CliffsNotes on Miller's The Crucible

CliffsNotes on Miller's The Crucible

CliffsNotes on Miller's The Crucible

CliffsNotes on Miller's The Crucible


The original CliffsNotes study guides offer a look into critical elements and ideas within classic works of literature. The latest generation of titles in this series also feature glossaries and visual elements that complement the classic, familiar format.

CliffsNotes on The Crucible takes you into Arthur Miller's play about good and evil, self-identity and morality.

Following the atmosphere and action of the Salem witch trials of the 1600s, this study guide looks into Puritan culture with critical commentaries about each act and scene. Other features that help you figure out this important work include

  • Life and background of the author
  • Introduction to the play
  • Character web and in-depth analyses of the major roles
  • Summaries and glossaries related to each act
  • Essays that explore the author's narrative technique and the play's historical setting
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The Crucible begins in the house of Reverend Samuel Parris, whose daughter, Betty, lies unconscious in bed upstairs. Prior to the opening of the play, Parris discovered Betty, his niece Abigail, and Tituba, his black slave from Barbados, dancing in the forest outside of Salem at midnight. After Parris came out of the bushes, Betty lost consciousness and has remained in a stupor ever since. The town physician, Doctor Griggs, who has not been able to determine why Betty is ill, suggests witchcraft as a possible cause.

Parris, distraught and troubled because he knows that Abigail has not been entirely truthful regarding her activities in the woods, confronts Abigail. Parris says that he saw her and Betty dancing “like heathen[s],” Tituba moving back and forth over a fire while mumbling unintelligibly, and an unidentified female running naked through the forest. Abigail denies that she and the other girls were participating in witchcraft, but Parris suspects she is lying. He thinks that she and Betty have conjured spells. Parris also questions Abigail about her character and the reason why Goody Proctor, who is the wife of John Proctor and a very respected woman in Salem, dismissed her from working as the Proctors’ servant.

Mr. and Mrs. Putnam, members of one of the prominent families in Salem, enter the room and declare that Betty’s illness results from witchcraft. They reveal to Parris that their daughter, Ruth, has also fallen into a strange trance. Ruth’s condition, coupled with the fact that seven of Mrs. Putnam’s children have died as infants under mysterious conditions, convince the Putnams that evil spirits are at work in Salem. Putnam tries to persuade Parris that he should declare the presence of witchcraft, but Parris is worried. He knows that a group of townspeople want to remove him from Salem, and a witchcraft scandal involving his family would give them the power to oust him from the town.

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