nothin’ and forgive nothin’. Learn charity, woman.” But Elizabeth wants John to make sure that Abigail understands that there is no hope of John and Abigail being together ever again. Elizabeth believes that Abigail is holding onto a promise—spoken or unspoken—made between Abigail and John that would make Abigail want to have Elizabeth killed in order to take her place.

Why is Rebecca Nurse accused of witchcraft?

Rebecca Nurse is blamed for “the marvelous and supernatural murder of Goody Putnam’s babies.” A number of Mrs. Putnam’s babies have died, and she is looking for an explanation. She decides that Rebecca Nurse is responsible because Ruth, Mrs. Putnam’s daughter, “accused Rebecca’s spirit of ‘tempting her to iniquity.’” The Putnam family may also be looking to punish Rebecca Nurse because of a land dispute they have with her husband, Francis.

Why is Elizabeth Proctor accused of witchcraft?

Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams because Abigail wants to marry Elizabeth’s husband, John, with whom she had an affair while serving in the Proctor household. “She wants me dead,” says Elizabeth of Abigail, and indeed, Abigail does intend for Elizabeth to die. To accomplish this, Abigail makes it look like Elizabeth is practicing witchcraft by claiming that Elizabeth sticks needles in the poppet that Mary Warren gave Elizabeth in order to cause Abigail pain. Readers know, however, that Abigail sticks herself with needles in order to provide evidence of Elizabeth’s “crime.”

Why doesn’t John Proctor attend church often?

The primary reason John Proctor rarely attends church is that he doesn’t like Reverend Parris. John complains that Parris is too concerned with his own wealth, stating, “Parris came, and for twenty week he preach nothin’ but golden candlesticks until he had them.” John is also unhappy with the substance of Parris’s sermons. He says, “I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation.” John also explains to Reverend Hale that he stayed at home on Sundays during the winter because his wife, Elizabeth, was sick.

What happens when Mary Warren tells the court the truth about the girls acting bewitched?

When Mary Warren tells the court the truth that the girls were just pretending that they were being affected by witchcraft, she is challenged by Parris, Hathorne, and Danforth, and she is intimidated by the other girls. Mary explains that she fainted because she thought she saw spirits. Hathorne responds, “How could you think you saw them unless you saw them?” To combat Mary’s revelation, Abigail stirs up the other girls to act as though Mary is trying to bewitch them. The tension of the scene and hysteria of the girls mount until Mary cracks under the pressure and accuses John Proctor of threatening to murder her if she didn’t try to help him overthrow the court.

How does John Proctor know that the witchcraft isn’t real?

Abigail Williams tells John Proctor that the witchcraft is not real. After Reverend Parris finds Abigail, Betty Parris, and some other girls dancing in the woods, Betty becomes unresponsive. This makes the townspeople think witchcraft is involved, and the girls play along with the idea, accusing other townspeople of being witches. But when John mentions to Abigail—with whom he had an affair—the town’s belief that witchcraft is involved, she responds, “Oh, posh! We were dancin’ in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. [Betty] took fright, is all.”

Why doesn’t Danforth believe John Proctor’s confession of his infidelity with Abigail Williams?

Danforth decides that John Proctor’s confession is not true because it isn’t substantiated by Elizabeth Proctor. Danforth asks John, “And when she put this girl out of your house, she put her out for a harlot?” to which John responds that, yes, Elizabeth knew of his infidelity. But when Danforth asks Elizabeth, “Is your husband a lecher?” she responds, “No, sir.” Elizabeth, who John describes as never having lied, lies in this instance to protect John’s reputation. Tragically, it is this protection that contributes to John’s death sentence.

Why does Reverend Hale change his mind about the witch trials?

Reverend Hale loses faith in the witch trials in the face of Deputy Governor Danforth’s zealousness and the doubts John Proctor brings to the girls’ claims of witchcraft. When Danforth dismisses John’s evidence, Hale says, “I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.” Hale is also doubtful about Rebecca Nurse’s and John’s guilt. Hale presses Danforth to pardon them when they refuse to confess to witchcraft, but Danforth will not relent. Hale sees that the court has become feared in Salem for its brutality and lack of justice.

Why doesn’t John Proctor save himself?

Instead of saving his own life, John Proctor chooses to guard his reputation and not accuse others of witchcraft. When John confesses to being guilty, Deputy Governor Danforth pressures John to name other people who might have sided with the devil. John refuses to do so, explaining, “I have three children—how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?” John also refuses to sign a written confession. John dies with his integrity intact.