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Analyzing The Crucible English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 4777 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Despite their uneasiness, Elizabeth serves as Proctor's moral compass. Whenever her husband is confused or ambivalent, she prompts him onto the path of justice. She urges him to stop the insane witch trials by revealing the truth about Abigail's sinful, destructive ways.

In Act Four, when Proctor must decide whether to falsely confess to witchcraft or hang from the gallows, he seeks his wife's counsel. Elizabeth doesn't want him to die, but she doesn't want him to submit to the demands of an unjust society.

Her character delivers the final lines of the play. After her husband has decided to hang from the gallows instead of signing a false confession, she remains in the jail. Even when Rev. Parris and Rev. Hale urge her to save her husband, she stays put. She states, "He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!" This closing line can be interpreted in several ways. However, most actresses deliver this line as if Elizabeth is devastated by the loss of her husband yet bitterly proud that he has at last made a righteous decision.

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But he does get angry! One of his flaws is his temper. When friendly discussion does not work, Proctor will resort to shouting and even physical violence. There are occasions throughout the play when he threatens to whip his wife, his servant-girl, and his ex-mistress. Still, he remains a sympathetic character because his anger is generated by the unjust society which he inhabits. The more the town becomes collectively paranoid, the more he rages.

Proctor's character contains a caustic blend of pride and self-loathing, a very puritanical combination indeed! One the one hand, he takes pride in his farm and his community. He is an independent spirit who has cultivated the wilderness and transformed it into farmland. Furthermore, his sense of religion and communal spirit has led to many public contributions. In fact, he helped to construct the church in town.

His self-esteem sets him apart from other members of the town, such as the Putnams, who feel one must obey authority at all costs. Instead, John Proctor speaks his mind when he sees injustice. Throughout the play, he openly disagrees with the actions of Reverend Parris, an action that ultimately leads to his execution.

Despite his prideful ways, John Proctor describes himself as a "sinner." He has cheated on his wife, and he is loath to admit the crime to anyone else. There are moments when his anger and disgust towards himself burst forth, such as in the climactic moment when he exclaims to Judge Danforth: "I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours."

Proctor's flaws make him human. If he didn't have them, he wouldn't be a tragic hero. If the protagonist were a flawless hero, there would be no tragedy, even if the hero died at the end. A tragic hero, like John Proctor, is created when the protagonist uncovers the source of his downfall. When Proctor accomplishes this, he has the strength to stand up to the morally bankrupt society and dies in defense of truth.

This vicious antagonist will stop at nothing to attain her demented goals. In another writer's hands, Abby could have been portrayed in a sympathetic light. After all, she is under age and has been sleeping with a supposedly honorable man thirteen years her senior. Arthur Miller, however, finds little humanity within her.

Throughout the play, Proctor labels her a "harlot" and a "whore." And perhaps Miller isn't far off. According to the playwright's research, the real Abigail Williams turned to prostitution several years after the Salem Witch Trials.

Her deviousness almost makes her unrealistic:

She convinces young women to dance in the dark forest (a sinful act by puritan standards).

She practices voodoo in an attempt to win back her lover, John Proctor.

She feigns demonic possession, luring the rest of the girls to behave the same way.

She plants evidence of witchcraft in Elizabeth Proctor's home, hoping to send her to the gallows.

She manipulates the judges and denies having a relationship with Proctor.

Perhaps the most sinister act takes place after a dozen citizens have been hanged. Abigail steals Rev. Parris' life savings and runs away, never to be heard from again.

In short, Miss Williams is a wretched, diabolic person!


abigail may be wicked, but Judge Danforth represents something more agonizing: tyranny.

Danforth rules the courtroom like a dictator. He is an icy character who firmly believes that Abigail Williams and the other girls are incapable of lying. If the young women so much as shout out a name, Danforth assumes the name belongs to a witch. His gullibility is exceeded only by his self-righteousness.

If a character, such as Giles Corey or Francis Nurse, attempts to defend his wife, Judge Danforth contends that the advocate is trying to overthrow the court. The judge seems to believe that his perception is flawless. He is insulted when anyone questions his decision-making ability.

