Is The Crucible based on a true story? - Massachusetts History Blog (2023)

The Crucible is a play about theSalem Witch TrialsWritten by Arthur Miller. The play premiered on Broadway in January 1953 and has since become an American classic.

Although based on the Salem witch trials, the play was intended as an allegory for the Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s.

Miller later explained that he saw many similarities between the search for communists in the 1920sºand the witch hunt in the seventeenth centuryºCentury.

But most of all, the play is about what happens to a community when people start turning against each other. Miller saw examples of this in both the Red Scare, where officials tried to force Miller himself and many others to name suspected communists, and the Salem witch trials, where accused witches were pressured to come forward and others to name suspected witches.

What inspired Arthur Miller to write The Crucible?

Arthur Miller got the idea to write about the Salem witch trials after reading a book called Salem Witchcraft by Charles W. Upham, as he explained in an article he wrote for the New Yorker:

“I had read about the witch trials in college, but didn't learn about them until I read a book published in 1867, a two-volume, thousand-page study by Charles W. Upham, then Mayor of Salem. . I had to write about time. Upham not only wrote a thorough and comprehensive examination of what was already a nearly lost chapter of Salem's past, but also opened up to me the details of the personal relationships among many of the participants in the tragedy.

Then, in 1949, Miller came across a newly published paperSalem witch trials book, entitled The Devil in Massachusetts by Marion L. Starkey, in which Starkey not only compared the trials to a Greek tragedy with a clear beginning, middle, and end, but also pointed out that witch hunts were not a thing of the past and happened in the in one form or another long after people stopped believing in witches.

(Video) What really happened during the Salem Witch Trials - Brian A. Pavlac

Is The Crucible based on a true story? - Massachusetts History Blog (1)

This inspired Miller to take a dramatic approach to retell the story of the trials, framing it as an allegory for the Red Terror, which he saw as a modern-day witch hunt.

To gather material for the play, Miller visited Salem, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1952 and spent a week researching court records from the Salem witch trials.

There he found Elizabeth Proctor's trial file and was shocked to read howAbigail Williamstried to attackElisabeth Proctorduring his examination, but then he suddenly stopped and then lightly touched his hood and exclaimed that his hand was on fire as he touched it.

Miller said he found the gesture odd and imagined a scenario where Williams was employed by the Proctor family but was fired by Elizabeth for sleeping with her.Juan Proctorwhich prompted Abigail to accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft.

Is the Crucible historically accurate?

Arthur Miller never claimed that The Crucible was historically accurate, and in the printed edition of his work he even included a "Note on the Historical Accuracy of the Work," noting some of the changes he made to the story, and explains why he did this made her. . The note says:

“This work is not a history in the sense in which the word is used by the academic historian. Dramatic ends sometimes require many characters to blend into one; the number of girls involved in the “scream” was reduced; Abigail's age was increasing; Though there were several judges of near equal authority, I have symbolized them all in Hathorne and Danforth. However, I believe that here the reader will discover the essential nature of one of the strangest and most terrifying chapters in human history. The fate of each character is exactly that of his historical counterpart, and there is no one in the drama who has not played a similar, and in some cases exactly the same, role in the story.

Little is known about the character of the city about most of them, apart from what can be inferred from some letters, the case file, some commentaries written at the time, and indications of their behavior in sources of varying reliability. Therefore, they can be considered my creations, built according to their known behavior to the best of my knowledge, except as stated in the comment I wrote for this text.

(Video) I Was There: The Dark History of the Salem Witch Trials (Season 1)

In addition to the changes Miller detailed in his note, there are also other historical inaccuracies in the work:

The character Abigail Williams claims that Betty Parris' mother had already died when the Salem witch trials took place, but in fact her mother was still alive.

There is no evidence that Abigail Williams ever knew John or Elizabeth Proctor, let alone worked as their maid.

John Proctor never confessed or attempted to confess to being a witch and maintained his innocence until his death.

Abigail Williams is depicted as being 17 during the Salem witch trials when she was actually 12.

(Video) 11 Myths About the Salem Witch Trials

Mary WarrenShe is described as 17 years old, although she is actually 20 years old.

John Proctor is described as in his late 30s, although he is actually in his 60s.

Miller changed her first name from Ann Putnam Jr. to Ruth to avoid confusion with her mother, Ann Putnam Sr.

