The Crucible by: Arthur Miller English III CHS 2008-2009 C. Edge
(AKA play) a story that has been written to be performed by actors for an audience
The story is told through the words and actions of the characters.
The words that are spoken by the characters.
DRAMA IS DRIVEN BY DIALOGUE!!!
Instructions to help actors, directors, and readers visualize what is happening onstage.
Tell how characters should look, speak, act, and move on the stage.
Protagonist & Antagonist
The protagonist is the character around whom the action revolves.
The protagonist is usually in conflict with one or more antagonists .
Tragedy vs. Comedy
Tragedy – a play in which the protagonist usually comes to an unhappy end.
Comedy – a light, humorous play with a happy ending.
A cast of characters is listed at the beginning of a a play.
A short description of the characters may be included.
The playwright may further describe the character when he or she first appears in the play.
The audience continues to learn about the characters through their actions and through the dialogue.
The time and place in which the events of a play occur.
The setting often helps to create the mood of the play.
Typically described at the beginning and throughout as the setting changes (act and scene changes)
Setting can also affect the views expressed by characters.
The series of related events that revolve around a central conflict .
Conflict may be a struggle involving:
Plot typically develops in the following pattern:
Conversation between the characters
Helps reveal the plot and character of the play.
The author must speak through the characters
As you read, decide which characters, if any, are expressing the author’s real beliefs.
Acts & Scenes
They indicate a change in location or the passage of time during a play.
“Real time” vs. “drama time.”
Action in a play may occur over a much longer period of time than the performance takes.
As You Read The Crucible
Who is the protagonist? Is there more than one?
Who are the antagonists?
What is the central conflict?
Born – 1915
Death of a Salesman receives Pulitzer Prize.
The Red Scare, fear of the spread of communism, took over the country. People in the entertainment industry were targeted.
Miller’s friend Elia Kazan decides to confess and name names during the McCarthy Trials.
Miller spends time in Salem, MA and writes The Crucible, which showcased on Broadway in 1953. The U.S. State Department refused to renew Miller’s passport in order to attend the Belgian production of the play in late 1953.
In 1956 Miller is called before the House Un-American Activities Committee but refuses to confess or name names. He is charged with contempt, fined, and sentenced to jail. In 1958 his sentence is reversed.
Focus Activity, p. 912
Has your character ever been questioned? Or has someone you know or have heard about—perhaps even a character in a TV show or movie—undergone a test of character?
Create a flow chart to organize the details of that person’s test of character.
Background, p. 912 The Time and Place
The Crucible takes place in 1692 in and near Salem, a small town in the Massachusetts Bay Colony that had been founded in the early 1600’s by a group of Christians called Puritans.
The Puritans had fled England for North America to escape religious persecution and to establish a religious community.
As industry grew in Salem, many people did not share the religious beliefs of the Puritan founders.
Many Puritans felt they were losing hold of their ideals.
Insecurity, frustration, and loss of control helped create a climate of guilt and blame.
In the winter of 1691-1692, several teenage girls began behaving strangely. This led to accusations of witchcraft and the execution of 20 people.
About the Title
Crucible – a pot or vessel made from highly heat-resistant material.
Used for melting metals to test them for their purity.
Used by chemists to conduct chemical reactions that require high heat.
Has also come to mean – “a severe test,” or “a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.”
Vocabulary: Act I
compromise – v. to endanger the reputation or interests of; to expose to suspicion
contention – n. verbal argument or struggle; quarreling
subservient – adj. useful, in an inferior capacity, to promote an end; submissive
naïve – adj. lacking knowledge of the ways of the world; unsophisticated; innocent
pretense – n. a false show or appearance, especially for the purpose of deceiving; falseness
evade – v. to escape or avoid, as by cleverness
An Overture, p. 914
What is an overture?
An overture is a prelude, preview, or introduction to a large, dramatic musical work. It can suggest actions to come later.
Why is Act I called “An Overture?”
Literary Elements: Atmosphere, p. 914
What nouns describe the atmosphere at the very beginning?
Drawing Conclusions, p. 914
What does the phrase “an endless capacity for dissembling” tell us about Abigail?
We should recognize that Abigail deceives others.
We have to always question her reliability and search for a hidden motive in her words.