Danforth dominates everyone who enters his courtroom. Everyone with the exception of Abigail Williams, that is. His inability to comprehend the girl's wickedness provides one of the more amusing aspects of this otherwise somber character. Although he yells and interrogates the others, he often seems too embarrassed to accuse the beautiful Miss Williams of any lascivious activity. During the trial, John Proctor announces that he and Abigail were having an affair. Proctor further establishes that Abigail wants Elizabeth dead so that she can become his new bride. In the stage directions, Miller states that Danforth asks, "You deny every scrap and tittle of this?" In response, Abigail hisses, "If I must answer that, I will leave and I will not come back again." Miller then states in the stage directions that Danforth "seems unsteady." The old Judge is unable to speak, and the young Abigail seems more in control of the courtroom than anyone else. In Act Four, when it becomes clear that the allegations of witchcraft are completely false, Danforth refuses to see the truth. He hangs innocent people to avoid sullying his reputation.

Despicable in many ways, the town preacher believes himself to be a pious man. In truth, he thirsts for power, land, and material possessions.

Many of his parishioners, including the Proctor family, have stopped attending church on a regular basis. His sermons of hellfire and damnation have shunned many of Salem's residents. Because of his unpopularity, he feels persecuted by many of the citizens of Salem. However, many residents, such as Mr. and Mrs. Putnam, favor Rev. Parris' harsh sense of spiritual authority.

He often bases his decisions off of self-interest, though he camouflages his actions with a façade of holiness. For example, he once wanted his church to have gold candle sticks. Therefore, according to John Proctor, the Reverend preached only about the candle sticks until he attained them.

In addition, Proctor mentions that Salem's previous ministers never owned property. Parris, on the otherhand, demands to have the deed of his home. He fears that the residents might cast him out of the town, and he therefore wants an official claim to his property.

It is no coincidence that he considered all of the defendants enemies long before they were accused of witchcraft.

He becomes even more pathetic during the play's resolution. He wants to save John Proctor from the hangman's noose, but only because he worries the town may rise against him and perhaps kill him in retaliation. Even after Abigail steals his money and runs away, he never admits fault, making his character all the more frustrating to behold.

Change is good." We hear the catchy phrase everywhere. From company slogans to motivational speeches, our world seems to impose this idea that change is always a good thing. Assuming that the change is for the better, it is probably a true statement in most cases. The root of this idea seems to come from the notion that we are dissatisfied with the state that we are in, so, in order to create a more enjoyable surrounding, we adjust. Others, however, stray from this practice, and instead of trying to adapt to the people around them, they try and change others.

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In the play, "The Crucible," characters are put in tough situations where they feel uncomfortable and they need for something to change in order to resolve the problem. The definition of crucible is actually a "heat resistant container in which materials inside can be subjected to great heat." (Merriam-Webster, 190) This is very fitting for the play because the girls are like the heat on the outside, putting pressure and tension on the adults in the village, who are like the materials on the inside. One of the two categories of people must change in order to resolve the conflict, and three main characters display this need to change more than any others. The first person is John Procter, who changes somewhat through the play. The second is Abigail Williams, who attempts to change the people around her. And the third is Reverend John Hale, who changes quite dramatically through the play. All of these characters recognize that change is needed, but approach the problem from different perspectives.


John Procter is the first person to change in the play. In the beginning of the play, Procter is a very selfish person who would do anything to protect his affair with Abigail Williams. In a dialogue between Procter and Williams, Procter tries to completely rid Abigail's mind of their affair by telling her that "[they] never touched." (Miller, 1184) But when Williams tries to bring out the truth, Procter quickly revokes it: "Aye, but we did not." (Miller, 1184) At this point, Procter will do anything to keep his affair under cover. However, throughout the play, as things get worse and worse, he realizes that the only thing that he can do to stop Abigail's rampage is to admit that he has had the affair. This might seem senseless but he knows it is the only thing that might work. "I have known her, sir. I have known her," cries John Procter in the courtroom. (Miller, 1236) Unfortunately his confession is too late. When they bring Elizabeth, Procter's wife, in to testify against him, she, not knowing, tells the court that her husband is innocent. This puts a death sentence on John's life for trying to overthrow the court. Procter has already undergone a change during the play, as he becomes willing to confess his secret affair.


