The Crucible Comprehension Questions

Instructor: Wendy A. Garland

Wendy has a Ph.D. in Adult Education and a Master's Degree in Business Management. She has 10 years experience working in higher education.

This lesson will include questions and answers from Arthur Miller's The Crucible. They are aimed at facilitating better comprehension of the play, and are organized by theme.


Arthur Miller's Tony Award winning play The Crucible premiered on Broadway in 1953, at the height of Senator Joseph McCarthy's tyrannical anti-communist persecutions. Miller's play uses the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century as its setting to lambast McCarthyism, and show how the mass hysteria it creates ruins and destroys innocent lives. However, even though the Berlin Wall has come down and the Cold War is over, McCarthyism still exists today, in various guises, as a way for politicians, governments, and even everyday people all over the world to control and eliminate their perceived rivals.

Questions About Beginnings

  • What does Arthur Miller say, in the introduction to The Crucible, that spurs the people of Salem to begin accusing each other of witchcraft?

He explains that the people of Salem sought retribution and vengeance on each other for a variety of reasons, and that is why they began accusing each other of witchcraft.

  • What did Rev. Parris see Abigail and the girls doing in the forest?

He saw them dancing around, and some of them in the nude.

  • What was Tituba doing at that time?

Tituba was chanting unintelligibly, and there was a frog in the cooking pot.

  • What concerns Rev. Parris most about all this?

He worries that if evidence of witchcraft is found in his home, he will be removed from ministry, and his reputation will be ruined.

  • What does Rebecca Nurse think is going on with the girls?

She thinks they are faking witchcraft for attention.

Questions About Motivations

  • What motivates Mrs. Putnam to so eagerly need to prove witchcraft in Salem?

She is desperate to find a reason why all her children, except one, died shortly after birth.

  • Why are Rev. Parris and John Proctor at odds with each other?

John Proctor sees that Rev. Parris is more concerned with keeping his position and reputation than being a true minister and practicing devotion to God. John, therefore, questions Rev. Parris' morals and ethics.

  • How are Abigail and John connected?

John had an affair with Abigail once. He feels very guilty about committing adultery, but Abigail has become obsessed with him, and wants to become his wife.

  • How does Abigail feel about John's wife, Elizabeth Proctor?

She hates her, and is extremely jealous of her.

  • What aspects of Giles Cory's life stand out from the rest of people of Salem?

For one thing, he is very litigious. Before he married his wife, Giles never went to church. He also tells people that his wife reads books of which he is unaware.

  • What has made Thomas Putnam so bitter?

He is power hungry, and wants to acquire more land so he can obtain more power in Salem.

Questions About Accusations

  • Who is Rev. Hale, and why has he come to Salem?

Rev. Hale is asked to come to Salem by Rev. Parris, because he is well versed in matters of witchcraft, and can identify and imprison witches.

  • What starts the accusations of witchcraft?

Tituba confesses to witchcraft because she is being whipped, and that starts a chain reaction of the women accusing each other of witchcraft.

  • Why is Elizabeth afraid of Abigail?

Elizabeth knows about John and Abigail's affair, and is afraid Abigail will do anything to do away with her and marry John.

Questions About the Trials

  • How can those accused of witchcraft save themselves from death?

They must confess to witchcraft.

  • Why does Rev. Hale come to the Proctors' house?

Because of the Proctors' lackluster church attendance and Elizabeth's reading habits.

  • What happens when Rev. Hale asks John to recite the Ten Commandments?

John has great difficulty reciting the Ten Commandments, and when he finally manages it, he forgets the commandment about adultery.

  • Why is Elizabeth arrested?

Because she has been accused of witchcraft, likely by Abigail. Also, the doll that Mary Warren gave her after she returned from the trials is seen, and it has a pin in its abdomen.

  • After Elizabeth's arrest, what does John want Mary to do? How does Mary react?

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