The Crucible: Wikis


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The Crucible
Written by Arthur Miller
Characters Abigail Williams
Reverend John Hale
Reverend Samuel Parris
John Proctor
Elizabeth Proctor
Thomas Danforth
Mary Warren
John Hathorne
Giles Corey
Date premiered January 22, 1953
Place premiered Martin Beck Theatre, New York City
Original language English
Subject Salem witch trials, McCarthyism
Genre Tragedy, Drama
Setting Salem, Massachusetts
IBDB profile

The Crucible is a 1953 play by Arthur Miller (1915-2005). It is a dramatization of the Salem witchcraft trials that took place in Province of Massachusetts Bay during 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote the play as an allegory to McCarthyism,[1] when the US government blacklisted accused communists. Miller himself was to be questioned by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of "contempt of Congress" for failing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.[2] It was first performed at the Martin Beck Theater on Broadway on January 22, 1953. The reviews of the first production, which Miller felt was stylized and too cold,[3] were largely hostile, although The New York Times noted "a powerful play [in a] driving performance."[4] Nonetheless, the production won the 1953 "Best Play" Tony Award.[5] A year later a new production succeeded and the play became a classic.[6] Today it is studied in high schools and universities, because of its status as a revolutionary work of theater and for its allegorical relationship to testimony given before the House Committee On Un-American Activities during the 1950s. It is a central work in the canon of American drama.[7]



Act I

Rev. Parris is praying over his daughter Betty, who lies unconscious in her bed. Conversations between Parris, his niece Abigail Williams and between several girls reveal that they, including Abigail and Betty, were engaged in occultist activities in a nearby forest, apparently led by Tituba, Parris's slave from Barbados. On seeing them, Parris jumped from a bush, startling them. Betty promptly fainted and has not yet recovered. The townspeople do not know exactly what the girls were up to, but there are rumors of witchcraft.

John Proctor enters the room in which Betty lies in bed, and Abigail, otherwise alone, tries to seduce him. It does not work, but it is revealed that Abigail and Proctor had had a previous affair and that Abigail still has feelings for him.

Reverend John Hale is summoned from Beverly to look upon Betty and research the incident. He is a self-claimed expert in occultist phenomena and is eager to use his acquired learning. He questions Abigail, who accuses Tituba of being a witch. Tituba, afraid of being hanged and threatened with beating, professes faith in God and accuses Goodwives Sarah Good and Osbourn of witchcraft. Betty, now awake, claims to have been bewitched and professes her faith in God, too. Betty and Abigail sing out a list of people whom they claim to have seen with the Devil.

Act II

Elizabeth questions Proctor to find out if he is late for dinner because of a visit to Salem. She tells him that their housemaid, Mary Warren, has been there all day. Having forbidden Mary from going to Salem, Proctor becomes angry, but Elizabeth explains that Mary has been named an official of the court.

Elizabeth tells Proctor that he must reveal that Abigail is a fake. He declares that he cannot prove what she told him because they were alone when they talked. Elizabeth becomes upset because he has not previously mentioned this time alone with Abigail. Proctor believes that she is accusing him of resuming his affair with Abigail. An argument ensues.

Mary returns. Proctor is furious that she has been in Salem all day, but she advises that she will be gone every day because of her duties as an official of the court. Mary gives Elizabeth a poppet that she made while in court, and tells the couple that thirty-nine people are now in jail, and that Goody Osborne (sic) will hang for her failure to confess to witchcraft. Proctor is angry because he believes that the court is condemning people without solid evidence. Mary states that Elizabeth has also been accused, but, as she herself defended her, the court dismissed the accusation.

Elizabeth tells Proctor that she believes that Abigail will accuse her of witchcraft and have her executed because she wants to become Proctor's wife. Elizabeth asks Proctor to speak to Abigail and tell her that no chance exists of him marrying her if anything happens to his wife.

Reverend Hale visits the Proctor house and tells Elizabeth and Proctor that the former has been named in court. Hale questions Proctor about his poor church attendance and asks him to recite the Ten Commandments. When Proctor gets stuck on the tenth, Elizabeth reminds him of the commandment forbidding adultery.

Proctor tells Hale that Abigail has admitted to him that witchcraft was not responsible for the children's ailments. Hale asks Proctor to testify in court and then questions Elizabeth to find out if she believes in witches. Giles Corey and Francis Nurse arrive and tell Proctor, Hale and Elizabeth that the court has arrested both of their wives for witchcraft.

Ezekiel Cheever and Willard/Herrick arrive with a warrant for Elizabeth's arrest. Cheever discovers the poppet that Mary made for Elizabeth, with a needle inside it. Cheever tells Proctor and Hale that, after apparently being stabbed with a needle while eating at Parris' house, Abigail accused Elizabeth's spirit of stabbing her. Mary tells Hale that she made the doll in court that day and stored the needle inside it. She also states that Abigail saw this because she sat next to her. The men still take Elizabeth into custody, and Hale, Corey and Nurse leave.

Proctor tells Mary that she must testify in court against Abigail. Mary replies that she fears doing this because Abigail and the others will turn against her.

In the original showing of the play, an additional scene in this act was shown. Since then, it has been removed from most productions of the play, but is added as an appendix in many written book forms of the play:

In the woods, Proctor meets with Abigail. She again tries to seduce him, but he continuously pushes her away, informing her that she must stop all accusations being made against his wife. They argue, and Abigail asks him how he intends to prove that what she is saying is false. He informs her that he fully intends to admit to their affair in court if it comes to it, and the scene ends with Abigail saying, "I will save you tomorrow... from yourself I will save you."