After John is sentenced to death, one might think that there is no hope for him now. However, the court offers John a pardon if he admits to witchcraft. To save his own life, John signs a document that says he has been practicing witchcraft. But after a change in heart, John rips the paper in half and decides that his living a life knowing that he is innocent would be too much to bear, for him as well as his family. One might ask, why would Procter not choose to lie so he could live? John chooses to die "because it is [his] name! Because [he] cannot have another in [his] life! Because [he] lies and signs [himself] to lies!" (Miller, 1256) Procter chooses to save his reputation rather than his life.

Abigail Williams is different than John Procter. Instead of changing herself, she attempts to change the people around her to keep herself from getting caught. When Abigail was dancing in the woods with the rest of the girls, it was an innocent escapade. But when she got caught, Abigail began to say anything to try and shift the focus of the town away from the dancing, and toward something much more consequential: witchcraft. All of a sudden, Abigail changed from a child playing innocent games, to a manipulative woman, accusing townsfolk of conjuring spirits. Trying to shift the blame to others, Abigail yells in court, "I want to open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!" (Miller, 1198) In this scene, she tries to manipulate the court by accusing other people. Since the Puritans during this time period were so paranoid about witchcraft, anyone that was accused of it was automatically stereotyped by most of the people in the town, especially the court. That means that every time they give a testimony of any kind, one must question their integrity because the power of Satan might have control over them. Also, when one was accused of witchcraft, there is no physical evidence to convict, for instance, a person charged with sending out their spirit to harm someone. The only thing that the court has to go on is the power of the word. All of these things are a part of the arsenal that Abigail Williams uses to manipulate and exploit other people around her.


Reverend John Hale is a another person to change in this play. Near the beginning of the play, the Reverend shows up at Salem with large amount of books. He appears very knowledgeable and says that he will get to the bottom of the witch hunts. He relies very much on his and in them lie "... all the invisible world, caught defined, and calculated. In these books the Devil stands stripped of all his brute disguises. ... Have no fear now--we shall find him out if he has come among us, and [he] mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face!" Hale's determination to rid the town of witchcraft is unstoppable. However, through the play, he becomes less and less involved in the actual trials, and has more time to step back and look at everything that is happening. In this, he finds truth. He finds that, when you stop accusing people every time you hear the word witchcraft, many of the townsfolk are indeed innocent. At the end of the play, he encourages John to sign his name on the paper, confessing to witchery. At the end of the play he is pleading with Procter's wife, trying to convince her to tell John that it is foolish admitting to something you did not do. "Woman, plead with him!" John screams. "Woman! It is pride, it is vanity. Be his helper!--What profit him to bleed? Shall the worms declare his truth? Go to him, take his shame away!" (Miller, 1256). Here Reverend Hale realizes that Procter's confession to witchcraft is completely false, and that there is no shred of evil in the things Procter has done. Hale undergoes a complete change from a person who is accusing people of witchcraft left and right, to a person who is trying to defend innocence at all costs.


The circumstances in this play transforms many characters in their outlook in different situations. By now, you may have a different perspective of the phrase "change is good." Is it always good? Abigail tried to wrongfully accuse people of witchcraft? To who's benefit is that? That phrase will not be 100% correct, all the time. In some case it can be true, but in others, change can destroy lives.

In Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, one of the most influential characters is John Proctor. He is a well looked upon, leader of the town that soon becomes caught up in the witchcraft trials of Salem Village. Proctor, a principal character, plays a key role throughout the play, being directly and indirectly involved in the affairs of the trials. Unlike other characters, Proctor gradually changes through the course of the play. These changes can be seen in his progression through several different personality shifts.

John Proctor is unquestionably a dynamic character. However, his personality change is gradual over the entirety of the play. In the beginning of the play, Proctor has a strong-willed personality that exudes leadership and authority. This can be seen in the first scene as not only his words but physical stature shows his confidence. Proctor's words play an important role in showing the reader his strong personality as he passionately expresses his thoughts to his fellow Puritans. He does not immediately look to witchcraft to explain these incidents with the children. He does not quail in fear at expressing his opinions on the events that transpire in the first scene. This is seen when he says to Putnam, "You


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cannot command Mr. Parris. We vote by name in this society, not by acreage."(pg 1249) This shows that Proctor is not afraid to speak his thoughts even before a wealthier or more influential man. This shows Proctor's mental strength of will to speak against a person, many others, including Reverend Parris, would not openly question. Proctor's strength is also shown in the first act when he talks to Parris about what he is preaching. While others are close-mouthed and will not protest Parris' actions because of his position, Proctor expresses his misgivings with Parris' sermons. This shows Proctor's boldness and strong will. These traits are seen not only in Proctor's words and actions but also in the words of others describing Proctor. An example is when Abigail calls Proctor a "strong man."(pg 1246) With these clues it is evident that at the beginning, John Proctor has a strong-willed personality.

