The Crucible

In Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, which explores the consequences of the McCarthyism scare of the 1950s, students explore the central topics of history, community, herd mentality and truth.

Unit Summary

In this unit on Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible, students will explore the thematic topics of history, community, and truth. Written during the McCarthyism scare of the 1950s, the play underscores the importance of remembering the events of our collective past. In exploring the circumstances of the Salem witch trials, which occurred centuries prior to Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist “witch hunt,” Miller raises questions about the devastating impact that corruption, herd mentality, and vengeance can have on a community.

In addition to the play, students will read several paired texts that add to their analysis of the core text. Through reading excerpts of Maryse Condé’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, which is the story retold from the slave’s, Tituba’s, perspective, students can analyze the impact of narration and point of view in a work of fiction. The nonfiction readings “Herd Behavior,” “On Tragedy,” and “McCarthyism” provide a foundation on which students can build their analysis of the play. And finally, Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” and Margaret Atwood’s poem “Half-Hanged Mary” allow students to explore similar themes in different genres.

While reading and analyzing the works of fiction and nonfiction in this unit, students will be working to develop their literary analysis skills, speaking and listening skills, and writing skills.

At Match, students have a Composition class 4 days per week in addition to English class. Below, we have included Supplementary Composition Projects to reflect the material covered in our composition course. For teachers who are interested in including these Composition projects but do not have a separate Composition course, we have included a “Suggested Placement” to note where these projects would most logically fit into the English unit. While the Composition projects may occasionally include content unrelated to English 10, most have both a skill and content connection to the work students are doing in their English 10 class. 

In the English lessons of Unit 2, students will focus on analyzing author’s craft, investigating how authors use various techniques to create mood, tone, character, point of view and theme. In these parallel Composition projects, students will learn to craft effective literary analysis essays expressing their thoughts on various authors’ uses of literary techniques to create mood, tone, character, and point of view. Additionally, students will be asked to try on various techniques for appealing to an audience, including practice with establishing a specific tone and mood in their own writing. While the writing days described in the English unit are exclusively on-demand pieces of writing, the Composition projects are a blend of on-demand writing and process writing so students have exposure to writing for a range of topics, timeframes, and purposes.

Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

See Text Selection Rationale


This assessment accompanies Unit 2 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep


  • Read and annotate The Crucible and this unit plan.
  • Read and annotate at least the designated passages of I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem.
  • Read and annotate “The Lottery.”
  • Take the unit exam and write a mastery response for the essay on the unit exam.
  • Read the article, "McCarthyism" and any other resources on McCarthyism that help you to feel confident discussing The Crucible in the context of the time in which Arthur Miller wrote the play.
  • Make visuals for the classroom that will aid in students’ analysis and comprehension (e.g., character lists or maps, thematic questions, etc.).

Essential Questions


  • History: Why is it important to recall our past, even if it is difficult?
  • Community: What impact do herd mentality and vengeance have on a community? Can their impact ever be positive?
  • Truth and Lies: Can lying ever be justified? What if the lie could save a life?

Writing Focus Areas


English Lessons Writing Focus Areas

There are notes throughout this unit that encourage the teacher to use analysis of their students’ writing in order to determine the areas of focus for writing instruction in this unit. One suggested area of focus is on teaching students to use partial quotations to support their analysis and arguments rather than entire sentences or multiple sentences. A potential spiraling area of focus is ensuring students write a thesis statement that addresses the prompt and previews what is to come in the essay.

Composition Projects Writing Focus Areas

Below are the writing focus areas that are recommended for the Composition projects described in this unit. Each focus area comes from a particular row and column of our Composition Writing Rubric and more detail about each area of focus is provided in the description of each specific project.The teacher should feel free to substitute or revise these writing focus areas in order to meet his/her students where they are and help students improve their writing in ways that authentically address the students' areas for growth.

  • Focus on Task: appropriate for task, purpose and audience 
  • Diction: Includes precise language and vocabulary
  • Thesis: Includes a clear, relevant and unique thesis statement
  • Analysis: Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Evidence: Draws relevant evidence to support position
  • Professional Revised: Adequate revisions



Literary Terms

plot, characterization, setting, stage directions, symbolism, characterization, point of view/perspective, tone, metaphor, rising action, irony, tragic hero, paradox, power dynamics

Roots and Affixes

Integ- (integrity), be- (begrudge), def- (defamation)


“The Lottery”: profusely, uneasily, reprimand, jovial, paraphernalia, perfunctory, soberly, paradox, petulantly

