The Real Witch Hunt Behind The Crucible (2023)

1952,arthur muellerpublished one of his most famous works,the crucible, a play that took place in Salem in 1692-1693 during the witch trials. In 1996, Hollywood adapted his work for the big screen some 42 years after the author was blacklisted by the same industry for refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities and naming suspected communists during that time to name McCarthyism. Over the years, the film adaptation ofthe crucible, main roleWinona Ryder miDaniel DayLewis, has become a must-have item during the spooky season. Though heavily romanticized and fictionalized,the crucibleIt is based on true events when a small town became the scene of the most famous witch hunt in history.

In January 1692, two girls, Abigail Williams and Betty Parris, soon to be followed by many other girls, became seriously ill with writhing, violent convulsions, and hallucinations. When the local doctor visited them, his diagnosis was clear: the girls were haunted. Arrests followed, beginning with Tituba, Reverend Parris's slave. Soon many more women and men were accused by the group of girls, then known as "affected girls".

The witch hunt begins

The Real Witch Hunt Behind The Crucible (1)

Although Arthur Miller specified that at the beginning of his workthe crucibleit's not history and some characters and events were changed for his work, we also know that the witch hunt is a metaphor for what Miller went through in The Red Scare in the 1950s. Let's dive into the 1996 film adaptation directed byNicholas Hytner, while comparing some of its key moments and characters to their real-life counterparts.

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the cruciblebegins with a group of girls and Tituba (Charlayne Woodard), dancing around a campfire in the woods and making some sort of potion. One of the girls, Abigail, played here by Winona Ryder, plays the most important role in the conspiracy, being the town's main prosecutor. When Reverend Parris, her uncle, discovers Abigail and her friends in the woods, Abigail tries to escape with Betty Paris. The next morning, we find out that Betty is sick and doesn't want to wake up. The same evil disease seems to afflict another boy in town, leading to a strong belief that Salem has become the home of the devil.

Abigail has a crush on John Proctor, played by Daniel Day Lewis. He is a married man she worked for and with whom she had an affair. As Elizabeth Proctor (Juana Allen), John's wife, upon learning of her husband's infidelity, throws Abigail out of the house. At the beginning of the movie, Abigail tries to win John back, but he turns her down again. To quell rumors that she is a witch and save her name when people start talking about her affair, Abigail accuses Tituba of cursing her and Betty Parris.

This first charge leads to a series of many more and will result in the death of many innocent people.

Cinema vs Reality

The Real Witch Hunt Behind The Crucible (2)

Nothe crucible, Abigail and John Proctor were close in the past. Regretful and ashamed, John now tries to win back the affection and trust of his wife. Abigail is still in love with him and doesn't hesitate to say it loud and clear, even if it means accusing Elizabeth of being a witch. Abigail is around 17 years old and John is in his 30s.In a long essay for The New Yorker in 1996, Miller explained that he actually believed these two characters were in a relationship, which became an attempt to explain how the witch trials came about. Miller testified that she read in court reports that Williams attempted to hit Elizabeth Proctor during her investigation.

“I think a play was made possible by this remarkably observed gesture by a concerned young woman,” he wrote. By then, he was sure, John Proctor had put Abigail to sleep, who would probably have to be fired to appease Elizabeth. Bad blood flowed between the two women. The fact that Abigail had started to sentence Elizabeth to death with her touch, then she had stopped her hand and done it, was suddenly the human center of all this uproar.

(Video) Comparing The Crucible with history - The true story of the Salem witch trials

In real life, John Proctor was 60 years old and Abigail Williams was only 12 years old. Many historians believe that there is no evidence that the two knew each other, let alone that the girl actually served in the Proctor household, especially since the Proctors lived too far out of town for Abigail to find them. However, just as inthe crucible, John Proctor quickly became the voice of the falsely accused, stating that the accusers are lying.

The opening scene of the girls dancing in the woods probably never happened, although in real life they may have tried a type of magic called "Venus Glass" which involves dropping an egg into a glass of water and through its shape the girls could see. her future records also showed that "witch cake" was made when Abigail started making accusations. This cake was meant to reveal the identity of people guilty of witchcraft. It was made with urine, rye flour and ashes from the affected girl. Witch hunters then fed this cake to animals, especially dogs, which were believed to be companions of witches and called "familiar". The dog must then reveal the identity of the witches.

a sad result

The Real Witch Hunt Behind The Crucible (3)
(Video) The REAL HISTORY Behind the Salem Witch Trials.

In the film, John Proctor confesses to being a witch to save his life and that of his wife, who was pregnant at the time. The reality is that John Proctor did not confess to any of this and claimed to be innocent until his death. However, just as inthe crucible, in which Proctor is a popular and respected man, many of his friends asked for confirmation of his good character during the trial. But the request did not work and the Attorneys accused by Abigail would remain in prison awaiting her execution. Elizabeth Proctor would remain in prison until giving birth and then she would be hanged; However, for unknown reasons, she was never executed, not even after the birth of her child. John Proctor was executed in August 1692 along with many of the villagers.

At the end of the movie, Abigail runs away and never returns to Salem. The real Abigail Williams completely disappeared after the trial and no historical record of her has been found after the last testimony of her in June 1692.

Many other historical characters were changed or removed from the script.the crucible🇧🇷 Tituba, Salem's first suspected witch, is a slave to the Parris of Barbados. Her historical counterpart was actually a Native American, though her origin is not entirely certain. Tituba, accused by Abigail, is beaten and confesses that the devil has given her no choice but to work for him. In this puritanical society, where mob hysteria and claims that someone was a witch outweighed any other rational explanation, she knew a confession would save her life. Tituba also accuses Sarah Goode and Goody Osborne of being witches.

The real Sarah Osborne was an outcast, a woman in her 40s who might have suffered from anxiety and depression. She was married to the former servant of hers, whom she reportedly dated before they were married, which was a scandal at the time. In other words, Sarah Osborne represented everything a witch should be to the accusers. She died in prison in May 1692 due to the appalling living conditions for her there.

Sarah Goode, the other woman accused by Tituba, is historically one of the most famous figures in the trials due to the legend surrounding her death: Goode would be hanged after the birth of her son. She also had a six-year-old daughter, Dorcas, who was also accused of witchcraft and jailed for months. When Good's newborn baby died, she was taken to the gallows to be hanged. When Rev. Nicholas Noyes called her a witch and demanded a confession, Goode reportedly yelled, "You're a liar! You're a liar!" I am no more a witch than your wizard! If you take my life, God will give you blood to drink!”

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However, the legend took shape when the Reverend Noyes died in 1718 of a cerebral hemorrhage that caused him to cough up blood and choke on it, just as Goode had told him to do before his death.

At the end of the film we see that Tituba is still imprisoned with the other women accused of witchcraft. In real life, she Tituba served 13 months in prison because Reverend Parris left her there. Some records were found that proved that she Tituba was eventually released and then sold to another man, but just like Abigail, she Tituba disappeared from the record afterwards and we still don't know what happened to her.

The real witch trials

The Real Witch Hunt Behind The Crucible (4)

The actual tests involved hundreds of people, which also explains Miller's shortcuts and character changes. We really don't know what caused the real Abigail Williams and the rest of the girls involved to spread these dramatic lies. Some historians believe that these claims can be explained by mass hysteria, mental illness, or undue financial hardship. But how to explain the symptoms of the affected girls? In the 1970s, Linnda Caporael, a professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, developed one of the strongest theories for these symptoms:A burst of ergot,a fungus that can be found on the bread that the people of Salem ate. Ergotism can cause severe muscle spasms, hallucinations, seizures. Conditions of a very cold winter followed by a rainy spring were ideal for the spread of ergot.

In the absence of records, texts, or even drawings, we will never be able to obtain a clear and unambiguous explanation of the Salem witch trials. The story of the Salem witch hunt may never be complete and will always be open to new theories and explanations. For Arthur Williams, the hypothetical grief of a heartbroken young woman and jealousy were enough to sow fear and create genuine hysteria in the puritanical crowd of the seventeenth century.

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What is the real story behind The Crucible? ›

It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692–93. Miller wrote the play as an allegory for McCarthyism, when the United States government persecuted people accused of being communists.

What is the hunt for witches The Crucible? ›

Set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, Arthur Miller's The Crucible describes the witch hunt that saw harmless people hanged for crimes they did not commit. The Crucible provides an accurate historical account of the witch hunt, but its real achievement lies in the many important issues it deals with.

How does Miller explain the witch hunt? ›

American playwright, Arthur Miller, in his play The Crucible (1952), suggests that witch hunts still exist in American society. Miller supports this claim by drawing parallels between the Salem Witch Trials and the Senator Joseph McCarthy Trials. His purpose is to warn his readers of the dangers of mass hysteria.

What happens to Abigail Williams in real life? ›

The real Abigail Williams completely disappeared after the trial and no historical records of her after her last testimony in June 1692 were found. Many other historical characters were either changed or written off the script of The Crucible.

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.

Who is the real hero in The Crucible? ›

In a sense, The Crucible has the structure of a classical tragedy, with John Proctor as the play's tragic hero. Honest, upright, and blunt-spoken, Proctor is a good man, but one with a secret, fatal flaw.

What was the main cause of witch-hunts? ›

The causes of witch-hunts include poverty, epidemics, social crises and lack of education. The leader of the witch-hunt, often a prominent figure in the community or a "witch doctor", may also gain economic benefit by charging for an exorcism or by selling body parts of the murdered.

What started the witch-hunt in The Crucible? ›

The Salem Witch Trials took place in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, and were based on the accusations of a twelve-year-old girl named Anne Putnam. Putnam claimed that she had witnessed a number of Salem's residents holding black sabbaths and consorting with Satan.

What was the intention of the witch-hunts? ›

The hunts are often seen as a massive effort to keep women in their place. Women were seen as evil, and unclean people whose weakness could summon the devil for sexual intercourse. The Malleus Maleficarum document ignited a widespread hunt for the so-called witches described in it.

What lesson is Miller trying to teach? ›

What is the main message in The Crucible? One of the main messages of the play is to show that trying to preserve one's reputation can end up harming others. But, in keeping one's honor and integrity, a person can stay true to themselves, and can put an end to fear that might cause hysteria.

How did the witch trials end in The Crucible? ›

Eight women were convicted, but released, including Elizabeth Proctor, who was with child. Two of the accused women confessed to being witches and were reprieved—paradoxically, if you admitted to being a witch, you were freed.

Who accused John Proctor of witchcraft? ›

Although Abigail Williams was John Proctor's chief accuser, he was also named by Mary Walcott, who stated he tried to choke her and by his former servant Mary Warren on 21 April. Warren told magistrates that Proctor had beaten her for putting up a prayer bill before forcing her to touch the Devil's Book.

Was Elizabeth Proctor a real person? ›

Elizabeth Proctor (née Bassett; 1650 – after 1703) was convicted of witchcraft in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. She was the wife of John Proctor, who was convicted and executed. Her execution sentence was postponed because she was pregnant.

Does Abigail commit adultery? ›

The conversation reveals that approximately seven months earlier, Abigail and Proctor had an affair while Abigail lived and worked in the Proctor household. Goody Proctor subsequently dismissed Abigail. Now Abigail accuses Proctor of still being in love with her, even though he will not admit it to her or himself.

What did Abigail Williams do at the end? ›

At the end of the play, when Abigail realizes that her plan has failed and that she has condemned Proctor to hang, she displays the same cold indifference that governs her actions throughout the play. She flees Salem, leaving Proctor without so much as a second glance.

Who is to blame for the Salem witch trials? ›

Chief instigators included twelve-year-old ringleader Ann Putnam, Elisabeth Hubbard, Mary Walcott, Mary Warren, Elisabeth Proctor, Mercy Lewis, Susan Sheldon, and Elizabeth Booth. Encouraged by their elders and joined by some peers, the girls began accusing anyone they disliked or feared of being witches.

What was the real reason for the Salem witch trials? ›

The infamous Salem witch trials began during the spring of 1692, after a group of young girls in Salem Village, Massachusetts, claimed to be possessed by the devil and accused several local women of witchcraft.

What was the real cause of the Salem witch trials? ›

The Salem witch trials and executions came about as the result of a combination of church politics, family feuds, and hysterical children, all of which unfolded in a vacuum of political authority.

Who is the true villain in The Crucible? ›

Of the major characters, Abigail is the least complex. She is clearly the villain of the play, more so than Parris or Danforth: she tells lies, manipulates her friends and the entire town, and eventually sends nineteen innocent people to their deaths.

Who was the liar in The Crucible? ›

John Proctor is lying to his wife when he claims that he no longer has feelings for Abigail. The play makes the radical argument that no kind of deception can ever be ethically justified.

Who is the most powerful character in The Crucible? ›

Elizabeth shows great courage sticking up for herself, making her the strongest character in the play. The final reason Elizabeth Proctor is the strongest character is because she has the courage to stand up for herself even though it may ruin her life.

Who was the first witch to be killed? ›

Bridget Bishop ( c. 1632 – 10 June 1692) was the first person executed for witchcraft during the Salem witch trials in 1692. Nineteen were hanged, and one, Giles Corey, was pressed to death.

What stopped the witch-trials? ›

On October 29, 1692, Phips dissolved the Court of Oyer and Terminer, a decision that marked the beginning of the end for the Salem witch trials. By May 1693, Phips had pardoned and released all those remaining in prison on witchcraft charges.

Who were the main victims of the witch-trials? ›

  • Elizabeth Booth.
  • Elizabeth Hubbard – niece of Dr William Griggs, local physician.
  • Mercy Lewis – servant of Thomas Putnam; a former servant of George Burroughs.
  • Elizabeth "Betty" Parris – daughter of the Rev. Samuel Parris.
  • Ann Putnam Jr. ...
  • Mary Warren.
  • Abigail Williams – cousin of Betty Parris.

Why does Abigail start the witch hunt? ›

Answer and Explanation: Abigail starts the witch trials in The Crucible to avoid consequences and divert attention from her own wrongdoing. Abigail was originally the mastermind of getting Tituba to perform witchcraft on Elizabeth, the wife of John Proctor.

Who was the first witch to confess Salem? ›

Tituba was the first witch to confess in Salem, and she likely did it to avoid further punishment. In her confession she apologized for hurting Betty, claimed she never wanted to hurt Betty, and professed her love for the child. She also wove a lively tale of an active community of witches in Salem.

What did the witch do to the baby? ›

It is revealed he was abducted by a local witch, who takes him to her hut in the woods and kills the baby with a blade. His remains are soon turned into a paste that the witch uses as a flying ointment. He later appears as a hallucination of his bereaved and traumatized mother.

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 are 3 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 is the most valuable lesson learned from The Crucible? ›

The Crucible teaches us any lessons that we will encounter somewhere in our lives. It teaches us that people are scared of other people being different than them. It also teaches is that when it comes to people obtaining what they want their morals won't matter at all.

Who survived the Salem witch trials in The Crucible? ›

Several accused witches did escape from jail and survive the 1692 hysteria. They included Philip and Mary English, John Alden, Hezekiah Usher, and Mrs. Nathaniel Cary.

Why did Abigail accuse others of witchcraft? ›

She accuses other people of witchcraft because it benefits her by helping her get out of trouble for dancing and conjuring in the woods; it also makes her seem more powerful (especially if those people "confess" and so corroborate her accusations).

What happened to Tituba in The Crucible? ›

Her confession was enough to convince the town that true evil was afoot. As the trials spun further and further out of control, Tituba remained imprisoned in Boston. She was indicted as “a detestable Witch” and languished in jail for more than a year.

Who is the first person Abigail accused of witchcraft? ›

Abigail Williams
Bornc. 1681
Died1692 or after (aged 11 or older)
Known forFirst accuser in the Salem witch trials
RelativesSamuel Parris (uncle) Elizabeth "Betty" Parris (cousin)

Who caused John Proctor's death? ›

In the book The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, Hale is the most responsible for John Proctor's death because when he arrived in town he started the gossip of witchcraft, he pressured and inquired the girls to give him a name, and he left the court when he could have tried to salvage the innocent people. …

Was John Proctor hanged? ›

John Proctor was hanged at Proctor's Ledge on August 19 along with George Burroughs, John Willard, George Jacobs, Sr., and Martha Carrier.

Was Elizabeth pregnant in The Crucible? ›

Judge Danforth informs Proctor that Elizabeth is pregnant. Mary Warren tells the court that she pretended to see spirits and falsely accused others of witchcraft. She reveals that Abigail and the other girls are also lying.

Did John Proctor and Elizabeth have kids? ›

In 1662, Proctor married Elizabeth Thorndike, with whom he had seven children. At least two died before reaching adulthood.

Was Elizabeth hung in The Crucible? ›

In The Crucible, Elizabeth Proctor is accused of being a witch and is imprisoned. She is not hanged in The Crucible, but her falsely accused husband is hanged after he refuses to confess.

Why did Abigail stab herself with a needle? ›

It is clear to the reader that Abigail has watched Mary stick the needle in the 'poppet' and has later stabbed herself with a needle, knowing that by this time the doll will be in Elizabeth Proctor's house. She wants to revenge herself upon Elizabeth.

Who was Abigail jealous of? ›

Abigail is motivated by jealousy of Elizabeth Proctor; she wants Elizabeth to die so she can marry John, Elizabeth's husband. Thomas Putnam is motivated by jealousy of other people's property; he wants George Jacobs to die so he can get his hands on a great piece of land.

What scene did Abigail stab herself? ›

The fact that Abigail willingly inflicts a stabbing wound upon herself demonstrates how far she will go to destroy Elizabeth and possess Proctor. Scene 4 also provides Proctor with an opportunity to discredit Abigail and prove the falsity of her accusation against Elizabeth.

Who does Abigail accuse of witchcraft? ›

Elizabeth Proctor is accused of witchcraft by Abigail Williams because Abigail wants to marry Elizabeth's husband, John, with whom she had an affair while serving in the Proctor household.

How does Abigail lose her power? ›

Abigail took all of her uncle's money and the rest of the power she had with her and disappeared. Hawthorne says to Parris “She has robbed you” meaning she took everything without consent to flea so she wouldn't get caught. Abigail leaves and takes everything with her and left all the mess she had created behind her.

What does Abigail symbolize in The Crucible? ›

In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, Abigail Williams serves as an instigator, but she also represents the repressed desires of the Puritan women. Abigail Williams has the beauty and the respect all of the young women in Puritan society strive for, and she uses this beauty to gain the trust of the townsfolk.

Is John Proctor based on 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.

Is Salem Based on a true story? ›

Salem is an American supernatural horror television series created by Brannon Braga and Adam Simon, loosely inspired by the real Salem witch trials in the 17th century.

Was Abigail Williams accused of witchcraft? ›

Abigail Williams (estimated to be age 11 or 12 at the time), along with Elizabeth (Betty) Parris, daughter of Rev. Parris and his wife Elizabeth, were the first two girls in Salem Village to be accused of witchcraft during the infamous ​Salem Witch Trials.

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.

Who accused Elizabeth Proctor in real life? ›

Accusations of witchcraft

On March 26, 1692, Mercy Lewis made the first accusations that Elizabeth's spectre was tormenting her. William Rayment, of nearby Beverly, Massachusetts, mentioned he had heard a rumor that Elizabeth Proctor would be questioned in court the next day.

Did the Sanderson sisters actually exist? ›

The Sanderson sisters are fictional (as is their cottage), but three sisters were really accused of being witches in 1692 – Sarah Cloyce, Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty, according to the Salem Witch Museum. Cloyce escaped, but Nurse and Easty were ultimately hanged.

Why did Salem become a cat? ›

Salem Saberhagen is Sabrina Spellman's American shorthair cat who lives with the teen witch and her two aunts, Hilda and Zelda. Salem was formerly a warlock, who was turned into a cat as punishment by the Magical Realm's Witches' Council for plotting to take over the world.

Is Salem a boy or girl cat? ›

Salem Saberhagen is a fictional character from the American Archie Comics comic series Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
Salem Saberhagen
SpeciesAmerican Shorthair cat (currently) Wizard (formerly)
15 more rows

What sin did Abigail Williams commit? ›

Abigail Williams from Arthur Miller's The Crucible commits several of these sins, including lust, envy, and wrath. These sins will also have a “domino” effect, for if one hadn't been committed, then the other two would not have been, either.

What happened to Abigail at the end of The Crucible? ›

At the end of the play, when Abigail realizes that her plan has failed and that she has condemned Proctor to hang, she displays the same cold indifference that governs her actions throughout the play. She flees Salem, leaving Proctor without so much as a second glance.

Why was Sarah Good accused of witchcraft? ›

On March 25, 1692 [O.S. March 15, 1691], Good was tried for witchcraft. She was accused of rejecting the puritanical expectations of self-control and discipline when she chose to torment and "scorn [children] instead of leading them towards the path of salvation".


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