Through The Crucible, John Proctor undergoes several character changes. These changes separate him from the other characters and make him a dynamic character. Through these personality changes, he becomes a better man, maybe even a hero, and the most interesting character in the play. Though sometimes slow and arduous, Proctor's journey through his personal changes eventually lead to his sense of goodness in himself.

Act IV opens in the jail before the execution of the convicted witches. At this point, John Proctor has also been convicted of witchcraft and is set to hang with the rest of the lot. His air of conviction is evident to all around him as the other characters indicate. Such as when Herrick says, "He sits [in the jail] like some great bird; you'd not know he lived except he will take food from time to time."(pg 1324) This quote shows his acceptance of his fate. However, there is one mor

e Salem witch trials of 1692 caused much confusion and chaos. A total of 19 were executed for supposed witchcraft. For such a travesty to occur and to end, there must be certain people that catalyze the event and others that speak out against it. In "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller, specific characters contribute to the rising hysteria of witchcraft and the disapproval of the convictions. Reverend Hale is a unique character that provides attributions to both sides.  Although Reverend Hale is a catalyst to the beginning of the witch trials because he protects the authority of the court with a strict interpretation of its laws, he later realizes the falsehood of the court's accusations, and he makes a dramatic shift in his dependency on the law and in his beliefs of witchcraft.


   For the first half of the play, Hale strictly follows the law to maintain order, and as a result contributes to the beginning of the witch trials. For example, in his first scene of the play he enters Parris' house to help his niece, who is believed to have a spell cast upon her, and is carrying a heavy load of books that are "`...are weighted with authority'" (34). He prepares himself to ignore any conclusions based from emotional involvement or sensibility by keeping at hand lawful books to guide him. He trusts his books to keep control over the arising dilemma. In addition, when two church-going women, Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, are accused of witchcraft, the women's husbands begin to argue the case, but Hale still defends the court: "`I have seen too many frightful proofs in court -- the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!'"(68). Although it is ludicrous that two of the most law-abiding citizens of the town are accused of witchery, Hale displays that he contains more faith in the court than in his heart because he shows no mercy or emotion towards the accused. In these early scenes of the play, Hale does what he can to fulfill his duty of eradicating the causes of the witchery, and does not see that the evil is not in the accused but in the accuser. Also, Tituba, Parris' black slave, accuses Sarah Good and Goody Osbourne of witchcraft after Hale interrogates her and forces her to tell him who she has seen under the Devil's influence: "...Tituba, you are chosen to help cleanse our village. So speak utterly, Tituba, turn your back on him [the Devil] and face God..."(44). Hale initiates the hysteria of accusations in Salem with the pressure he puts on Tituba to give him names (he had also threatened to whip her to death). His only objective and care at this point is not to root out the causes of Betty's illness, but to make seemingly impressive accusations and "fulfill" his duty of keeping away the Devil. Through these actions, Hale proves to be an important catalyst in sparking the trials.


   As the ridiculousness of the court rises, Hale begins to oppose the actions it takes. For example, Hale pleads with Danforthe, the judge, to let Proctor return to court later with a lawyer while he is being interrogated, and which Danforthe rejects the idea. Danforthe possesses the ultimate power of the court and the use of its laws; however, Hale for the first time fought against its powers. He realizes the unfair judgement the court is presenting and begins his objection to it. In addition, after Danforthe falsely arrests Giles and Proctor of witchcraft, Hale quits the court: "`I denounce these precedings! I quit the court!'"(115). He can no longer accept the distinctly false prosecutions Danforthe continues to make. The accusations reach a point where even the lawful Hale can no longer ignore its ludicrousness. Through these actions, Hale proves his change from the extreme of all for the court to the extreme of being against it.


