“The Crucible” Essay: Summary & Analysis
Arthur Miller wrote the script of “The Crucible” as an adaptation of his play that he wrote back in 1953. The two-hour-long movie directed by Nicholas Hyther was released in 1996, and the events described in it took place back in 1692. We can see events that happened in Salem, Massachusetts, in a religious community.
Strictly speaking, “The Crucible” isn’t a historical movie but it portrays real historical events. In Salem, many people were executed after being accused of practicing witchcraft, and this movie illustrates the judicial system run by religious people ready to execute everyone who denied their accusations. In fact, people who pleaded guilty were freed, while those who refused to confess were hanged.
Although “The Crucible” is based on real events from the past, this movie also contains many inaccuracies because real events are integrated into a fictional plot. Nevertheless, many names of characters match the names of real people who lived in Salem in the 17th century, and the movie perfectly illustrates how beliefs turned into madness and ultimately resulted in the deaths of innocent people.
“The Crucible:” Summary
The movie was aimed to recreate the terrible historical events that took place in Salem, Massachusetts. Many people were accused of witchcraft, and the overall atmosphere that surrounded these events resembled hysteria. The movie focuses on a group of young women who gather to perform a sort of voodoo ritual. They bring gifts (a chicken, herbs, and frogs) to a black servant Tituba, who performs the ritual.
The ritual is witnessed by the uncle of one of the girls. He scares the group but two of the girls are in a strange state that looks like a trance, and they cannot wake up. After this incident, rumors about witchcraft spread through the village. As a result, a reverent called Hale is supposed to determine whether or not witchcraft took place. Hale is looking for the signs of demonic possession.
The girls who participated in the ritual are afraid that villagers will kill them so they say that they were tempted by dark forces and blame other women. As a result, the list of women accused of witchcraft grows. Those who were accused only have two options: they can either refuse to admit their “sin” and be hanged or confess and lose any respect in their society, becoming outcasts.
After a trial, several women who had nothing to do with the ritual are killed because of false accusations, while Abigail Williams, who started these events, decides to leave the village and flees to Barbados.
“The Crucible:” Character Analysis
Abigail Williams participated in the ritual because she wanted another woman to die. She planned that the ritual will bring death to John Proctor’s wife. To achieve this goal, she brought a hen, slaughtered it, and drank the blood. The ritual, however, didn’t end properly because of Abigail’s uncle who saw the ceremony. The girls were scared so they started to run, but two girls were unconscious so they couldn’t escape.
All the characters have archaic beliefs. Some of them believe in Christ, while others choose to try witchcraft. Tituba, the black servant who performs the ritual, basically just follows her own religion — voodoo. Other people in the community, however, perceive her beliefs as witchcraft, and their Christian religion suggests that witchcraft should be punished by death.
Parents of girls who were unconscious during the ritual have no idea what happened to their daughters so they simply imply that they became possessed by demons. We can see that all villagers agree that reverend Hale has some knowledge and experience to tell whether or not someone is possessed, but nobody knows what exactly Hale’s conclusions are based on. Obviously, the girls were not possessed by any supernatural entities but simply in a state of trance.
When the girls realize that they can be murdered by their Christian neighbors for practicing witchcraft, they try to save themselves from the consequences. Abigail testifies that Tituba is a witch, and Tituba confesses after being tortured. The girls also point to other women. Given that Abigail wants John Proctor’s wife to die, she names her as a witch, hoping that she and John will be together.
The judicial system of the community is absolutely ridiculous and violates all basic human rights. This society puts religion above logic and reasoning. Nobody can get a fair trial because nobody can defend themselves against false accusations. People who denied accusations were killed, while those who confessed lost any respect in that community.
When John’s wife is accused of witchcraft, he understands that she can be killed. He tries to defend his wife, but his efforts only result in him also being called a witch. John denies these accusations so he is killed, but his wife survives the trial because she’s pregnant. Abigail, who wanted to get rid of John’s wife so that they can be together, ultimately causes his death, while his wife remains alive. Besides, Abigail can no longer stay in this community so she needs to flee.
The characters presented in this movie are based on real people, and some of them have real names. We can see that most people in this story are driven by ignorance and prejudice, while Abigail is motivated by love, jealousy, and fear. Fear is also very important when talking about the trials that took place in Salem because all the people who were killed after being accused of witchcraft simply fail victims to their neighbors’ irrational fear of magic. The people of Salem were afraid of the devil and other mythical things, and this fear made them kill. Abigail also was afraid so she started to accuse others, and her fear ultimately killed the man she loved.
“The Crucible” isn’t a historical movie but it perfectly illustrates things that actually happened in Salem in the 17th century, when people practiced religious trials and hung those accused of witchcraft. Even though some historical details were changed, this movie still holds great educational value, and it shows us what can happen to people who are obsessed with the fear of the unknown.
Miller, Arthur and Blakesley, Maureen. The Crucible By Arthur Miller. London: Heinemann, 1992. Print.