Justification for Teaching

The Crucible is a 1953 play by Arthur Miller, author of Death of a Salesman and other classics of American theatre. It's both a historical drama based on the events of the Salem witch trials of 1692 – 1693 and an allegory that skewers McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare of 1950 – 1956.

Because of its historical setting and allegorical meaning, The Crucible is an ideal candidate for an English/Social Studies cross-curricular unit; studying the play and its historical contexts in tandem will lead to greater understanding of both.

Historical elements aside, however, the play easily stands on its own. Each character is tested in her own way by the intensity of the trials, as though she were a piece of metal subjected to the furious heat of a crucible, and each character responds to this test in his own way. Some characters emerge with their principles and dignity intact; others fail and compromise themselves.

The complex internal struggle of each character gives the play its lasting power, and students can identify with both the desire to maintain one's moral principles in the face of injustice and the fear that causes others to wither and compromise when similarly challenged.

Key Literary Elements & Techniques

  • metaphor
  • imagery
  • dramatic irony
  • symbolism
  • allegory

Themes and Motifs

  • Ethics — This play shows the dangers (to oneself and to others) in compromising one's principles in response to unjust coercion
  • Cruelty — In the play, mass hysteria results when townspeople are accused of witchcraft, causing everyone to be suspicious of their neighbors and even accuse them in order to escape scrutiny
  • Individual vs. Society — the play reflects the dangers to an individual when society turns on them, as well as the power of societal pressure

Key Facts

  • Length: 152 pages
  • Lexile® Measure: 1320L
  • Recommended Grade Band: 11 – 12
  • Publication Date: 1953


Jean-Paul Sartre adapted the play into a film titled Les Sorcieres de Salem. The film was released in 1957.

Arthur Miller himself adapted the play into the film The Crucible, released in 1996, which garnered him an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay.

Your Students will love:

  • Comparing and contrasting the events of the play, the historical witch trials upon which the play is based, and the Second Red Scare (1950 – 1956)

Students may have problems with:

  • Some of the language, which attempts to reproduce speech patterns and terms from 1690s Massachusetts

Available from Prestwick House


The Crucible — Paperback

The Crucible — Safeguard Hardcover

Teaching Guides:

Literature Teaching Unit:

Teaching Unit

Downloadable Teaching Unit

30 Books + Teaching Unit

AP Literature Teaching Unit:

AP Literature Teaching Unit

Downloadable AP Literature Teaching Unit

30 Books + AP Literature Teaching Unit

Activity Pack:

Activity Pack

Downloadable Activity Pack

30 Books + Activity Pack

Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide:

Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

Downloadable Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

30 Books + Multiple Critical Perspectives Guide

Psychoanalytic/Freudian Approach Mini-Guide

Mythological/Archetypal Approach Mini-Guide

Feminist Approach Mini-Guide

Response Journal:

Response Journal

Downloadable Response Journal

30 Books + Response Journal

Complete Teacher's Kit:

Complete Teacher's Kit

30 Books + Complete Teacher's Kit

Other resources:

Novel Test (Downloadable PDF)

Headlines Posters

Other Prestwick House Teacher's Guides to Literature

The Crucible