Judge Hathorne (offstage) is in the midst of questioning Martha Corey on accusations of witchcraft, during which her husband, Giles, interrupts the court proceedings and declares that Thomas Putnam is "reaching out for land!" He is removed from the courtroom and taken to the vestry room by Willard/Herrick.

Judge Hathorne enters and angrily asks: "How dare you come roarin' into this court, are you gone daft, Corey?". Corey replies that since Hathorne isn't a Boston Judge yet, he has no right to ask him that question. Deputy Governor Danforth, Cheever, Reverend Parris and Francis Nurse enter the vestry room. Corey explains that he owns 600 acres (2.4 km2) of land, and a large quantity of timber, both of which Putnam had been eyeing. Corey also states that the court is holding his wife Martha by mistake saying he had only asked Hale why Martha read books, but he never accused her of witchcraft.

Corey and Francis Nurse state that they both have evidence for the court. Nurse tells Danforth the girls are pretending.

John Proctor enters with Mary Warren, promising to clear up any doubts regarding the girls if his wife is freed from custody. Danforth orders the girls into the vestry. Reverend Parris is sceptical, pointing out that the girls fainted, screamed, and turned cold before the accused, which they see as proof of the spirits. Mary tells them that she believed at first to have seen the spirits, however knows now that there aren't any.

In an attempt to discredit Mary, Abigail and the other girls begin to scream and cry out that they are freezing. When Abigail calls to God , Proctor accuses her of being a whore and tells the court of their affair. Abigail denies it and the court has Elizabeth brought in to verify if Proctor is telling the truth. Not knowing that he had already confessed, Elizabeth lies and denies any knowledge of the affair. When Proctor continues to insist that the affair took place, the girls begin to pretend to see a yellow bird sent by Mary to attack them. To save herself from being accused of witchcraft, Mary tells the court that Proctor was in league with the devil and forced her to testify. Proctor is arrested for witchcraft, and Reverend Hale storms out of the court, screaming 'I denounce these proceedings!

Act IV

Proctor is chained to a jail wall totally isolated from the outside. Reverend Parris begins to panic, because John was liked by many in the village. (As were Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, who are also to be hanged) and he explains his fears to Hathorne, Danforth and Cheever. He also reveals that Abigail and Mercy Lewis (one of the "afflicted" girls) stole 31 pounds (about half his yearly salary) and boarded a ship in the night. Hale enters, now a broken man who spends all his time with the prisoners, praying with them and advising prisoners to confess to witchcraft so that they can live. The authorities send Elizabeth to John, telling her to try to convince Proctor to confess to being a witch. When Proctor and Elizabeth are alone, she forgives him and reaffirms their love. John chooses to confess in exchange for his life and calls out to Hathorne, who is almost overjoyed to hear such news. Proctor signs the confession, then tears it up when realizing that Danforth is going to nail the signed confession to the church (which Proctor fears will ruin his name and the names of other Salemites). Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are led to the gallows to hang.

Characters (in order of appearance)