Portrayed MuellerRebekah nurse, John Proctor yMarta Coreyas hanged on the same day that Nurse was actually hanged in July, Proctor was hanged in August and Corey was hanged in September.

Miller describes a scene in whichturn and the grieving girls dance in the woods and are discovered by the Reverend Samuel Parris. That never happened in real life, but I do know that some of the girls were involved in a popular magic technique called "Venus Glass," where they played an egg white in a flake of water and interpreted it in a way that allowed them to predict the future. and Tituba and Mary Sibley confessed to making a witch cake from the urine of one of the grieving girls, which Parris discovered, and rebuked her before informing her congregation of the fact.

CharacterReverend Samuel ParrisHe claims he graduated from Harvard, but in real life, Parris dropped out before graduation.

Betty ParisShe is described as comatose and unresponsive, although she did have violent seizures.

(Video) The Truth of the Salem Witch Trials

Jorge Jacobs Sr.was never accused of sending his ghost out the window into bedAnn Putnam jr..

John HaleHe became skeptical about the trials not after the death of John Proctor, but only after his own wife had been indicted.

Giles CoreyIn fact, he was tortured for being mute, but not for refusing to name other suspected witches. In fact, his jaw dropped when asked if he would accept a trial by a jury of peers.

Why did Miller make these changes?

Miller likely changed these small details for various reasons, e.g. B. to better fit its narrative, reduce the number of characters, simplify the timeline, clarify the relationships between the characters and basically just to make the story flow better.

The actual events of the Salem witch trials were very complicated and involved hundreds of people, so it is sometimes difficult to retell the story without confusing the audience. It would make sense that Miller could change a few things to make the story simpler and easier to understand.

Why is it important to point out the differences?

Knowing the differences between in-game events and real events is important to separate fact from fiction.

Without them, details of the actual Salem witch trials could be lost or confused with details in the play, rendering our understanding of this chapter of American history flawed and inaccurate.

(Video) When This 300 Year Old House Went Up For Sale, Its History Of Witchcraft And Murder Was Revealed

Miller, Arthur, and Christopher Bigsby. "Introduction by Christopher Bigsby". The Crucible: A Play in Four Acts. Penguin Books, 2003.
Burns, Mag. "Arthur Miller's Crucible: Fact and Fiction". 17º17th Century Colonial New England,
"The Crucible, or How Arthur Miller Misunderstood the Salem Witch Trials". New England Historical Society,
Mueller, author. "Why I Wrote the Crucible". The New Yorker, October 21, 1996,


Was The Crucible based on a true story? ›

Miller warns in the preface to The Crucible that "this play is not history," but it is certainly dependent on historical events for its story.

What historical event is The Crucible based on? ›

"The Crucible," a dramatization of the 1692 Salem witch trials, was written as an allegory for the "witch-hunt" atmosphere that pervaded America when Joseph McCarthy, a Republican representative from Wisconsin, led the nation on a search for communists in the American government.

Why I wrote The Crucible answers? ›

Why did Arthur Miller write the play? Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible because he wanted to write a play that related to the current social issues that were occurring, including witch trials.

What was the inspiration for The Crucible? ›

Inspired by the House Un-American Activities Committee and the McCarthy trials of the 1950s, Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible, a play set in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts during the height of the mass hysteria known as the Salem witch trials.

How much historical truth is in The Crucible? ›

Further reinforcing the theory that The Crucible contrasts with the Salem Witch Trials, Tim Gracyk states,“I estimate that the play is about 50% based on real historical events and about 50% "made up" for the purpose of the play 's particular themes, symbolism, and characterization” (1).

Why is The Crucible not historically accurate? ›

The play The Crucible by Arthur Miller is not historically accurate due to the change of characters such as ages, jobs, and events. This is done to make the play more interesting and to keep the audience engaged.

What are two historical events in The Crucible? ›

The 12 Most Major Events in The Crucible
  • Reverend Parris saw all the girls in the forest dancing naked and his servant Tituba.
  • Abigail makes the girls swear to never tell the truth.
  • Abigail tells Hale that Tituba was with the devil.
  • Marry Warren is now an official of the court.