The Crucible: persecuted (3), sect (4), fanatic (4), justice (6), paradox (6), vengeance (7), dissembling (8), propriety (8), conjure (10), abomination (10), begrudge (11), vindictive (14), formidable (15), prodigious (23), defamation (29), anarchy (30), trepidation (37), fraud (50), conviction (50), falter (52), ameliorate (54), civilly (57), base (59), daft (65), bewilder (66), wrath (75), contentious (79), pretense (82), immaculate (92), incredulously (96), slovenly (104), transfixed (106), denounce (111), prodigious (114), gaunt (115), remedy (117), adamant (120), mercy (120), incredulous (130)

Idioms and Cultural References

The Crucible: land-lust (7), theocracy (6), the Mayflower (6), the Puritans, “soiled my name” (12), Goody___ (12), “the Fiend” (34), ordained (62), poppets (69), deposition (82), the Gospel (84), “ipso facto” (93), “wash your hands of this” (Macbeth reference), poppet (95), anti-Christ (111)

Content Knowledge and Connections


Students will become aware of the concept of a theocracy and also a paradox. Students will discover the strict religious mindset and values of the Puritans who came to Massachusetts in the 1600s and will explore the role this mindset played in causing their demise. Students will also be exposed to McCarthyism and its impact on 1950s America.

Previous Fishtank ELA Connections

Future Fishtank ELA Connections

Lesson Map


  • “The Lottery” pp. 1 – 3

Distinguish between mood and tone in the first pages of “The Lottery.”

Independently identify and analyze symbols used in “The Lottery."


  • “The Lottery” — pp. 5-end

Finish “The Lottery” and explain how Jackson’s tone serves to underscore the horror of the events in the story.


  • “The Lottery”

Reexamine “The Lottery” for clues early on that hint at the eventual ending. 

Explain theme in a short written response that addresses Checks For Understanding from the previous unit’s test.


  • “Herd Behavior”

  • The Crucible — Act I, pp. 1-7

Explain the herd mentality phenomenon.

Analyze the full setting and explain how the setting helped to create the herd mentality that caused the witch trials.


  • The Crucible — Act I, pp. 7-19

Establish the power dynamics, conflict, and characterization as revealed in Act 1.


  • The Crucible — Act I, pp. 19- top of 24

Characterize the relationship between John Proctor and Abigail.


  • The Crucible — Act I, pp. 24-30

Identify and describe the conflict between the Putnams and the Nurses as developed by Miller in this scene.


  • The Crucible — Act I, pp. 31-38

Characterize Hale and explain what he represents in the play. 

Explain how the role of the Devil has changed in religion over time and explain how the people of Salem viewed him.


  • The Crucible — Act I, pp. 38-46

  • I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem pp. 55 – 63

Explain the difference in perspective and tone between the excerpts from Condé’s book and Miller’s play.


  • The Crucible — Act II, pp. 46-53

Analyze Proctor and Elizabeth’s relationship and identify each of these characters’ tragic flaws.


  • The Crucible — Act II, pp. 53-60 and pp. 60-67

  • “McCarthyism”

Draw parallels between McCarthyism and the events of The Crucible.

Explain events of the rising action and the irony of the situation.


  • The Crucible — Act II, pp. 67-76

Explain John Proctor’s decision to go to the court.


  • The Crucible — Act III, pp. 77-81 and pp. 82-92

Analyze the symbolism of the courtroom and the significance of Danforth.

Track Mary Warren’s changing emotions throughout this scene.


  • The Crucible — Act III, pp. 92-96 and pp. 96-101

Continue tracking Mary Warren’s emotions.


  • The Crucible — Act III, pp. 102-111

Examine Miller’s use of suspense. 

Continue to track Mary Warren’s emotions for open response.



  • The Crucible — Act III

Produce a written analysis of Mary Warren’s changing emotions.


  • The Crucible — Act IV, pp. 112-113

  • I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem — p. 91

Identify and compare perspective in two texts.


  • The Crucible — Act IV, pp. 114-118 and 119-128

Explain Danforth’s motives in this scene and analyze Proctor’s choice.


  • The Crucible — Act IV, pp. 128-end

Explain John Proctor’s tragic flaw.


  • “On Tragedy”

  • The Crucible

Explain what makes The Crucible a tragedy and John Proctor its tragic hero.


  • “Half Hanged Mary”

  • The Crucible

Explain the tone and author’s purpose of specific lines of the poem.

Draw connections to events in The Crucible.



