The Crucible

Try a teacher's guide that provides a synopsis of The Crucible, the classic play by Arthur Miller about the Salem Witch Trials. Also included in this literature guide are discussion questions and extended learning activities.
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Updated on: November 1, 2000
Page 5 of 6


This section of the teacher's guide provides questions and activities that can be used to help students understand the play in more depth and extend their learning beyond the play. Most relate back to the prereading section of this guide. By selecting related activities teachers help tie the instructional unit together.

All Subjects

  • If possible, take the students to see a production of the play at a local theater.
  • Critical terms and concepts can be explored in more depth by the students.
    • How is the theocracy broken in the play?
    • Was what happened in Salem important to the development of U.S. democracy? How?
    • Was Salem an autocracy? Who was the autocratic ruler?
    • What did you learn about Puritanism by reading the play? How does Miller's interpretation relate to historical accounts you have read?
  • At this point, it would be interesting for students to read Miller's commentary appearing throughout the reader's edition of The Crucible. Students can write about his comments in their response journals and discuss them in small groups or as a class.*


  • Students might explore new questions related to the terms and concepts they addressed before reading the play (see page 15).
    • How does the government as presented in the play differ from U.S. government today?
    • How does it differ from post-Revolutionary government?
    • How does the relationship of church and state in the play differ from the relationship of church and state today?
    • How would our government and courts differ if we had a single, central religion? (Students might want to compare the U.S. to Great Britain.)
  • Students can discuss the play in terms of concepts they examined prior to reading it: New England slave trade, witchcraft, the culture of Barbados (Tituba's comments at the beginning of Act four are particularly insightful.), other witch trials, McCarthy hearings (Miller's commentary is helpful here), contemporary "witch hunts," and hate groups in the U.S. today. The primary question students might ask here is: Could a similar event occur today?


  • Reviewing the meaning of terms and concepts discussed prior to reading the play and discussing them in light of the play is helpful to students.
    • Students can discuss whether or not the play is a tragedy. Is there a tragic hero? Who has a tragic flaw? What moral weakness or psychological maladjustment do they see? What social pressures are prominent?
    • In small groups, students can examine the title of the play to determine how the message of the play fits the dictionary definition and connotations of the word "crucible."
    • Students can reexamine the overhead "Characteristics of Good Historic Fiction" to determine how well the play fits the genre.
  • Throughout the reading of the play, students have been examining its themes.
    • Have small groups of students who have been examining each theme present the results of their work to the class.
    • If the class has kept theme charts as suggested on page 23, additional information can be added to these charts.
  • Students have also been studying the development of the major characters in the play.
    • This information can be added to the character charts suggested on pages 23-24.
    • In small groups, students can develop dramatic monologues and dialogues which show character development and relationship of characters and present these to the class.
  • Throughout the play students have been examining how Miller develops the plot.
    • Students can expand the plot summary into a complete outline or diagram of the plot that visually shows rising action, twists of the plot, the climax of the plot, and the final conclusion of the play.
  • The language of the play can be discussed in small groups or can be examined in response journals.
    • What examples of irony do you see in the play?
    • What events in Salem can be viewed as paradox?
    • Is the play a political allegory?