“The Crucible” Part One (Research and Background)

We are going to read “The Crucible.” To start, some background information would be very helpful. Use the websites to do some basic research about the Salem Witch Trials. Make sure you can answer the questions listed below. Any notes you take you may use on your quiz next time we meet.


Questions for Research:

1.  In what year did the Salem Witch Trials take place?
2.  What event launched the Puritan inquisition and sent officials hunting for witches in old Salem?
3.  How many people who were convicted as witches were hanged in Salem?
4.  What is the name of Arthur Miller’s play that is based on the Salem Witchcraft Trials?
5.  Were men accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem?
6.  What role did the slave Tituba play in the Salem witch craze?
7.  How did the court determine who was a witch?
8.  How old was the youngest person accused of witchcraft in Salem?
9.  How long did the Salem witch trials era last?
10.  Were Salem witches ever burned at the stake?

Consider the following quotes from the overture. Pick two and write in your own words what you think the quote means (one paragraph) and make a prediction about how it will impact the events of the play (one paragraph). I’ve done the first one for you as an example.

  • EXAMPLE: “At any rate, very few Indians were converted, and the Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God.”
    • The people of Salem are very religious. They tried to convert the Indians, but were not successful. They were afraid of the Indians and afraid of the wilderness that surrounded them. To them, the Devil was literally at their backdoor; living in the woods, waiting to attack. They saw the land around them as a land possessed by the Devil with no God and no religion.
    • I think that this fear will be the catalyst that starts the witch hunt and what really causes it to get so crazy. If they really believe the Devil is right there, waiting for his chance to attack then it will not be hard to accept that some of the people in the town have succumbed to his power. Maybe if that fear is so great it could even lead the people to feel justified in killing those who have been “infected” by the power of the Devil.
  • “The Salem tragedy, which is about to begin in these pages, developed from a paradox. It is a paradox in whose grip we still live, and there is no prospect yet that we will discover its resolution.”
  • “The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom… the balance has yet to be struck between order and freedom.”
  • “The witch-hunt was… a long overdue opportunity for everyone so inclined to express publicly his guilt and sins, under the cover of accusations against the victims… Long-held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken, despite the Bible’s charitable injunctions.”
  • “Land-lust which had been expressed before by constant bickering over boundaries and deeds, could now be elevated to the arena of morality; one could cry witch against one’s neighbor and feel perfectly justified in the bargain.”

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