Arthur Miller’s famous drama The Crucible, a tale of how accusations and lies
ruinously impact a whole community, is very aptly titled. By definition, a “crucible” is “a severe test,” and the challenges faced by Miller’s characters are many. The historical events dramatized in the play reflect how core human values, including truth, justice and love, are tested under life and death conditions. The trials of the characters and the values they hold dearly come when their simple, ordered world ceases to be black and white and easily deciphered, and is turned upside down in the gray shades of ambiguity.
A major test in The Crucible is found in how the household of John Proctor
responds in situations where hard choices must be made between lies and honor or truth
and shame. Early in the drama, it is revealed that Proctor has been unfaithful to his wife, Elizabeth, indulging in an extra-marital affair with a servant girl, Abigail. Suspecting the affair, Elizabeth dismisses Abigail amid rumor and innuendo, and Proctor confesses to his wife. The value of truth in their marriage is sorely tested when Elizabeth cannot find it within herself to forgive him. As the chain of events surrounding Abigail and the dancing girls in the forest leads to mounting self-protective lies about their activities, many women in the community, including Elizabeth, are accused of the practice of witchcraft. When the magistrate comes to arrest Elizabeth, the charges revolve around a doll made by servant girl Mary Warren and Abigail’s claim that the doll is Elizabeth’s devilish instrument of torture. Mary Warren’s awakening to the truth about Abigail’s lies causes her to question he...
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...values gives him permission to choose to die an honest man.
Throughout the drama, The Crucible, the characters are faced with chilling choices as they maneuver through a world that has lost its moral compass. The crucibles, the serious tests, of their dearly held values put them in the position of having to figure out what is right and true in a world turned upside down. The value of truth is tested when lies are rewarded and truth brings suffering, shame and the scaffold of the gallows. The value of justice is challenged by a system that comes to be based on coerced confessions, unsubstantiated charges and self-serving political scheming. The value of love, be it of husband and wife or of friends and community, is put to the test where true love is exemplified by fatal choices.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. New York: Penguin Books, 1996.
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