What historical events are similar to The Crucible? ›

The witch trials and The Holocaust are both great examples of people being scapegoated for things they were not responsible for. Additionally, both situations had societies that allowed certain atrocities to occur without being stopped by anyone until it became overly drastic.

Why is The Crucible important to history? ›

hur Miller's 1953 play on the Salem witch trials, The Crucible, was written as an allegory of McCarthyism and the anti-Communist hysteria in the U.S. in the 1950s. Yet, more than sixty years later, this landmark work about social scapegoating remains provocative and timely.

What is the main message of The Crucible explain? ›

The play was originally written as a direct criticism of McCarthyism, the practice of making accusations without proper regard for evidence. Therefore, the main idea of the play is to encourage people to remain calm during crisis situations and to not jump to the worst conclusions.

What is a good thesis statement for The Crucible? ›

The persecution of innocent women is inevitable because Danforth holds all of the power and he is choosing to put his trust in people who are deceitful and selfish.

Why is it called The Crucible? ›

A "crucible" is a severe test or trial, which is exactly what happens in the play. Miller intended "The Crucible" as an allegory to McCarthyism. The events that took place during the time the play was written were very similar to the Salem witch hunts.

How is The Crucible related to todays society? ›

The themes in the crucible are as important to people in the 21st century as in Salem in 1692. These include justice, reputation, hysteria, intolerance and empowerment. All of these are common themes throughout human history.

What are the major themes of The Crucible? ›

The Crucible Themes
  • Lies and Deceit.
  • Respect and Reputation.
  • Compassion and Forgiveness.
  • Good vs. Evil.
  • The Supernatural.
  • Justice.
  • Religion.
  • Jealousy.

Who is the most memorable character in The Crucible? ›

Abigail Williams is perhaps the most prominent main character in The Crucible. She leads a group of girls into the woods to dance with Tituba, her uncle's slave.

Is history based on truth or facts? ›

History is not just what-really-happened-in-the-past, but a complex intersection of truths, bias and hopes. A glance at two very different historians, the Roman Tacitus and the Byzantine Procopius, shows the range and difficulty inherent in the study of the past.

How does The Crucible show truth? ›

An example of truth in the book is when elizabeth is true and not lying about her not being a witch or being a women of the devil. Even though she is telling the truth the other children are saying otherwise and saying that what elizabeth claims is false.

Did the girls lie in The Crucible? ›

We learn that both Abigail and John have told lies: they have deceived people about their (past) relationship, and they continue to lie about it. But to this person who knows her deception, Abigail tells the truth that she was dancing in the woods and Betty took fright.

Is The Crucible historical fiction? ›

In using a real-life setting, real people, and historically accurate details to tell a fictional story, The Crucible is also an example of historical fiction.

What are the differences between The Crucible play and real life? ›

In the play, only adults were either convicted or condemned. However in real life, children and animals were convicted or condemned. Sarah's Good's daughter, Dorcas Good, was a 4 year old girl that was accused. She spent 8 months in jail and witnessed her mother carried off to the gallows (Linder).

Who falsely confessed in The Crucible? ›

Tituba falsely confesses to witchcraft because she knows, as a slave, she is the legal property of Parris, who can beat her if she doesn't confess. Mr.

What is the main conflict in Crucible? ›

The major external conflict is John Proctor trying to save his wife from being hanged by the town officials for supposedly being a witch. The major internal conflict is John trying to decide between saving himself and family from being hanged, or accept the death penalty for false accusations against him.

How historically accurate is The Crucible 1996? ›

Abigail Williams was an eleven-year-old and John Proctor was sixty, so much of the Miller's tale of sexual revenge does not work as history. Miller is a writer who can tell a story of complexity with some profundity, but The Crucible is not historically accurate.

Who were the first 2 accused of witchcraft in The Crucible? ›

The First Accusers

Elizabeth “Betty” Parris and her cousin Abigail Williams were the first two girls to experience this hell-birthed disease. Parris and Williams were believed to be prime targets for the Devil. They were the daughter and niece of Puritan Reverend Samuel Parris.

What are some real life examples of The Crucible? ›

The Crucible is a play based off historical events that unfolded in the town of Salem that highlights the effects of hysteria and explores the fear that can create critical issues in a society. Examples of this include the Ebola outbreak, the West Bank Fainting Epidemic and the Borneo Kidnapping Scare.

