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The Crucible - Character

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at character. The characters in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, are based on historical figures who lived in Salem at the time of the famous trials for witchcraft. Despite their historical basis, and the fact that the characters share the same fates as their historical counterparts, these figures are fictional creations. It is important to remember that we are reading fiction when we read The Crucible and to discuss each character as we would any other fictional character.

The play presents several figures of authority, some of whom come from outside the town, such as Reverend Hale and Deputy Governor Danforth, and others, such as Reverend Parris, who are from Salem. The accusers are for the most part young women, including Abigail Williams, Mary Warren, Mercy Lewis and Susanna Walcott.

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Mr. and Mrs. Putnam play key roles in whipping up the hysteria which eventually endangers the lives of Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor, Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse, Sarah Good and Tituba. Other key figures include Cheever, Marshal Herrick and Hopkins, all involved in the arrests and detentions of the accused.

Because this text is a play, we primarily understand these characters through their dialogue and behaviour. Miller also includes some explanation for their behaviour, or sometimes some background information which the reader should take into account. This is useful and can help actors know how to play their roles, but the information is not otherwise available to an audience watching the play in performance.

Pay attention to how each character interacts with others. Whose behaviour changes in different company? What do we learn when we see Proctor and Hale talking together at different points in the drama? How is Abigail’s character revealed? Who changes over the course of the play and how?

Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in The Crucible.

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  1. "Now tell me true, Abigail. And I pray you feel the weight of truth upon you, for now my ministry's at stake, my ministry and perhaps your cousin's life. Whatever abominations you have done, give me all of it now, for I dare not be taken unaware when I go before them down there." What is significant about Reverend Parris's choice of the word "abomination"?
    Abigail describes the activities in the forest as "sport", but her uncle's suspicious nature presumes the girls to have been knowingly engaged in evil behaviours. Their private games are treated with utmost seriousness by the community
  2. Why is the conviction of Rebecca Nurse significant to the people of Salem?
    The town's trust in her good character is not easily shaken. Parris believes the town will revolt if she is hanged
  3. "It is a marvel. It is surely a stroke of hell upon you." What do Mrs. Putnam's first lines of the play indicate about her character?
    She is delighted at the thought that the devil has struck Parris's household, even though her own daughter lies ill in bed
  4. "Mr. Hale is nearing forty, a tight-skinned, eager-eyed intellectual. This is a beloved errand for him; on being called here to ascertain witchcraft he felt the pride of the specialist whose unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for." What does Miller's depiction of Mr. Hale tell us?
    Mr. Hale is also depicted as kind; a prior case of witchcraft revealed itself to be merely a situation where a child required extra care and attention
  5. What is Giles Corey known for?
    Corey is involved in frequent court cases, accusing Proctor, for example, of slanderously saying that Corey had burnt his roof
  6. How is Abigail's character presented in the beginning of the play, when she is being questioned by her uncle?
    Abigail appears to be perfectly honest, having admitted to the dancing and accepted a potential whipping as punishment. She is visibly afraid of the implications of her uncle's questioning, and shows signs of temper when her good name is questioned. There is no clear indication that she is lying until she and Mercy are left alone with Betty
  7. Which of the following is NOT true of John Proctor?
    John Proctor is aware of his failings; his determination not to perjure himself at the end of the play is seen by his wife as proof of the goodness that he has been seeking
  8. Why is Tituba's position precarious?
    Tituba's foreign practices, including her songs and her supposed ability to speak to the dead, are recognisable to the Puritan inhabitants of Salem as witchcraft. Notably, Mrs. Putnam, who asks Ruth to have Tituba conjure the souls of her dead babies, does not feel any responsibility for her actions
  9. Which of the following is true of Deputy Governor Danforth?
    Danforth would rather continue resolutely along his chosen path than to confront the possibility that innocent people have died by his order
  10. Elizabeth Proctor declares to Reverend Hale that if he believes her to be a witch, she does not believe that witches exist at all. Her declaration shows which of the following qualities?
    Elizabeth, originally presented as a cold, unforgiving woman, shows herself to be remarkably courageous in telling Hale that being herself accused of witchcraft makes her not believe that witches even exist. This is courageous because it means that she is denying the literal truth of the Bible, which mentions witchcraft

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