The Crucible

The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller that was first produced in 1953, is based on
the true story of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692. Miller wrote the play to parallel the
situations in the mid-twentieth century. Some characters in the play have specific agendas
carried out by their accusations, and the fact that the play is based on historical truth
makes it even more intriguing.

The characters in this play are simple, common people. The accused are charged
and convicted of a crime that is impossible to prove. The following witchcraft hysteria
takes place in one of America\'s wholesome towns, which makes the
miscarriage of justice such a mystery even today. The reasons the villains select the
people they do for condemnation are both simple and clear. All of the accusers have
ulterior motives, such as revenge, greed, and covering up their own behavior. Many of
the accusers have meddled in witchcraft themselves, and are therefore doubly to be
distrusted. The court convicts the victims on the most absurd testimony,
and the reader has to wonder how the judges and the townspeople could let such a
charade continue.

The leading character of the play is John Proctor, a man who often serves as the
only voice of reason in the play. He had an affair with Abigail Williams, who later
charges his wife with witchcraft. Proctor is seemingly the only person who can see
through the children\'s accusations. The reader sees him as one of the more modern
figures in the trials because he is hardheaded, skeptical, and a voice of common sense.

He thinks the girls can be cured of their spells with a good whipping.

At the end of the play, Proctor has to make a choice. He can either confess to a crime he
is innocent of to save himself from execution, or die proclaiming his innocence. He ends
up choosing death because a false confession would mean implicating other accused
people, including Rebecca Nurse. Proctor feels she is good and pure,
unlike his adulterous self, and does not want to tarnish her good name and the names of
his other innocent friends by implicating them. By choosing death,

Proctor takes the high road and becomes a true tragic hero. The reader feels that his
punishment is unjust (especially since the crime of witchcraft is imagined and
unprovable.) Because the trials take place in a Christian, American town, the reader
must then wonder if anything like this could happen in his or her own time. This is
particularly true of people who saw the play when it first came out, in the era of

McCarthyism.

Ann and Thomas Putnam are two instigators of the witchcraft hysteria in the play.

Ann Putnam is the one who first plants the idea that Betty is bewitched. Her motivation
for lying is obvious; she needs to cover up her own behavior. After all, she had sent her
daughter to Tituba to conjure up the dead in order to find out what happened to her dead
babies. She can\'t have it said that she, a Christian woman, practices the pagan art with a
slave from Barbados, or that her daughter\'s illness is her fault because she sent her to
participate in the black art, so she blames others. Revenge is another
motive of hers. Tituba\'s tricks led her to the conclusion that her babies were murdered
while under the care of a midwife, Goody Osburn. Osburn is later accused of witchcraft.

Ann Putnam\'s husband also influences her.

Thomas Putman had nominated his wife\'s brother-in-law, James Bayley, to be the
minister of Salem. He was qualified and the people voted him in, but a faction stopped
his acceptance. Thomas Putnam felt superior to most people in the village, and was
angry that they rejected his choice for minister. He was also involved in a land dispute
with Francis Nurse, whose wife Rebecca is accused of witchcraft. This is detailed in the
movie Three Sovereigns for Sarah, which shows basically the same story as the play.

Many people died because of Thomas Putnam\'s land hunger. The Putnams, driven by
their need for revenge and their greed, contributed to the huge travesty of justice that was
the Salem Witch Trails.

The motive of Abigail Williams is equally easy to decipher. Abigail is the
ringleader of the group of girls who testify in court against those accused of witchcraft.

She and John Proctor had an affair previously, when she worked as a servant in his home,
and she obviously