Reverend Samuel Parris
Parris is the poorly respected minister of Salem's church. He is disliked by many Salem residents because of his greedy, dominating nature. The man is more concerned about his reputation than of the well being of his sick daughter, Betty. He is also less concerned about his missing niece, Abigail Williams, and the lives of the dead and condemned on his conscience and more about the money taken. He is related to the history of Salem where in real life his niece and daughter were the first to accuse others witchcraft and he owned the slave, Tituba who was the first to be accused of witchcraft and survived prison.
Tituba is Rev. Parris' slave. Parris seems to have owned and possibly purchased her in Barbados. She cares for the children and prepares a potion for Abigail that will kill Elizabeth Proctor. Additionally, she attempts to raise the spirits of Ann Putnam's dead children. During the first scene of the play, she is turned in by Abigail and responds by claiming that four women in Salem are witches. She is not seen again until the final scene of the play in the jail. It seems that by this point the events have troubled her to the point of hallucinations and hysteria.
Abigail Williams
Williams is Parris' niece. She is 17 years old in the play and during the trials. Abigail was once the maid for the Proctor house, but Elizabeth Proctor fired her after she discovered that Abigail was having an affair with her husband, John Proctor. Abigail and her uncle's slave, Tituba, lead the local girls in love-spell rituals in the Salem forest over a fire. Rumors of witchcraft fly, and Abigail tries to use the town's fear to her advantage. She viciously accuses many of witchcraft, starting first with the outcasts of society and gradually moving up to respected members of the community. Finally, she accuses Elizabeth Proctor, because she believes that John truly loves her and not Elizabeth. Abigail thinks that if Elizabeth is out of the way, she and John can marry. John says in the play that Abigail "hopes to dance with me upon my wife's grave." She is manipulative and dramatic, as well as darkly charismatic. She resists anyone who stands in her way (i.e. Mary Warren, Goody Proctor). She later flees Salem during the trials and, "legend has it," becomes a prostitute in Boston.
Thomas Putnam
Thomas Putnam lives in Salem village and owns a bit of land close to Giles Corey, Giles accuses him of trying to steal it, and says Putnam got his daughter to accuse Giles' wife of witchcraft. This possibility is strongly supported by the play, and thus Putnam is one of the play's true villains.
Mercy Lewis
Servant to the Putnams. One of the girls caught in the woods with Abigail and Betty by Reverend Parris. Described in the text as being "a fat, sly, merciless girl of eighteen." She and the other girls browbeat Mary Warren into silence about what she saw in the woods (Act 1). She is also one of the girls who testifies in court. Later in Act III, she and the other girls claim to be under the influence of Mary Warren's spirit, which causes them to see and feel various phenomena. She escapes with Abigail between the time of Act III and Act IV.
Mary Warren
Mary Warren serves as housemaid for the Proctors after Abigail Williams. The play portrays her as a lonely girl who considers herself an "official of the court" at the beginning of the trials. John Proctor abuses her and hits her with a whip. She nearly confesses that she and the other girls were lying about witchcraft until the other girls pretend that she is sending out her spirit upon them in the courtroom. This event, which could have led to her death, propels her to accuse John Proctor of witchcraft and to state that he forced her to lie about herself and the others.
John Proctor
A hard working farmer, and native of Salem who lives just outside town; he is married to Elizabeth Proctor. Before the play, he has an affair with Abigail Williams, which ultimately leads to his downfall. When the hysteria over witchcraft begins in the village, he attempts to reveal Abigail's lack of innocence, due to the fact that Abigail and Proctor had an affair. All did not go as planned, for when Elizabeth was brought to court as a witness, she lied and stated that her husband was not a lecher, in order to save his name. However, when his wife is accused, he tries to tell the court the truth, but it is too late. He is then accused himself of witchcraft by Mary Warren. He is sentenced to be hanged unless he names other witches and repents; however, Proctor dies rather than lie and bring dishonor to all other convicted "witches" who will not.
Giles Corey
Giles is a friend of John Proctor, who is very concerned about his land. He believes Thomas Putnam is trying to take it and other people's land by getting the girls to accuse Giles' wife of witchcraft. Giles gains this information from an anonymous man whom he will not name as he knows the man would be put in prison. He is subjected to peine forte et dure when he refuses to plea "aye or nay" to the charge of witchcraft. The character of Giles Corey is based on a real person. Giles' wife, Martha, is executed because of the witchcraft accusations. It is unusual for persons to refuse to plead, and extremely rare to find reports of persons who have been able to endure this painful form of death in silence, as explained in the following quote from Elizabeth Proctor:
"He were not hanged. He would not answer yes or no to his indictment; for if he denied the charge they'd hang him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm. It is the law, for he could not be condemned a wizard without he answer the indictment, aye or nay."
From this it is obvious of Giles' reason for holding out so long against so much pain: As long as he did not answer yes or no, his children would be able to keep his estate. Whether this was for his children's sake or for an attempt to spite Thomas Putnam's greedy obsession with buying up land is arguable. The play supports both possibilities.
Rebecca Nurse
Rebecca Nurse, wife of Francis Nurse, is highly respected in Salem for her helpful nature. Very firm in her opinions, and willing to make any sacrifice in the cause of truth, she voices her opposition to the idea of witchcraft. Near the end, she is accused of being a witch on the prompting of the Putnams, who are jealous of her good fortune.
Reverend John Hale
Hale is a well respected minister reputed to be an expert on witchcraft. Reverend Hale is called in to Salem to examine the witchcraft trials, and Parris's daughter Betty, who has fallen into a mysterious illness after being discovered participating in the suspect rituals. He originally believes that there are witches in Salem and advocates the trials, but later realizes the widespread corruption and abuse of the trials, and struggles to get accused witches to lie and confess, rather than stick to the truth, and die.
Elizabeth Proctor
John Proctor's wife, and a resident of Salem. She is accused of witchcraft, and is only saved from death due to the fact that she is pregnant. Abigail hates her for being Proctor's wife, and for keeping Proctor's heart.
Ezekiel Cheever
An astute yet weak character, and his most important appearance is in the Proctor household in which he denounces Elizabeth Proctor for witchcraft, regarding the poppet (doll) which was placed in the Proctor house to make it appear that Elizabeth was practicing witchcraft against Abigail Williams. His reason is clouded by the authority of Salem for whom he works. He used to be friends with John Proctor, but when the accusations started, he quickly turned against his friends and their family who were accused of witchcraft. He tells Danforth that Proctor sometimes plows on Sundays and that Proctor missed church often. He acts as a scribe in Act 2 of The Crucible, and in some interpretations of the play, he hangs Proctor. The character is based on the actual son (with the same name) of Ezekiel Cheever, the famous schoolmaster and author of Accidence: A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue.[citation needed]
George Herrick/John Willard
Herrick was the Marshal of Salem and in the play is responsible for bringing the defendants before the court. He is a sympathetic character, advising Deputy Governor Danforth of Proctor's good character and becoming friendly with the accused witches that he guards. Some productions name the character John Willard, a reference to constable John Willard who came to disbelieve the allegations and refused to make any further arrests. He himself was then arrested, charged with witchcraft and hanged.
Judge John Hathorne
The sadistic presiding judge over the Salem Witch Trials. Cold, ignorant, antagonistic, he constantly denies any new developments regarding the events in Salem Village. Hathorne and Danforth can, arguably, be considered the true villains of the play, besides Abigail Williams and her inner circle. Hathorne could also be considered the "hangin' judge" of the era, wishing only to see people suffer. His only real moment of emotion in the play occurs in the final scene, where he appears almost joyful that Proctor considers confessing for a crime he didn't commit, this going along with his sadistic streak.
Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth 
Mister Danforth is a pretentious and selfish judge, who is extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position. Public opinion and his acute adherence to the law are most important to him. He seems to secretly know that the witch trials in Salem are all a lie yet will not release any of the prisoners because he is afraid of being viewed as weak and having his theocratic reputation undermined. When Proctor knowingly defies his authority by refusing to lie and sign a public confession saying that he is guilty of witchcraft and accusing others, Danforth immediately sentences him to hang along with the other prisoners including Rebecca Nurse.