What are 5 themes in The Crucible? ›

  • Intolerance. The Crucible is set in a theocratic society, in which the church and the state are one, and the religion is a strict, austere form of Protestantism known as Puritanism. ...
  • Hysteria. ...
  • Reputation. ...
  • Goodness. ...
  • Judgment. ...
  • Social Status. ...
  • Ownership and Property. ...
  • Justice.

What are the three main conflicts in The Crucible? ›

What are the 3 types of conflict? John Proctor's hatred of himself for his sins. Elizabeth's belief that John had an affair because of her. Hale regretting his actions in Salem.

What can The Crucible teach us about humanity? ›

The Crucible is a story about the power of fear. Fear is what drives humans to near neuroticism in an attempt to achieve a false sense of security. Fear gives humans the wrongful excuse to forfeit their morality and turn against fellow men.

What is the most important quote in The Crucible? ›

Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it.

What is the conclusion of crucible? ›

The Crucible ends with John Proctor marching off to a martyr's death. By refusing to lie and confess to witchcraft, he sacrifices his life in the name of truth. At the end of the play, Proctor has in some way regained his goodness.

What is the main irony in the crucible? ›

Miller provides dramatic irony in the Salem courtroom when Elizabeth Proctor is brought in for a test of her husband's claim that she does not tell lies. At this point, John has already confessed to having an affair with Abigail Williams. Unfortunately, Elizabeth is not aware of his confession.

Who is the most moral in The Crucible? ›

In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, John Proctor is a good man as he showcases righteous morals and principles. This is shown, as he ends his affair with Abigail, protects his wife and his friends' wives, and dies to preserve his integrity and honour.

What are good questions to ask about The Crucible? ›

What is the state of the community at the beginning of the play, as the play progresses and at the end of the play? How are insiders and outsiders defined during these times? What elements existed or were created within the community to allow Abigail and the other girls to gain power?

What are the 3 reasons in a thesis statement? ›

Because thesis statements are essential in any essay, it is important for writers to understand what makes up a solid thesis. As the basis of an essay, a thesis must support three things: audience, purpose, and content. This basically just means answer who, why, and what in your thesis.

What was the slaves name in The Crucible? ›

Tituba was the Reverend Parris's slave from Barbados. She is significant to the story because she is the first to be accused of witchcraft and first to name others involved in witchcraft. She names two other women, Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne, as witches.

What does crucible mean in the Bible? ›

3. : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development.

Is The Crucible about Christianity? ›

Religion is woven into the everyday life of Salem in The Crucible. The townsfolk practice a form of Christianity centered on a set of clearly defined rules: you go to church every Sunday, you don't work on the Sabbath, you believe the Gospel, you respect the minister's word like it is God's, and so on.

What does The Crucible teach us about power? ›

Theme #4: Power and Authority. The desire to preserve and gain power pervades The Crucible as the witch trials lead to dramatic changes in which characters hold the greatest control over the course of events. Abigail's power skyrockets as the hysteria grows more severe.

How does The Crucible relate to the American Dream? ›

Arthur miller's plays usually deals with American dream, one of such play is “The Crucible”. The play tells us that independence of expression and morality, and right to life should be frozen as the heritage of every individual.

What political issues are presented in The Crucible? ›

His play thus allegorically represents McCarthyism through the Salem Witch trials and exemplifies the false accusations of the people and their injustice from the corrupt politics as well as the influential ideas of power and manipulation.

Did the Salem witch trials actually happen? ›

The Salem witch trials occurred in colonial Massachusetts between early 1692 and mid-1693. More than 200 people were accused of practicing witchcraft—the devil's magic—and 20 were executed. In 1711, colonial authorities pardoned some of the accused and compensated their families.

Was Abigail Williams a real person? ›

Abigail Williams (born c. 1681, date of death unknown) was an 11- or 12-year-old girl who, along with nine-year-old Betty Parris, was among the first of the children to falsely accuse their neighbors of witchcraft in 1692; these accusations eventually led to the Salem witch trials.

Was John Proctor a real person? ›

John Proctor, Jr.

(October 9, 1632 – August 19, 1692) was a landowner in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was the son of John Proctor Sr. (1594–1672) and Martha Harper (1607–1667). John and his 3rd wife were tried on August 5, 1692.


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