   During this time, a sense of goodness overcomes his previous interrogative and intimidating attitude. For example, Hale states that he will not take the life of any innocent person: "... I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take a life without there be proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscious may doubt it"(95). He realizes that the evil was not in the supposed witches, but in the hunt to eradicate the possible menaces to the Salem society. He exemplifies his newfound understanding of God's will and attempts to use it in order to halt the trials. In addition, once John Proctor is given the option to confess to witchery and live, or deny it and hang, Hale tells his wife that life is the most important gift: "It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it..."(122). After contributing to the death of the first few people persecuted, he realizes the integrity of life and that it cannot be wasted. He recognizes that he had mistakenly contributed to the death of those in the trials, and now wants to put an end to the hangings and save the lives of those undeserving of death. Hale demonstrates his change in ideals by becoming emotionally involved in the situation and allowing himself to try to protect the innocent victims.


   Hale changes from being in favor of the witch trials to opposing it because of the obviously innocent people that are sentenced to death. The Reverend is able to see his sins and the evils around him, and he reveal his strength and will in standing up for what he knows is right. He shows the reader that it is not one's reputation or fulfilling a job that is justifiable to God, but one's ability to protect His will of righteousness.

Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible, is about the persecution of persons falsely accused of being witches in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Many people die in the village after a series of lies and unjust practices. Abigail Williams, after having had an affair with a married man, begins this cycle of lies and accusations in an attempt to get her lover back. Her character includes both superiority and resentment throughout the play.

Miller shows Abigail's superiority as complex from the beginning. When all of the talk about witchcraft troubles her uncle, Abigail thinks she should be the authority. When she says, "Uncle, the rumor of witchcraft is all about; I think you'd best go down and deny it yourself," (9) she is showing her knowledge of social situations and giving her uncle, who is much older the she, advice. Abigail also thinks of herself as superior to the natives of Barbados. When her uncle discusses her work for the Proctors, she says that "they want slaves, not such as I. Let them send to Barbados for any of them!" (12). She is prejudiced against these people and her remarks reveal her snobbishness. Finally, Abigail's snobbish character is apparent through her statements to John Proctor about his wife Elizabeth. She says, "Oh, I marval how such a strong man [can be with] such a sickly wife" (23). Abigail obviously thinks highly of herself: she is worthy of Proctor's love, but Elizabeth is not. Abigail shows a character of superiority by her authoritative, prejudiced, and snobbish remarks.

Abigail Williams also shows a tinge of resentment in the play. When Mary Warren confesses that the witchcraft is only pretend, Abigail is angry. She accuses Mary of being a witch, too. Abigail's resentment of her friend's betrayel causes her to seek revenge. After Abigail's brief affair with John Proctor, she can not accept the fact that the relationship has ended. She says, "I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart!...You loved me John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!" (24). This desperation causes her to resent both Proctor and his wife. The resentment leads to revenge when she accuses Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft. Her resentment deepens when Proctor tells the court about their affair. Abigail's resentment is apparent through her words and her actions.

Authur Miller's development of Abigail William's character in The Crucible greatly affects the plot of the play. Her snobbishness and superiority make many people believe her lies. Her resentment toward those that betray her influences many of her decisions. The authoritative, deceitful character of Abigail Williams is certainly unforgettable.


Two definitions of the word "crucible" can apply to the title of the play The Crucible, "a container for melting or purifying metals" and "a severe test." The village of Salem was a strict puritan community, a container. The contents of this container are the God-fearing people of Salem along with their feelings and emotions. Fueled by the lies and blasphemy in the town, they're finally brought to a "melting point" where they buy into the deceit and start to charge witchcraft. The accusations of witchcraft can also been seen as a melting pot. At first, slaves and vagrants were the victims of the claims.

Eventually, witchcraft became an indiscriminate foe when well-known citizens were charged such as Rebecca Nurse, George Jacobs, and Elizabeth and John Procter. The crimes were charged in attempt to purify the community of the influence of Satan. The entire community of Salem was put through a "severe test" throughout the trials. The test was of faith in God and the court, and their faith in the court was wavering by the end of the play. John Proctor was put through a severe test of faith in himself, and came through in the end by finding the good in himself and refusing to cast away his name in signing a confession.

A vessel or melting pot, composed of some very refractory substance, as clay, graphite, platinum, and used for melting and calcining substances which require a strong degree of heat, as metals, ores, etc.

A hollow place at the bottom of a furnace, to receive the melted metal.

A test of the most decisive kind; a severe trial; as, the crucible of affliction.


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