Historical accuracy

In creating a work for the stage Miller made no attempt to represent the real, historical personalities of his characters: he developed them to meet the needs of the play. Indeed, in most cases the surviving records give no indication upon which he could draw. He fused certain characters into one: for example the judges "Hathorne" and "Danforth" are representative of several judges in the case, and the number of young girls involved was similarly reduced. Abigail's age was increased from 12 to 17 to allow the plot device of the relationship with Proctor. Most of the historical roles, however, are accurately represented and the judicial sentences pronounced on the characters are as given to the real-life counterparts.[8]

The action of the play takes place only seventy years after the community arrived as settlers from Britain, and the characters would have had retained strong regional dialects from the home country. Miller ignored this, giving all his characters the same colloquialisms, such as "Goody" for good wife, and drawing on the rhythms and speech patterns of the King James Bible to achieve the effect of historical perspective he wanted.[1]

Film adaptations

The play was adapted for film twice, by Jean-Paul Sartre as the 1957 film Les Sorcières de Salem and by Miller himself as the 1996 film The Crucible, the latter with a cast including Paul Scofield, Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder. Miller's adaptation earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay based on Previously Produced Material, his only nomination. The play was also adapted by composer Robert Ward into an opera, The Crucible, which was first performed in 1961 and received the Pulitzer Prize.

The play has also been presented several times on stage and television. One notable 1967 TV production starred George C. Scott as John Proctor, Colleen Dewhurst (Scott's wife at the time) as Elizabeth Proctor, and Tuesday Weld as Abigail Williams.

The RSC stage production seen in London's West End in 2006 was recorded for the V&A Theatre & Performance Department's National Video Archive of Performance.


  1. ^ a b Blakesley, Maureen (1992). "The language of the play". The Crucible, a play in four acts. Oxford, England: Heinemann. pp. xv. ISBN 0435232819. 
  2. ^ Loftus, Jospeh A. (June 2, 1957). "Miller Convicted in Contempt Case". New York Times. Retrieved 27 November 2008. 
  3. ^ Abbotson, Susan C. W. (2005). Masterpieces of 20th-century American Drama. Westport CT: Greenwood. pp. 78. ISBN 0313332231. 
  4. ^ Atkinson, Brooks (January 23, 1953). "The Crucible". New York Times. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  5. ^ Staff. "The Crucible". Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  6. ^ Griffin, John; Griffin, Alice (October 1953). "Arthur Miller Discusses The Crucible". in Roudané, Matthew C.. Conversations with Arthur Miller. Jackson MS: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 24. ISBN 0878053239. 
  7. ^ Wilmeth, Don B.; Bigsby, C. W. E. (1998). The Cambridge History of American Theatre. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press. pp. 415. ISBN 0521669596. 
  8. ^ Miller, Arthur (1992). "A note on the historical accuracy of the play". in Blakesley, Maureen. The Crucible, a play in four acts. Oxford, England: Heinemann. xvii. ISBN 0435232819. 

External links


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From Wikiquote

I regard the theater as a serious business, one that makes or should make man more human, which is to say, less alone.

Arthur Asher Miller (17 October 191510 February 2005) was an American playwright, essayist, and author.



