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The Crucible Essential 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.

In this lesson, we will take a look at some essential questions from Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible.' These questions will be organized by Act to help students better organize their ideas.

Background

Premiering in 1953 on Broadway, the Tony Award-winning The Crucible is Arthur Miller's scathing criticism of McCarthyism and the selfishness of human nature. It's set during the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century, and while mostly factual, Miller fictionalized parts of the play for various reasons. It's considered a classic of American theater, and has been adapted into many productions, as well as films and even a Pulitzer Prize-winning opera.

Act One

  • Arthur Miller's The Crucible is set during the real events that took place in Salem village in Massachusetts in the late 17th century. Did the fact that Salem was a small village and not a big city play a part in the perpetuation of the Witch Trials?
  • Abigail Williams clearly manipulates and uses everyone in her path so she can get what she wants. However, she's helped along by religion and people's irrational fears. Do you think Abigail's plans would have been much more difficult without religion's influence in Salem? Or, would she have simply found another way to manipulate everyone?
  • Why does John Proctor's adultery exist in the book? Does its existence merely give Abigail a reason for all she does? Or, does that fact that it's a mortal sin also play a role in The Crucible? How does it fit with Miller's criticism of McCarthyism?
  • Enter Rev. Hale, The Witch Finder General. Okay, he's not called that in The Crucible, but that's essentially his function. Do you find him a reasonable and rational man at this point in the play? Would he have the same character traits if he lived in Salem?
  • When Abigail is pressed by Rev. Hale, she names Tituba, the Parris' slave, as the one who has bewitched her. Why do you think people often accuse those who are different from the majority of horrible crimes? Where do those accusations often lead?

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