Reading The Crucible
Does your teen feel on trial every time she's tested or tasked with analyzing literature? Here's a teen-friendly refresher course in the plot of Arthur Miller's classic play "The Crucible," as well as SAT vocabulary your teen can use to describe what happens for themselves.
Our play opens at the bedside of what is seemingly a very sick girl, Betty Parris. Betty’s father, the good Reverend Parris of the Puritan town Salem, Massachusetts, closely examines his daughter for signs of life, while his niece - and Betty’s friend - Abigail explains that it was the shock of being caught dancing by her father that has induced her coma-like state … and not witchcraft. Because here in puritanical Salem, accusations of witchcraft cause more deaths than any disease.
- Theocracy - Government that is guided by God
- Provincial - Lacking sophistication; narrow-minded
- Perdition - Damnation
- Callow - Lacking adult sophistication; ignorant
- Stringent - Strict or severe
What happened? Reverend Parris came across his daughter and her friends dancing in the forest late at night with the exotic Tituba. The moment she saw her father Betty swooned and has not awoken since. (This is a lesson to all those teenagers out there. They can’t punish you if you pretend to be unconscious!) He believes that she has been bewitched, and since he can’t question his daughter, Abigail is bearing the brunt of his investigation.
Unbeknownst to her uncle, Abigail had told all of the girls to keep their mouths shut about what was going on in the forest and admit only to the dancing. She opens her eyes wide and protests to her uncle that they did nothing wrong. Her uncle, suspicious of her innocent act, asks why she was fired by Elizabeth Proctor a few months ago, and why she has been unable to find work since. But Abigail has an answer for everything, and says that Elizabeth was simply overly demanding.
Reverend Parris has sent for Reverend Hale, the witch expert, to get to the bottom of his daughter’s condition, and leaves to check on his progress. John Proctor, husband to Elizabeth, arrives and speaks directly to Abigail about her childish behavior. Well, John tries to speak directly to Abigail about her behavior, but she interrupts by coming on to him. You see, Abigail wasn’t simply fired because she was lazy. She was having an affair with John Proctor, and his wife Elizabeth discovered it!
Reverend Hale arrives and joins Reverend Parris in questioning Abigail, who immediately cracks under the pressure, and says that Tituba called the devil and made her drink blood. They call for Tituba who passes the blame on the townspeople; she’s not working with the devil directly, but she knows the people who are… She starts a list, Abigail adds some names, Betty wakes from her coma and starts to chant names - pretty soon they have to send out for more paper.
- Histrionics - Theatrical displays; displays of emotion for effect
- Beguile - To delight by magic
- Fervor - Intensity of feeling
- Perjury - Telling lies
- Specious - False