By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime business of a play is to arouse the passions of its audience so that by the route of passion may be opened up new relationships between a man and men, and between men and Man.
  • I have made more friends for American culture than the State Department. Certainly I have made fewer enemies, but that isn't very difficult.
    • After being refused a passport for his supposed disloyalty. The New York Herald Tribune (31 March 1954)
  • I know that my works are a credit to this nation and I dare say they will endure longer than the McCarran Act.
    • The New York Herald Tribune (31 March 1954)
  • The structure of a play is always the story of how the birds came home to roost.
    • Harper's (August 1958)
  • The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism.
    • Collected Plays (1958) Introduction, Section 1
  • My conception of the audience is of a public each member of which is carrying about with him what he thinks is an anxiety, or a hope, or a preoccupation which is his alone and isolates him from mankind; and in this respect at least the function of a play is to reveal him to himself so that he may touch others by virtue of the revelation of his mutuality with them. If only for this reason I regard the theater as a serious business, one that makes or should make man more human, which is to say, less alone.
    • Collected Plays (1958) Introduction, Section 2
  • By whatever means it is accomplished, the prime business of a play is to arouse the passions of its audience so that by the route of passion may be opened up new relationships between a man and men, and between men and Man. Drama is akin to the other inventions of man in that it ought to help us to know more, and not merely to spend our feelings.
    • Collected Plays (1958) Introduction, Section 7
  • I cannot write anything that I understand too well. If I know what something means to me, if I have already come to the end of it as an experience, I can't write it because it seems a twice-told tale. I have to astonish myself, and that of course is a very costly way of going about things, because you can go up a dead end and discover that it's beyond your capacity to discover some organism underneath your feeling, and you're left simply with a formless feeling which is not itself art. Its inexpressible and one must leave it until it is hardened and becomes something that has form and has some possibility of being communicated. It might take a year or two or three or four to emerge.
    • "The State of the Theatre" an interview by Henry Brandon in Harpers 221 (November 1960)
  • A play is made by sensing how the forces in life simulate ignorance — you set free the concealed irony, the deadly joke.
    • "The State of the Theatre" an interview by Henry Brandon in Harpers 221 (November 1960)
  • A good newspaper, I suppose, is a nation talking to itself.
    • As quoted in The Observer [London] (26 November 1961)
  • The best of our theater is standing on tiptoe, striving to see over the shoulders of father and mother. The worst is exploiting and wallowing in the self-pity of adolescence and obsessive keyhole sexuality. The way out, as the poet says, is always through.
    • National Observer (20 January 1964)
  • I think now that the great thing is not so much the formulation of an answer for myself, for the theater, or the play — but rather the most accurate possible statement of the problem.
    • National Observer (20 January 1964)
The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.
  • The job is to ask questions — it always was — and to ask them as inexorably as I can. And to face the absence of precise answers with a certain humility.
    • National Observer (20 January 1964)
  • It is always and forever the same struggle: to perceive somehow our own complicity with evil is a horror not to be borne. ... much more reassuring to see the world in terms of totally innocent victims and totally evil instigators of the monstrous violence we see all about us. At all costs, never disturb our innocence. But what is the most innocent place in any country? Is it not the insane asylum? These people drift through life truly innocent, unable to see into themselves at all. The perfection of innocence, indeed, is madness.
    • "With respect for Her Agony — but with Love" in LIFE magazine (7 February 1964)
  • The apple cannot be stuck back on the Tree of Knowledge; once we begin to see, we are doomed and challenged to seek the strength to see more, not less.
    • Commenting on After the Fall (1964) in The Saturday Evening Post (1 February 1964)
  • Certainly the most diverse, if minor, pastime of literary life is the game of Find the Author.
    • Life (7 February 1964)
  • A playwright ... is ... the litmus paper of the arts. He's got to be, because if he isn't working on the same wave length as the audience, no one would know what in hell he was talking about. He is a kind of psychic journalist, even when he's great.
    • Paris Review (Summer 1966)
  • Success, instead of giving freedom of choice, becomes a way of life. There's no country I've been to where people, when you come into a room and sit down with them, so often ask you, "What do you do?" And, being American, many's the time I've almost asked that question, then realized it's good for my soul not to know. For a while! Just to let the evening wear on and see what I think of this person without knowing what he does and how successful he is, or what a failure. We're ranking everybody every minute of the day.
    • Paris Review (Summer 1966)
  • If you complain of people being shot down in the streets, of the absence of communication or social responsibility, of the rise of everyday violence which people have become accustomed to, and the dehumanization of feelings, then the ultimate development on an organized social level is the concentration camp... The concentration camp is the final expression of human separateness and its ultimate consequence. It is organized abandonment.
    • Paris Review (Summer 1966)
  • You specialize in something until one day you find it is specializing in you.
    • The Price (1967)
  • When irrational terror takes to itself the fiat of moral goodness somebody has to die. ... No man lives who has not got a panic button, and when it is pressed by the clean white hand of moral duty, a certain murderous train is set in motion.
  • The task of the real intellectual consists of analyzing illusions in order to discover their causes.
    • As quoted in Federalism and the French Canadians (1968) by Pierre Trudeau, p. 175
  • I understand his longing for immortality … Willy's writing his name in a cake of ice on a hot day, but he wishes he were writing in stone.
  • He wants to live on through something — and in his case, his masterpiece is his son… all of us want that, and it gets more poignant as we get more anonymous in this world.
    • On Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, as quoted in The New York Times (9 May 1984)
  • The theater is so endlessly fascinating because it's so accidental. It's so much like life.
    • The New York Times (9 May 1984)
  • The number of elements that have to go into a hit would break a computer down…. the right season for that play, the right historical moment, the right tonality.
    • The New York Times (9 May 1984)
  • In the theater, while you recognized that you were looking at a house, it was a house in quotation marks ... on screen, the quotation marks tend to be blotted out by the camera. The problem was to sustain at any cost the feeling you had in the theater that you were watching a real person, yes, but an intense condensation of his experience, not simply a realistic series of episodes. It isn't easy to do in the theater, but it's twice as hard in film.
  • If I see an ending, I can work backward.
    • The New York Times (9 Feb 1986)
  • A playwright lives in an occupied country… And if you can't live that way you don't stay.
    • The New York Times (9 Feb 1986)
There's too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him. Of defining him rather than letting him go. It's part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad.
  • Well, all the plays that I was trying to write … were plays that would grab an audience by the throat and not release them, rather than presenting an emotion which you could observe and walk away from.
    • The New York Times (9 Feb 1986)
  • I figure I've done what I could do, more or less, and now I'm going back to being a chemical; all we are is a lot of talking nitrogen, you know...
    • Leo in I Can't Remember Anything in Danger: Memory! : Two Plays (1987)
  • The Crucible became by far my most frequently produced play, both abroad and at home. Its meaning is somewhat different in different places and moments. I can almost tell what the political situation in a country is when the play is suddenly a hit there — it is either a warning of tyranny on the way or a reminder of tyranny just past.
    • Timebends : A Life (1987)
  • My argument with so much as psychoanalysis is the preconception that suffering is a mistake, or a sign of weakness, or a sign even of illness, when in fact, possibly the greatest truths we know have come out of people's suffering; that the problem is not to undo suffering or to wipe it off the face of the earth but to make it inform our lives, instead of trying to cure ourselves of it constantly and avoid it, and avoid anything but that lobotomized sense of what they call "happiness." There's too much of an attempt, it seems to me, to think in terms of controlling man, rather than freeing him. Of defining him rather than letting him go. It's part of the whole ideology of this age, which is power-mad.
  • I was very moved by that play once again when the Royal Shakespeare Company did a production that toured the cathedrals of England. Then they took it to Poland and performed it in the cathedrals there, too. The actors said it changed their lives. Officials wept; they were speechless after the play, and everyone knew why. It was because they had to enforce the kind of repression the play was attacking. That made me prouder than anything I ever did in my life. The mission of the theater, after all, is to change, to raise the consciousness of people to their human possibilities.
  • If I have any justification for having lived it's simply, I'm nothing but faults, failures and so on, but I have tried to make a good pair of shoes. There's some value in that.
    • Marxism Today (January 1988)
  • Without alienation, there can be no politics.
    • Marxism Today (January 1988)
  • I'm the end of the line; absurd and appalling as it may seem, serious New York theater has died in my lifetime.
    • The Times (11 January 1989)
  • That is a very good question. I don't know the answer. But can you tell me the name of a classical Greek shoemaker?
    • His reply to a shoe manufacturer who had asked why Miller's job should be subsidized when his was not, as recounted at a London press conference. The Guardian (25 January 1990)
  • An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.
    • As quoted in "Cold War Ghosts" by Victor Navasky in The Nation (16 July 2001)
  • I don't know a critic who penetrates the center of anything.
    • As quoted in "Arthur Miller, Moral Voice of American Stage, Dies at 89" by Marilyn Berger in The New York Times (11 February 2005)
  • Don't be seduced into thinking that that which does not make a profit is without value.
    • As quoted in Finding Your Bipolar Muse : How to Master Depressive Droughts and Manic Depression (2006) by Lana R. Castle, p. 258

