Places: The Crucible

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1953

First produced: 1953, at the Martin Beck Theatre, New York City

Type of work: Drama

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: 1692

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Salem

*Salem. Crucible, TheSmall Massachusetts town on the Atlantic coast, about twenty miles northeast of Boston. A small community sandwiched between the ocean and the wilderness, Salem felt itself surrounded by danger, a danger that could be combated only by hard work, perseverance, and strict religious observance. The Native Americans living in the area presented a threat, but the devil, who lurked in the nearby wilderness, was a far greater threat, tempting villagers to worship him. The theocracy that governed Salem was designed to prevent this from occurring; thus any departure from orthodoxy was condemned, and any opposition was summarily crushed.

Parris’s house

Parris’s house. Home of the Reverend Parris in Salem. It is symbolically appropriate that the home of Parris, the congregation’s minister, is the site of the first outbreak of witchcraft hysteria. Act 1 occurs in an upstairs bedroom of the Parris house. The room contains only “a narrow window,” a metaphor for the narrowness of Puritan beliefs, through which not much light is allowed to shine. The somber room “gives off an air of clean spareness,” and the “raw and unmellowed” nature of the wood coincides with the nature of Puritan life.

Proctor home

Proctor home. Farmhouse five miles from Salem. Act 2 takes place in John and Elizabeth Proctor’s home. The room where the act is set seems cold; although it is spring, John declares, “It’s winter in here yet,” signifying the emotional distance between John and Elizabeth. Court officials travel five miles to arrest Elizabeth, indicating how widespread the witch hysteria has become.

Salem meetinghouse

Salem meetinghouse. Church building in Salem in whose vestrom act 3 is set. It is a “solemn, even forbidding” room with heavy timbers, now used as the anteroom of the court. A symbol of the religion, the gloomy meetinghouse is where people are condemned rather than brought to the light of God. Although churches traditionally offer sanctuary to even the lowest of criminals, the church in Salem is where innocent people are condemned. Ironically, at the end of the act, a bird (not the dove of the Holy Spirit, but a demoniac bird) appears in the high rafters of the room.

Salem jail

Salem jail. Act 4 takes place in a jail cell, a dark place that looks empty even though two prisoners are kept here. All the prisoners are filthy, cold, and weak from hunger. The play ends in the jail, indicating that death is the ultimate outcome of such a cruel and narrow religion.

Forest

Forest. Wilderness west of Salem. The forest represents humankind’s pagan instincts, which the Puritans have set out to suppress. In spite of their role in the church, Parris has caught his own family members dancing with the devil in the forest. Although John Proctor cultivates the earth right to the edge of the forest, the forest itself remains wild and uncultivated.

*Andover

*Andover. Massachusetts town a few miles from Salem in which rebellion against the court is rumored to be afoot. Parris fears it will spread to Salem.

*Boston

*Boston. Leading Massachusetts city, located about twenty miles southwest of Salem. The judges come from the General Court of Boston, and Boston carries a great deal of weight with Salemites. A witch had been hanged in Boston two years before the opening of the play.

*Beverly

*Beverly. Massachusetts town a few miles from Salem from which the Reverend Hale comes. The town seems to be slightly more enlightened than Salem.

BibliographyBigsby, C. W. E. “Arthur Miller.” Williams, Miller, Albee. Vol. 2 in A Critical Introduction to Twentieth-Century American Drama. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1984.Bonnet, Jean-Marie. “Society Versus the Individual in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.” English Studies 63, no. 1 (February, 1982): 32-36. Solid analysis of the central themes. Contends that The Crucible explores the balance between social responsibility and individual freedom.Budick, E. Miller. “History and Other Spectres in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible,” in Modern Drama. XXVIII (December, 1985), pp. 535-552.Ferres, John H. “Still in the Present Tense: The Crucible Today,” in University College Quarterly. XVII (May, 1972), pp. 8-18.Foulkes, A.P. Literature and Propaganda, 1983.McGill, William J. “The Crucible of History: Arthur Miller’s John Proctor,” in New England Quarterly. LIV (June, 1981), pp. 258-264.Martin, Robert A. “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: Background and Sources.” Modern Drama 20, no. 3 (September, 1977): 279-292. Contends that the play transcends the topical parallel of the House Committee on Un-American Activities and stands on its own merits.Martine, James J. The Crucible: Politics, Property, and Pretense. New York: Twayne, 1993.Meserve, Walter J. “The Crucible: ’This Fool and I,’” in Arthur Miller: New Perspectives, 1982.Miller, Arthur. Conversations with Arthur Miller. Edited by Matthew C. Roudane. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1987. Miller discusses his work with various interviewers. Two useful discussions of The Crucible.Miller, Arthur. Timebends: A Life. New York: Grove Press, 1987.Morgan, Edmund S. “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and the Salem Witch Trials: A Historian’s View,” in The Golden and the Brazen World: Papers in Literature and History, 1600-1800, 1985.Nathan, George Jean. “Henrik Miller,” in Theatre Arts. XXXVII (April, 1953), pp. 24-26.O’Neal, Michael J. “History, Myth, and Name Magic in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible,” in Clio. XII (Winter, 1983), pp. 111-122.Popkin, Henry. “Arthur Miller’s The Crucible,” in College English. XXVI (November, 1964), pp. 139-146.Warshow, Robert. “The Liberal Conscience in the Crucible.” In The Immediate Experience: Movies, Comics, Theatre and Other Aspects of Popular Culture. New York: Doubleday, 1962. Warshow considers the work a wooden political polemic, historically inaccurate, without a central point.
Categories: Places