Dancing is BAD, p. 915
The Puritans forbade activities that they considered “vain” entertainment.
Literary Elements: Setting, p. 915
What function does the forest serve?
The girls go there to hide their dancing.
It also serves as an atmospherical function.
To the Puritans, the forest was a wild, dark place—the abode of heathens and evil spirits.
Theme, p. 916
The idea of a person’s good name will be a central theme to the play.
Abigail: My name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled?
Enter the Putnams, p. 917
What adjectives would you use to describe Parris’s attitude toward the Putnams.
He seems fearful, fawning, submissive, and groveling.
The Putnams seem to have influence over people in Salem.
Miller considered Thomas Putnam one of the play’s principal villains.
He was vindictive, had many grievances against his neighbors, and was involves in disputes ownership of land.
Seems to have played a key role in the accusations of witchcraft.
Reference, p. 917
“ the Devil’s touch is heavier than sick. It’s death, y’know, it’s death drivin’ into them. Forked and hoofed.”
These are references to the traditional Puritan view that represents the devil as a creature with a forked tail and cloven hoofs.
Cultural Note, p. 918
Superstition holds that sneezing might indicate that a possessed person was expelling demons through the nose.
This might be the origin of the practice of saying “God bless you!”
Abigail, p. 919
Describe the change in Abigail’s behavior after the adults leave.
She reveals a cruel side to her nature in the way she treats the other girls. With the adults gone, Abigail is able to become the dominant personality and reveal her true nature.
Is her attitude here believable? Why or why not?
Literary Elements: Figurative Language, p. 919
“What a grand peeping courage you have!”
The act of looking cautiously or sneakily.
The weak sound of a newborn bird, especially a chicken.
This is an example of scorn for Mary Warren’s courage.
PREDICT, p. 919
“You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor.”
Why might Abigail want John Proctor’s wife dead?
Revenge over being fired.
Revenge about rumors being spread.
Romantic notions towards John Proctor.
Literary Elements: Characterization, p. 920
“ Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.”
What do Abigail’s threats toward the other girls reveal about her character?
She has witnessed the brutal murder of her parents and suggests that she is, herself, capable of violence.
Dialogue, p. 920
Notice the difference in what names are used in the dialogue.
Mr. Proctor vs. John
Abigail vs. Abby
What does this reveal about relationships in the play?
Evaluate, p. 920
Evaluate the offhand way Abigail describes events to Proctor in light of what we know about her character.
She illustrates her ability to adapt her manner to suit a situation. With her uncle, she feigns concern and righteous indignation. With the girls, she is domineering and cruel. With Proctor, she is coy and seductive.
Plot, p. 922
What is revealed about the central conflict in the conversation between Abigail and John Proctor?
The conflict between Abigail and Mrs. Proctor: Abigail’s motivation is now known. There was a romantic link between her and John, which is why Mrs. Proctor dismissed her. Abigail believes John loves her. Mrs. Proctor’s death would clear the way for marriage between them.
The conflict between Abigail and John: He denies that he ever gave her reason to believe there was hope for marriage.
Literary Elements Character, p. 923
Analyze how the Putnams differ from Proctor and Rebecca on the issue of witchcraft. Tell them to support their conclusions with specific dialogue references.
The Putnams seem determined to prove that witchcraft is afoot. Proctor and Rebecca believe there is a natural explanation for the children’s behavior.
Think Critically, p. 923
Why might Ann Putnam hate Rebecca Nurse?
Ann already has mentioned that she has lost seven babies in infancy. Now her only surviving child is behaving strangely and is ill. Rebecca has 11 children and 26 grandchildren, all of whom seem to be healthy.
Characterization, p. 924
Notice how Proctor is very vocal about his displeasure with Parris’s actions, but allows Rebecca to silence him. What does this show about Proctor’s character? Rebecca Nurse?
Proctor does not defer to fools. His reaction clearly reveals that he respects her.
The fact that a man like Proctor will defer to her is testament to her wisdom and strength of character.
Rebecca is the “voice of reason” in the play.
Irony, p. 925
Parris: I do not preach for children, Rebecca. It is not the children who are unmindful of their obligation toward this ministry.
Parris has little understanding of children and sees no reason to instruct them, yet it is the young girls who are trying to commune with the devil. In an effort to conceal their misbehavior, they set in motion events that will wreak havoc on Salem.
