Allusions in The Crucible Video

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  • 0:00 Puritanical Judicial Processes
  • 0:43 Accusations of Virtuous Women
  • 1:50 Abigail's New-Found Fame
  • 2:25 Reverend Hale Knows the Truth
  • 3:01 Doing the Right Thing
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

'The Crucible' by Arthur Miller is set in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 1600s, when lines between church and state had not been clearly defined. This lesson will review some of the Biblical allusions made by the author.

Puritanical Judicial Processes

Why did the English colonists come to America in the 1600s, risking disease, starvation, and conflict with natives of this country? They were willing to sacrifice their lives in hopes of finding a place to freely practice their Protestant faith in light of the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe at that time. The community of Puritans patterned many of their legal and judicious processes on religious views, which helps Biblical allusions flow naturally in a play about this time period. Allusions are vague references that the author does not explain in the text, but from which the reader can still apply meaning. Let's look at some of the religious allusions that Arthur Miller included in The Crucible.

Accusations of Virtuous Women

According to the Bible, the devil was a beautiful angel in heaven who was cast out by God because of his prideful desire to take God's throne. When the witchcraft expert, Reverend Hale, is questioned on how such a virtuous and upstanding woman, such as Rebecca, could possibly be accused of witchcraft, he makes reference to the devil also seeming virtuous at one point. 'The Devil is a wily one, and, until an hour before he fell, even God thought him beautiful in Heaven.' The author uses this allusion to demonstrate how justifications can lead to a lapse in reason.

A similar allusion occurs when John Proctor argues with Reverend Parris about the inability to reconcile how so many well-respected and religious women could all of the sudden be accused of being in cahoots with Satan. Reverend Parris compares them to Cain from the Bible who kills his brother, Abel, out of jealousy of God's affection and respect for Abel. Parris believes that having a clean past does not mean these women are innocent. 'I think not, or you should surely know that Cain were an upright man, and yet he did kill Abel.' Parris has a weak argument, but using Biblical references carries a lot of weight in Salem.

Abigail's New-Found Fame

Before the witch trials, Abigail Williams was just a servant that no one thought much about, but after she falsely accuses her lover's wife of being a witch, she rises to a level of power and prestige in the community that compares to Moses from the Bible. Just as Moses parted the Red Sea as he led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, 'Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel.' Instead of seeing her as the liar she is, the citizens view her as the person who will deliver them from evil in the name of God.

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