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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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1. How much of what happened in Salem can be blamed on
cold-blooded manipulation of events for the purpose of profit or
revenge? Is it possible today that a few greedy and/or vengeful
people could instigate another witch-hunt?


1. Discuss the concept of authority under the Puritan
theocracy. Who were the powerful? And how did they get their

2. Part of what went wrong in Salem came from a dispute
over who had the authority to decide whether or not witchcraft
was being practiced in a particular instance. How did this
dispute arise? How was it resolved? How is authority presented
in The Crucible?

3. Is Proctor's downfall ultimately caused by what the
judges see as his rebellion against authority?


1. Compare the theocracy of the Puritans with the looser
form of government in Virginia at the same time. Which was
better? Which was more successful?

2. What are the problems inherent in a theocracy? Whose
interpretations of God's law are right and whose wrong? Is it
possible to govern people's spiritual lives as well as their
physical lives?


1. Nearly all of Arthur Miller's plays have one character
who is connected with the law-a policeman, a judge, a lawyer.
Compare these characters. Taking them in order, is it possible to
see a pattern or development in Arthur Miller's thinking about

2. Hale says in Act IV: "Life is God's most precious gift;
no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it." Do
you agree?

3. Is there no justice in what happened in Salem, even in
the long run? Did any good come of it?


1. Arthur Miller has taken quite a few liberties with history
in writing The Crucible. Why did he change what he did? How
could he have done it differently?

2. Despite the way they dress and the language they speak,
John and Elizabeth Proctor strike many people as thoroughly
modern characters. Do you agree? What about them or their
situation is modern, and what makes them purely a man and
woman of their own time and place?


1. There are a lot of similarities between The Crucible and
another play by Arthur Miller, After the Fall. What makes John
Proctor and Quentin so much alike? How are they different?

2. Is there real evil stalking Salem in 1692? Where is it?
How does it work?

3. Put yourself in Salem in 1692. Would you have joined
the witch-hunt? What would you have done if someone cried
you out as a witch?

4. Arthur Miller has done a lot of experimentation with
nonrealistic styles of playwriting. Compare The Crucible with
either Death of a Salesman or After the Fall in terms of style
and structure. What are the advantages and disadvantages of
each? Is there anything that can be said in one way and not the

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes

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