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.

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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


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

Key Knowledge

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 Crucible — Act I, pp. 19- top of 24

Characterize the relationship between John Proctor and Abigail.


  • The Crucible — Act II, pp. 67-76

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


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

Continue tracking Mary Warren’s emotions.



  • The Crucible — Act III

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


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

Explain John Proctor’s tragic flaw.



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

Core Standards