Death of a Salesman (1949)

  • They don't need me in New York. I'm the New England man. I'm vital in New England.
    • Willy Loman
  • I simply asked him if he was making any money. Is that a criticism?
    • Willy
  • I've always made a point of not wasting my life, and every time I come back here I know that all I've done is to waste my life.
    • Biff
  • I'm very well liked in Hartford. You know, the trouble is, Linda, people don't seem to take to me.
    • Willy
  • Never fight fair with a stranger, boy. You'll never get out of the jungle that way.
    • Ben
  • I don't say he's a great man. Willy Loman never made a lot of money. His name was never in the paper. He's not the finest character that ever lived. But he's a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be finally paid to such a person.
    • Linda
  • A small man can be just as exhausted as a great man.
    • Linda
  • Personality always wins the day.
    • Willy
  • Everybody likes a kidder, but nobody lends him money.
    • Willy
  • Sit down, Willy.
    • Charley
  • The only thing you got in this world is what you can sell. And the funny thing is that you're a salesman, and you don't know that.
    • Charley
  • You can't eat the orange and throw the peel away — a man is not a piece of fruit.
    • Willy
  • After all the highways, and the trains, and the appointments, and the years, you end up worth more dead than alive.
    • Willy
  • Work a lifetime to pay off a house — You finally own it and there's nobody to live in it.
    • Willy
  • Ben, that funeral will be massive! They'll come from Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire! All the old-timers with the strange license plates — that boy will be thunderstruck, Ben, because he never realized — I am known! Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey — I am known, Ben, and he'll see it with his eyes once and for all.
    • Willy
  • Spite, spite, is the word of your undoing!
    • Willy
  • You cut your life down for spite!
    • Willy
  • Why am I trying to become what I don't want to be? What am I doing in an office, making a contemptuous, begging fool of myself, when all I want is out there, waiting for me the minute I say I know who I am!
    • Biff
  • Isn't that — isn't that remarkable? Biff — he likes me!
    • Willy
  • Nobody dast blame this man. Willy was a salesman. And for a salesman, there is no rock bottom to the life. He don't put a bolt to a nut, he don't tell you the law or give you medicine. He's a man way out there in the blue, riding on a smile and a shoeshine. And when they start not smiling back — that's an earthquake. And then you get yourself a couple of spots on your hat, and you're finished. Nobody dast blame this man. A salesman is got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.
    • Charley
  • And when I saw that, I realized that selling was the greatest career a man could want. 'Cause what could be more satisfying than to be able to go, at the age of eighty-four, into twenty or thirty different cities, and pick up a phone, and be remembered and loved and helped by so many different people?
    • Willy
  • Wonderful coffee. Meal in itself
    • Willy
  • Nothing's Planted, I don't have a thing in the ground.
    • Willy

Tragedy and the Common Man (1949)

The New York Times (27 February 1949)
I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing — his sense of personal dignity.
  • In this age few tragedies are written. It has often been held that the lack is due to a paucity of heroes among us, or else that modern man has had the blood drawn out of his organs of belief by the skepticism of science, and the heroic attack on life cannot feed on an attitude of reserve and circumspection. For one reason or another, we are often held to be below tragedy — or tragedy above us.
  • I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing — his sense of personal dignity. From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his "rightful" position in his society.
    Sometimes he is one who has been displaced from it, sometimes one who seeks t attain it for the first time, but the fateful wound from which the inevitable events spiral is the wound of indignity and its dominant force is indignation. Tragedy, then, is the consequence of a man's total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.
  • Only the passive, only those who accept their lot without active retaliation, are "flawless." Most of us are in that category.
    But there are among us today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them, and in the process of action everything we have accepted out of fear of insensitivity or ignorance is shaken before us and examined, and from this total onslaught by an individual against the seemingly stable cosmos surrounding us — from this total examination of the "unchangeable" environment — comes the terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy. More important, from this total questioning of what has previously been unquestioned, we learn.
The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies.
  • The tragic right is a condition of life, a condition in which the human personality is able to flower and realize itself. The wrong is the condition which suppresses man, perverts the flowing out of his love and creative instinct. Tragedy enlightens — and it must, in that it points the heroic finger at the enemy of man's freedom. The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies.
  • Above all else, tragedy requires the finest appreciation by the writer of cause and effect.
    No tragedy can therefore come about when its author fears to question absolutely everything, when he regards any institution, habit or custom as being either everlasting, immutable or inevitable. In the tragic view the need of man to wholly realize himself is the only fixed star, and whatever it is that hedges his nature and lowers it is ripe for attack and examination.
  • There is a misconception of tragedy with which I have been struck in review after review, and in many conversations with writers and readers alike. It is the idea that tragedy is of necessity allied to pessimism. Even the dictionary says nothing more about the word than that it means a story with a sad or unhappy ending. This impression is so firmly fixed that I almost hesitate to claim that in truth tragedy implies more optimism in its author than does comedy, and that its final result ought to be the reinforcement of the onlooker's brightest opinions of the human animal.
    For, if it is true to say that in essence the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity.
  • The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy. Where pathos rules, where pathos is finally derived, a character has fought a battle he could not possibly have won. The pathetic is achieved when the protagonist is, by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity, or the very air he gives off, incapable of grappling with a much superior force.
    Pathos truly is the mode for the pessimist. But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief — optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man.
    It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time — the heart and spirit of the average man.

