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The Crucible

Powerful play about Salem witch trials a riveting read.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Arthur Miller's play The Crucible gives readers a history lesson on multiple levels. The story takes place in Salem, MA, beginning in spring 1692, and offers a telling portrayal of American colonial life at that time. The action, depicting the events that instigated the Salem witch trials, gives a fictionalized account of those events, and offers a view into the colonists' religious and social values. The play was also meant as an allegory for, and indictment of, McCarthyism: the U.S. government's persecution of accused Communist Party members in the 1950s.

Positive messages

The Crucible gives a moral lesson on the dangers of mob rule and of religious extremism. Readers will come to understand that this dark chapter in American history could have been prevented if so many citizens hadn't been made hysterical by fear, and learn something very valuable about the importance of honesty and individual conscience.

Positive role models

The character of John Proctor stands out as very human and brave. In a valiant effort to save his wife, Elizabeth, and others from imprisonment or execution, he exposes his own sins in order to reveal Abigail's vengeful motivation for inciting the witch hunt.


Characters who are convicted of performing witchcraft are executed by hanging, and one character is crushed to death with stone weights. Because this is a play, executions are mentioned as taking place or potentially taking place, but are not described in graphic detail.


John Proctor (who is married to Elizabeth Proctor) and Abigail Williams had a sexual relationship before the action of the play begins, and though Proctor later rejects her, both characters remain tempted.


Characters do not curse, but there are numerous mentions of the devil and Satan.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the Tony Award-wining play The Crucible is a powerfully disturbing fictionalized account of the Salem witch trials that took place in Massachusetts in the 17th century. Rigid religious and moral views contribute to a community's mass hysteria when a young girl and her friends accuse innocent people who have slighted them of performing witchcraft. The selfish cruelty of Abigail's behavior, and the willingness of the community's religious leaders to rule with fear and violence, teach valuable lessons but are tragic and painful to witness. The Crucible is generally required reading for middle or high school students, and is often used as a point of departure to discuss the anti-communist McCarthyism of the 1950s. In fact, Arthur Miller's stage directions include his own insights into his characters, and into the similarities between the Salem witch trials and the actions of the U.S. Congress' Committee on Un-American Activities.

What's the story?

In Salem, MA, in 1692, in an atmosphere of rigid Puritanical Christianity, a teen girl named Abigail Williams has an illicit affair with a married man, John Proctor, and engages in other forbidden activities, including dancing. Abigail deflects responsibility for her behavior by accusing others of performing witchcraft, and her friends join in, using the ensuing mass hysteria to punish anyone who may have slighted them. Soon the entire community is ruled by fear as the accusations fly, and innocent citizens are imprisoned and executed.

Is it any good?


Arthur Miller's Tony Award-winning play is profoundly powerful in its message, as a stage play, and as a piece of literature. Though THE CRUCIBLE was meant to be staged, reading the work offers Miller's lengthy, analytical stage directions and explanations of the time period, characters, and context of the events. Reading The Crucible is a thought-provoking and affecting experience, and the story itself is riveting.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how the Salem witch trials could occur. Why were the citizens of Salem willing to believe Abigail and the other girls? Why did even those who doubted Abigail go along with the witch-hunt?

  • Do you think the witch-hunt could have been prevented? If so, how?

  • The term "witch-hunt" has also been used to describe McCarthyism in the U.S. in the 1950s. What do you know about McCarthyism and how were these events similar?

  • Why do you think this play is often required reading in middle school or high school?

Book details

Author:Arthur Miller
Genre:Historical Fiction
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Penguin Plays
Publication date:October 28, 1976
Number of pages:160

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Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 June 9, 2013

A true classic, resounds today

While its strongest parallels are with the McCarthy trials, this book can easily be put up against what happened to Middle Eastern people post 9/11, and other events in history. It's a brilliant account of a town gone mad believing that everyone else has gone mad, when people are drunk with the power of finger pointing and blaming for the sake of not having the spotlight shown on them. I had to read it for my 11th grade English class, but you should read it for its effect on you.
What other families should know
Educational value
Kid, 12 years old February 25, 2012

Beautiful; A classic

One of the greatest books ever written
What other families should know
Educational value
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written byMrs. M. April 12, 2012

Lessons about Life

When read with a group as part of a class, this play/book opens up a world of discussion about peer pressure, prejudice, the desire for revenge, the importance of telling the truth, of being true to oneself, and of speaking one's mind.