A crucible is defined as "a vessel made of a refractory substance such as graphite or porcelain, used for melting and calcining materials at high temperatures" or "a severe test or trial."1 This play, being based on the Salem Witch Trials, obviously fits in well with the second definition. To compare the title to the first definition would be less obvious and more psychological. Many of the characters are, in a way, crucibles of their own, being tested by "heat" from the trials and the mass hysteria. They are brought to their "melting points."
John Proctor was a prime "crucible" in this play. John needed to put a stop to his affair without hurting anyone. He had to not only receive forgiveness from his wife, but also from himself. His involvement in the trials, defending others, and eventually being accused himself, was a major source of pressure from the community. After being wrongly accused of witchcraft, he needed to choose to defile his good name or be sent to the gallows. In the end, I would say that he died not only with dignity, buy also with the knowledge that he knew the difference between right and wrong during such trying times. As Thomas Paine said, "These are the times that try men's souls." This is a very accurate description of what John Proctor was going through during "The Crucible." He had many things he needed to decide, and most of them required him to think about what he should do.
Elizabeth Proctor was as well a "crucible" because she had the choice of lying about her husband's adulterous relationship with Abigail Williams or telling the truth. Her love for her husband, the demands of the court, and her own beliefs, forced her to lie in the court, eliminating all evidence John had while challenging the court and the honesty of the plaintiffs. I believe that her lie helped others to condemn John more easily. Abigail Williams, one of the most morally corrupt in the play, was a "crucible" in the sense that she was able to control the events around her. Unfortunately, her jealousy and utter disrespect for life not only fed the hysteria, but also helped create it from the tensions of the Salem citizens.
Reverend Hale was an example of a "crucible" because it seemed as though he could not survive the "heat" of the trials. Later in the play, it is made apparent that he is a sensible man and can remain rational even during times of severe testing or trial. I would say that Reverend Parris was the worst example of a "crucible" because he was a very austere and boring man. He was easily swayed by the crowd, only stopping to think how a situation could benefit him.
Today, our modern "crucibles" are the people in society who hold up strong against peer pressure and the pressure to give in to the majority. Some of our political leaders are under extreme pressure right now, and I think it is becoming very obvious that some leaders are "crucibles", and some are not. For me to be a "crucible", I need to stand up for my beliefs, religious and ethical, and I would need to be my own person. Setting good principles and standing by them is an excellent way for anyone to be a true "crucible."