The Crucible (1953)

There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
Act I
  • Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents' heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!
    • Abigail Williams
  • Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I'll cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again.
    • John Proctor
  • A child's spirit is like a child, you cannot catch it by running after it; you must stand still, and, for love, it will soon itself come back.
    • Rebecca Nurse
  • We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone.
    • Reverend John Hale
  • There are wheels within wheels in this village, and fires within fires!
    • Mrs. Ann Putnam
  • I have trouble enough without I come five mile to hear him preach only hellfire and bloody damnation. Take it to heart, Mr. Parris. There are many others who stay away from church these days because you hardly ever mention God any more.
    • John Proctor
  • Hale: Here is all the invisible world, caught, defined, and calculated. In these books the Devil stands stripped of all his brute disguises. Here are all your familiar spirits — your incubi and succubi; your witches that go by land, by air, and by sea; your wizards of the night and of the day. Have no fear now — we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face!
    Rebecca: Will it hurt the child, sir?
    Hale: I cannot tell. If she is truly in the Devil's grip we may have to rip and tear to get her free.
Act II
I have seen too many frightful proofs in court — the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!
  • Proctor: You will not judge me more, Elizabeth. I have good reason to think before I charge fraud on Abigail, and I will think on it. Let you look to your own improvement before you go to judge your husband any more. I have forgot Abigail, and —
    Elizabeth: And I.
    Proctor: Spare me! You forget nothin' and forgive nothin.' Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven months since she is gone. I have not moved from there to here without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house!
    Elizabeth: I do not judge you. The magistrate sits in your heart that judges you. I never thought you but a good man, John — only somewhat bewildered.
    Proctor: Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer!
  • I'll plead no more! I see now your spirit twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!
    • John Proctor
  • I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man. I'll not conceal it.
    • John Proctor
  • Theology, sir, is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small.
    • John Hale
  • Though our own hearts break, we cannot flinch; these are new times, sir. There is a misty plot afoot so subtle we should be criminal to cling to old respect and ancient friendships. I have seen too many frightful proofs in court — the Devil is alive in Salem, and we dare not quail to follow wherever the accusing finger points!
    • John Hale
  • Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God's fingers? I'll tell you what's walking Salem — vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant's vengeance! I'll not give my wife to vengeance!
    • John Proctor
  • Now hell and heaven grapple on our backs and all our old pretense is ripped away. Aye, and God's icy wind will blow.
    • John Proctor
  • We burn a hot fire here; it melts down all concealment.
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road between. This is a sharp time, now, a precise time — we live no longer in the dusky afternoon when evil mixed itself with good and befuddled the world.
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • Hale: There is a prodigious fear of this court in the country —
    Danforth: Then there is a prodigious guilt in the country. Are you afraid to be questioned here?
    Hale: I may only fear the Lord, sir, but there is fear in the country nevertheless.
    Danforth: Reproach me not with the fear in the country; there is fear in the country because there is a moving plot to topple Christ in the country!
    Hale: But it does not follow that everyone accused is part of it.
    Danforth: No uncorrupted man may fear this court, Mr. Hale!
  • In an ordinary crime, how does one defend the accused? One calls up witnesses to prove his innocence. But witchcraft is ipso facto, on its face and by its nature, an invisible crime, is it not? Therefore, who may possibly be witness to it? The witch and the victim. None other. Now we cannot hope the witch will accuse herself; granted? Therefore, we must rely upon her victims — and they do testify, the children certainly do testify. As for the witches, none will deny that we are most eager for all their confessions. Therefore, what is left for a lawyer to bring out? I think I have made my point. Have I not?
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and yours, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud — God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together!
    • John Proctor
  • You're pulling heaven down, and raising up a whore!
    • John Proctor
Act IV
  • It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it. I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess. Let him give his lie. Quail not before God's judgment in this, for it may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride.
    • John Hale
  • John, I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! Suspicion kissed you when I did; I never knew how I should say my love. It were a cold house I kept!
    • Elizabeth Proctor
  • Danforth: Do you mean to deny this confession when you are free?
    Proctor: I mean to deny nothing!
    Danforth: Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let —
    Proctor: [With the cry of his whole soul] Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
  • I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs. Give them no tear! Tears pleasure them! Show honor now, show a stony heart and sink them with it!
    • John Proctor
  • Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption!
    • Deputy Governor Danforth
  • He have his goodness now, God forbid I take it from him!
    • Elizabeth Proctor

After the Fall (1964)

  • Where choice begins, Paradise ends, innocence ends, for what is Paradise but the absence of any need to choose this action?
    • Foreword
  • I am bewildered by the death of love. And my responsibility for it.
    • Quentin in After the Fall (1964) Act II
  • I saw clearly only when I saw with love. Or can one ever remember love? It's like trying to summon up the smell of roses in a cellar. You might see a rose, but never the perfume. And that's the truth of roses, isn't it? — The perfume?
    • Quentin in After the Fall (1964) Act II
  • I think it's a mistake to ever look for hope outside of one's self. One day the house smells of fresh bread, the next of smoke and blood. One day you faint because the gardener cuts his finger off, within a week you're climbing over corpses of children bombed in a subway. What hope can there be if that is so? I tried to die near the end of the war. The same dream returned each night until I dared not to go to sleep and grew quite ill. I dreamed I had a child, and even in the dream I saw it was my life, and it was an idiot, and I ran away. But it always crept onto my lap again, clutched at my clothes. Until I thought, if I could kiss it, whatever in it was my own, perhaps I could sleep. And I bent to its broken face, and it was horrible ... but I kissed it. I think one must finally take one's life in one's arms.

