The Crucible

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 11th grade February 2002

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As defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, the word "crucible" refers to "A severe test as bof patience or belief; a trial, a place, time or situation characterized by the confluence of powerful intelectual, social, economic or political forces." The title is definitely a fitting one for Arthur Miller's play.

The play is reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. The setting of the play is in a Puritan community. These people had a very strong sense of church and government as a combined entity. Membership in the church was mandatory to voting and holding office. Not attending church or not knowing theological concepts was considered suspicious and sinful. The Puritans had a strict idea about sin; forgiveness was granted with open confession, rependance and penance. Within this social and religious atmosphere, the Devil had a monumental impact. Sin was the Devil's temptation of man and witches were the Devil's hand maidens.

In Puritan society, the biblical quote, "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus22:18), was accepted as doctrine.

This play, set in this absolute society, is the desired feeding ground for suspicion, fear and religious pursecution. The social, economic and political lives of the people were intwined in the church, whose dictates brooked no debates. It is fear that breeds the witch trials, a fear that the church encouraged in the Puritan parishioners. As depicted in Miller's play, the trial is a mockery of justice as we know it. For example, the fact that Abigail was a thief should have caused doubt about her testimony. The absence of lawyers at a trial in which the judge (Danforth) is solely responsible for the verdict, is a slap in the face to the concept of due preocess of law. Even the minster (Reverend John Hale) who , at first, believed in the need for these investigations sees them for the sham they are.

The Crucible is a perfect title because it combines the concept of a trial with the atmosphere and society that nursed, fomented, and set in motion actions that would take many innocent lives. Inherent in The Crucible, is the way in which greed and lies protect the guilty and condemn the innocent.