Summary, p. 926
Summarize the argument between Parris and Proctor.
Parris argues that the authority of the church is supreme. Church members must obey the pastor or chaos will ensue. Proctor argues that individual conscience is the final authority. Every church member has the right to say what he believes.
Acts & Scenes, p. 927
In the absence of scenes, the appearance of a new character may indicate a shift in focus. Predict what Mr. Hale’s arrival means.
From previous references to this character, we should recognize that he is an expert on witchcraft. His arrival signals a shift from the arguments over practical matters to the subject of witchcraft.
Confession of Witchcraft, p. 928
Who is guilty in the play?
Ann Putnam actually is the one responsible for her daughter’s trying to conjure spirits. She has just confessed to the crime of which others will be accused. Rebecca Nurse is appalled, especially by the fact that Ann sent a child to do this.
Why is she not charged???
Irony, p. 929
Parris: “Why would he choose my house to strike? We have all manner of licentious people in the village!”
Hale: “It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than the minister?”
What is ironic here?
Parris asks why the devil would choose his house when there are so many less worthy people in Salem. He does not recognize this own lack of good character. Hale’s question assumes that the minister must be the best person in the village, an assumption at odds with the facts.
Thinking Critically, p. 932
Who is the first person to name specific individuals? What can you infer from this?
Thomas Putnam is the first. Sarah Good and Osburn are people whom the Putnams do not like or against whom the Putnams have grievances.
Irony, p. 932
Hale: You are God’s instrument put in our hands to discover the Devil’s agents among us. You are selected, Tituba, you are chosen to help us cleanse our village.
Identify the irony.
He tells Tituba that she is God’s instrument doing his work and helping cleanse the village. In reality, he is persuading her to make false accusations of witchcraft against innocent people.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #1
What is Reverend Parris praying about at the beginning of act 1? What else might explain why he is praying so desperately?
Reverend Parris is praying for the recovery of his daughter. He also might be praying because of his fears of an accusation of witchcraft.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #2
What reasons does Abigail give Parris for her discharge as the Proctors’ servant? What might be another reason? What can you infer about Abigail’s character from her words?
Abigail says that Mrs. Proctor is a cold, lying woman and Abigail refused to be her slave. Another reason might be that Mrs. Proctor suspected a romantic involvement between Abigail and her husband. We can infer that Abigail does not always tell the truth and that she seems to be a vindictive person.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #3
Describe the feelings the characters have toward each other: the Putnams toward John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, Proctor toward the Putnams and Parris, and Parris toward the congregation. What effect might these feelings have on the future action of the play?
Putnams’ feelings might include hatred, fear, resentment, and jealousy. Proctor’s feelings toward the Putnams and Parris might include contempt, distrust, and dislike. Parris’s feelings toward the congregation might include resentment, anger, and fear. These feelings could create a dispute with Proctor and Nurse against the Putnams and Parris, or lead to accusations against Proctor and Nurse.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #4
How does Tituba first respond to Hale’s accusation of witchcraft? How does she change her response? Why might she, as well as Abigail and Betty, make accusations at the end of act 1?
At first Tituba denies any dealings with the devil. She later says that the devil tempted her and showed her others who were in his service. They might hope to avoid punishment by accusing others.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #5
Which character or characters arouse your sympathy most? Explain.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #6
What is the overall atmosphere , or prevailing mood, of act 1? How does Miller create this atmosphere?
Terror, suspense, mystery, tension.
Miller creates the atmosphere through the fears expressed by the characters or through the underlying tension and mistrust that runs through the dialogue.
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #7
Is Miller’s portrayal of the teenage girls and their behavior believable? Why or why not?
Responding to Literature, p. 935 Question #8
What similarities do you see between the interactions among the Salemites of 1692 and interactions among people today?
Literature Groups, p. 935
In a group, work together to create character webs that profile each character in act 1. Include the character’s age, personality traits, standing in the community, and conflicts with others. Then, as a group, predict the role each character will play in this drama. Share your predictions with the class.
Literature Groups Continued
Imagine the play begins seven months earlier. Write an original scene describing Abigail’s dismissal from the Proctor farm. Try to include a private conversation between John and Elizabeth prior to the confrontation between Elizabeth and Abigail.