The Ride Down Mount Morgan (1991)

  • I love her too, but our neuroses just don't match.
    • Lyman speaking of his wife to his lawyer, Act 1
  • Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
    • Act 1
  • Look, we're all the same; a man is a fourteen-room house — in the bedroom he's asleep with his intelligent wife, in the living-room he's rolling around with some bareass girl, in the library he's paying his taxes, in the yard he's raising tomatoes, and in the cellar he's making a bomb to blow it all up.
    • Lyman, Act 2

Quotes about Miller

  • The greatest playwright of the 20th century.
    • Vaclav Havel, as quoted in "Broadway lights go out for Miller" BBC News (11 February 2005)
  • Writing meant, for him, an effort to locate in the human species a counterforce to the randomness of victimisation.
    • Salman Rushdie, as quoted in "Broadway lights go out for Miller" BBC News (11 February 2005)

External links

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Simple English

The Crucible is a 1950s play about the Salem Witch Trials by Arthur Miller.

Miller wrote this play during the time of McCarthyism in America. Many people were afraid that communism would stop the American way of life. Some people falsely accused their enemies of being communists during this time. Miller writes about the ideas of fear and false accusation in this play.


Many of the characters in the Crubicle are based on real people who were at the Salem Witch trials. Some are also based on people in the 1950s Red Scare, such as Joseph McCarthy and Julius Rosenberg

  • John Proctor- Farmer in the town, had an affair with Abigail Williams, has two sons, is accused of being a witch, refuses to say he was wrong, and dies for his dignity.
  • Abigail Williams- Niece of Samuel Parris, former servant to John and Elizabeth Proctor. Uses the trials to gain status in the town and get revenge on Elizabeth.
  • Reverend Parris- The local Congregational minister, who starts the witch issue by bringing Rev. Hale. Uncle of Abigial
  • Betty Parris- His daughter, who becomes sick after dancing in the woods
  • Elizabeth Proctor- John Proctor's wife, accused of being a witch by Abigail Williams after she fired her for sleeping with him
  • Reverend John Hale-An outsider who knows a lot about witches and the devil. Rev. Parris brings him in. Though he first is trying to find as many witches as possible, he later quits the witch trials because he finds out that there is no devil, but that unspoken revenge is working its way through the trials
  • Giles Corey-Old man who owns a lot of land and often argues with his neighbors. Accidentally implies that his wife is a witch because she reads books and when she does, he can not pray. Arrested for not naming names, then killed by being crushed by large rocks
  • Deputy Governor Danforth-One of the judges at the witch trials, who wants to end all bad pratices in Salem, is sure there is a devil in Salem at the beginning but at the end has his doubts as well
  • Thomas Putnam- Owns a lot of land, takes to the witch idea to explain the death of his children and to buy other people's land after they are hung
  • Ann Putnam-Thomas Putnam's wife
  • Tituba- Servant to Reverend Parris, from the Barbados Islands. She practices some sort of voodoo.
  • Martha Corey-Wife of Giles Corey, who is said to be a witch because she reads
  • Rebecca Nurse-Old and religious woman who is killed for not thinking the witch trials were a good idea, charged because Mrs. Putnam was jealous she had so many kids when all but one of the baby Putnams died
  • Cheever-the recorder of the trials, he writes down what happens and is told to arrest people


In the beginning of the story, Reverend Parris is looking at his daughter, Betty, while weeping and praying. She is asleep on her bed and cannot wake up. They know that she is not dead, but she does not move or speak. She just lies there. Parris heard that Betty and other girls were dancing in the woods. (This was a very bad thing at the time because that implied they knew the devil.)

Reverend Parris's slave, Tituba, is from Barbados. Abigail says that she put a spell on Betty so she would not wake up. Parris is angry with Tituba. He makes her say that she was a witch, and the devil made her curse Betty. Suddenly, Abigail and Betty both say that they were with the devil too, so they would get out of trouble. They say that other people like Goody Osborne and Goody Good are witches too.

John Proctor's relationship with his wife is quite tense because he cheated on her with Abigail. They try to pretend that nothing is wrong but end up having a tense argument about it. While they are arguing, Mary Warren comes in. Proctor is angry with her for leaving the house when he demanded that she did not. She is arrogant and says she is an official of the court and that her services are needed. Mary informs John and Elizabeth that many more than 39 people will be executed instead of the 19 they heard about. She also claims that she saved Elizabeth's life because Elizabeth was "somewhat mentioned" in court. After Mary goes to bed, Cheever comes to arrest Elizabeth. John does not take it well and rips the arrest warrant. After an emotional exchange, Elizabeth is taken and she gives Mary brief directions for the next day.

In court, John tries to help his wife by accusing the "witches" in court with Mary's deposition. He tells the court how well he knows these people and that they cannot be witches. He confesses that he slept with Abigail and that she wishes to see Elizabeth dead. Abigail is angered and threatens the judge. He tries to get Mary to tell the truth and she initially does, but then reforms to Abigail's act again after begin accused of working with the devil. Mary then calls John a witch and says that he has dealings with the devil. This is a problem because John is very respected in the town, so the judges ask him to admit that he works with the devil. He will be able to live if he lies.

In the end, he signs a letter of confession stating that he works with the devil. Then he destroys the letter instead of lying. He wants to live so he could look after his family, but chose to keep his respect and honor instead. He is tried and the court kills him by hanging. However, the court allows Elizabeth to live because she is pregnant. Abigail runs away to Barbados after stealing her uncle's money because she thinks that people know she told lies.

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