Composition Projects




You need $100 to pay for a student activity fee (for a club, sport, or other extra-curricular activity). There is no prospect of you earning this money, so you are going to have to convince someone to give it to you. You are going to have to ask your audience for a gift of $100. Not a loan – a gift. You cannot lie or make up ridiculous things, but you will obviously need to use some creativity to complete this assignment. You should be trying to actually convince your audience to give you $100. So have fun with this, but get the cash. It’s up to you to decide how much of this information to reveal to the recipient of your letter, but outright lying is not allowed.

Remember: You will need to select a specific audience to whom you will be writing and identify the tone you intend to develop in order to persuade this particular audience. Possible audiences from which to choose: a teacher, a family member, a friend, a classmate, a financial aid organization, the principal, a religious leader, other (please specify).

An effective letter:

  • Effectively establishes a purpose
  • Develops a tone appropriate for appealing to the intended audience
  • Includes precise language and advanced vocabulary


4 days



Use the speech, “Enemies from Within” by Joseph McCarthy as well as your understanding of rhetorical devices to respond in writing to the prompt below.

Analyze the techniques that Senator Joseph McCarthy uses to appeal to the emotions of his audience in his speech, “Enemies From Within.” Use evidence from the speech to support your analysis.

An effective essay:

  • Includes a clear, relevant and unique thesis statement
  • Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Draws relevant evidence to support position
  • Uses precise language and advanced vocabulary


2 days



Both The Crucible by Arthur Miller and Maryse Conde’s novel, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, explore the events of Salem in 1692. Explain the major differences between the two works, making sure to consider tone, perspective and purpose in your response.

An effective essay:

  • Includes a clear, relevant and unique thesis statement
  • Demonstrates clear and logical reasoning
  • Analyzes tone, perspective and purpose
  • Draws relevant evidence from both texts to support position
  • Uses precise language and advanced vocabulary




Use the events occurring at the end of Act 2 and your knowledge of John Proctor’s character to write a narrative in response to the prompt below.

Write a journal entry from the perspective of John Proctor that reflects his thoughts and feelings about the events of the evening recorded on p. 67-76. Use relevant and specific details from the text to develop his perspective.

A successful narrative:

  • Establishes John Proctor’s perspective accurately and in the first person
  • Uses details from the text in order to convey his perspective
  • Uses precise language and vocabulary


2 days



Analyze Mary Warren’s changing emotions during the court scene. Use evidence from throughout Act 3 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller to support your answer.

An effective essay:

  • Includes a clear, relevant and unique thesis statement
  • Describes Mary Warren’s emotions at the beginning and end of Act 3
  • Analyzes how the author conveys these emotions and why Mary is experiencing these emotions
  • Draws relevant evidence from throughout Act 3 to support position
  • Uses precise language and advanced vocabulary


3 days



Using Aristotle’s “On Tragedy,” analyze The Crucible by Arthur Miller and assess how well it fits Aristotle’s description of a tragedy. Include information and evidence from both The Crucible and the Aristotle reading.

A successful argumentative essay:

  • Includes a compelling thesis that previews the arguments to be made
  • Provides a clear and accurate definition of tragedy according to Aristotle
  • Offers multiple accurate examples of the literary techniques that qualify The Crucible as a tragedy OR make The Crucible not a tragedy
  • Uses evidence from both the play and the article to support the analysis
  • Displays evidence of revision

Common Core Standards

Language Standards
  • L.9-10.3 — Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening.

  • L.9-10.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9—10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

  • L.9-10.6 — Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.9-10.1 — Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

  • RL.9-10.2 — Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

  • RL.9-10.3 — Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.

  • RL.9-10.4 — Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

  • RL.9-10.5 — Analyze how an author's choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.9-10.1 — Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9—10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Writing Standards
  • W.9-10.1 — Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

  • W.9-10.10 — Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

  • W.9-10.1.a — Introduce precise claim(s), distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and create an organization that establishes clear relationships among claim(s), counterclaims, reasons, and evidence.

  • W.9-10.1.b — Develop claim(s) and counterclaims fairly, supplying evidence for each while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both in a manner that anticipates the audience's knowledge level and concerns.

  • W.9-10.3 — Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

  • W.9-10.3.a — Engage and orient the reader by setting out a problem, situation, or observation, establishing one or multiple point(s) of view, and introducing a narrator and/or characters; create a smooth progression of experiences or events.

  • W.9-10.4 — Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

  • W.9-10.5 — Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

  • W.9-10.6 — Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology's capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

  • W.9-10.9 — Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

  • W.9-10.9.a — Apply grades 9—10 Reading standards to literature (e.g., "Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work [e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare]").

  • W.9-10.9.b — Apply grades 9—10 Reading standards to literary nonfiction (e.g., "Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning").