"The Crucible" by Arthur Miller, Act One

This scathing dramatization of the Salem Witch Trials is also an allegory of Senator Joseph McCarthy's pursuit of Communists in the 1950s.

Here are the links to our lists for the play: Act One, Act Two, Act Three, Act Four–Echoes Down the Corridor

Here is a link to Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller.

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. inert
    unable to move or resist motion
    His daughter, Betty Parris, aged ten, is lying on the bed, inert.
  2. persecute
    cause to suffer
    He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side.
  3. conceive
    have the idea for
    He regarded them as young adults, and until this strange crisis he, like the rest of Salem, never conceived that the children were anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the sides, and mouths shut until bidden to speak.
    "Conceive" also means "become pregnant" and is suggested in the example sentence's focus on children. This pun (along with the description of Reverend Parris as "a widower with no interest in children, or talent with them") makes the adults of Salem seem hypocritical, since they can conceive children, but cannot conceive of them.
  4. creed
    the written body of teachings of a religious group
    Their creed forbade anything resembling a theater or “vain enjoyment.”
    Compare with the antonymous "incredulous" in the list for Act 4. Both words come from the Latin "credere" which means "to believe" but here, the noun "creed" refers to the religious beliefs of all the Salem inhabitants, while the adjective "incredulous" refers to one person's disbelief.
  5. somber
    grave or even gloomy in character
    Which is not to say that nothing broke into this strict and somber way of life.
  6. ordinance
    an authoritative rule
    That there were some jokers, however, is indicated by the practice of appointing a two-man patrol whose duty was to “walk forth in the time of God’s worship to take notice of such as either lye about the meeting house, without attending to the word and ordinances, or that lye at home or in the fields without giving good account thereof, and to take the names of such persons, and to present them to the magistrates, whereby they may be accordingly proceeded against.”
    As suggested by the sentence structure, "ordinance" and "word" are nearly synonymous nouns--"ordinance" refers to the authoritative rules of the Salem community, which are mostly based on the Puritans' interpretations of the authoritative "Word" of God.
  7. predilection
    a predisposition in favor of something
    This predilection for minding other people’s business was time-honored among the people of Salem, and it undoubtedly created many of the suspicions which were to feed the coming madness.
  8. rankle
    make resentful or angry
    It was also, in my opinion, one of the things that a John Proctor would rebel against, for the time of the armed camp had almost passed, and since the country was reasonably--although not wholly--safe, the old disciplines were beginning to rankle.
    The first part of the definition connects more vividly to the Latin origin: "dracunculus" means "small serpent" and in the eyes of the Puritans, if old disciplines rankle, then that could be because the Devil (often connected to the form of a serpent) is gnawing into a person's flesh and soul.
  9. maraud
    raid and rove in search of booty
    It stood, dark and threatening, over their shoulders night and day, for out of it Indian tribes marauded from time to time, and Reverend Parris had parishioners who had lost relatives to these heathen.
  10. defile
    place under suspicion or cast doubt upon
    So now they and their church found it necessary to deny any other sect its freedom; lest their New Jerusalem be defiled and corrupted by wrong ways and deceitful ideas.
    "Defile" and "corrupt" are used synonymously here, although the slight difference that makes "corrupt" seem a stronger verb can be seen in their Latin roots: "fouler" means "to trample" (and connects to the definition "make dirty or spotty") while "corrumpere" means "to destroy" (compare with "corruption" in this list).
  11. perpetuation
    the act of prolonging or causing to exist indefinitely
    It was, however, an autocracy by consent, for they were united from top to bottom by a commonly held ideology whose perpetuation was the reason and justification for all their sufferings.
  12. repression
    control by holding down
    Evidently the time came in New England when the repressions of order were heavier than seemed warranted by the dangers against which the order was organized.
  13. injunction
    a formal command or admonition
    Long-held hatreds of neighbors could now be openly expressed, and vengeance taken, despite the Bible’s charitable injunctions.
    "Jungere" means "to join"--this Latin root can be seen more clearly in words such as "junction" and "conjunction" but it is hinted at here, since the "injunctions" described are those that are charitable ("showing or motivated by sympathy and understanding and generosity") and that should keep neighbors joined in peaceful harmony. However, similar to "ordinance" in this list, the example sentence focuses on the breaking of commands and rules.
  14. dissembling
    pretending with intention to deceive
    He is bending to kneel again when his niece, Abigail Williams, seventeen, enters--a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling.
  15. apprehension
    fearful expectation or anticipation
    Now she is all worry and apprehension and propriety.
  16. abomination
    an action that arouses disgust or abhorrence
    Now then, in the midst of such disruption, my own household is discovered to be the very center of some obscene practice. Abominations are done in the forest--
  17. snivel
    whining in a tearful manner
    She hates me, uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave. It’s a bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!
  18. begrudge
    allow unwillingly or reluctantly
    With ill-concealed resentment at him: Do you begrudge my bed, uncle?
    "Begrudge" and "resent" can be synonymous verbs, and both parts of the definition are used here: Abigail wishes ill upon (resent) her uncle, because she thinks he might allow unwillingly (begrudge) the bed in his house on which she sleeps.
  19. corruption
    moral perversion; impairment of virtue and moral principles
    They will howl me out of Salem for such corruption in my house.
  20. blatant
    without any attempt at concealment; completely obvious
    He undoubtedly felt it poor payment that the village should so blatantly disregard his candidate for one of its more important offices, especially since he regarded himself as the intellectual superior of most of the people around him.
  21. vindictive
    disposed to seek revenge or intended for revenge
    His vindictive nature was demonstrated long before the witchcraft began.
  22. corroborate
    support with evidence or authority or make more certain
    So it is not surprising to find that so many accusations against people are in the handwriting of Thomas Putnam, or that his name is so often found as a witness corroborating the supernatural testimony, or that his daughter led the crying-out at the most opportune junctures of the trials, especially when--But we’ll speak of that when we come to it.
  23. intimation
    an indirect suggestion
    I have spoke nothin’, but my heart has clamored intimations.
  24. formidable
    inspiring fear or dread
    Goody Ann, it is a formidable sin to conjure up the dead!
  25. trepidation
    a feeling of alarm or dread
    Abigail, with hushed trepidation: How is Ruth sick?
    Compare with "apprehension" in this list--both states of mind refer to Abigail, and on the surface, suggest that she's worried about her cousin and friend's health. But the phrasing of the question here hints at Abigail's more selfish concern, because her focus is not on how sick Ruth is, but on how Ruth got sick, which could be traced back to their improper activities in the forest.
  26. partisan
    an enthusiastic supporter of some person or activity
    Proctor was a farmer in his middle thirties. He need not have been a partisan of any faction in the town, but there is evidence to suggest that he had a sharp and biting way with hypocrites.
  27. calumny
    an abusive attack on a person's character or good name
    In Proctor’s presence a fool felt his foolishness instantly--and a Proctor is always marked for calumny therefore.
    Compare with "defamation" in this list--although the chosen definitions are identical, the tone in which each word is used is very different. Here is a serious description of Proctor's character and a foreshadowing of a plot point with the alternative definition ("a false accusation of an offense"). But in speaking to Giles, Proctor is jokingly accusing his friend of accusing him of defamation.
  28. titillate
    excite pleasurably or erotically
    Mercy Lewis, both afraid of him and strangely titillated: I’d best be off.
  29. canny
    showing self-interest and shrewdness in dealing with others
    Giles Corey, eighty-three, enters. He is knotted with muscle, canny, inquisitive, and still powerful.
  30. exude
    make apparent by one's mood or behavior
    Rebecca walks across the room to the bed. Gentleness exudes from her.
  31. arbitrate
    act between parties with a view to reconciling differences
    He was called upon to arbitrate disputes as though he were an unofficial judge, and Rebecca also enjoyed the high opinion most people had for him.
  32. iniquity
    morally objectionable behavior
    To top it all, Mrs. Putnam--who is now staring at the bewitched child on the bed--soon accused Rebecca’s spirit of “tempting her to iniquity,” a charge that had more truth in it than Mrs. Putnam could know
  33. defamation
    an abusive attack on a person's character or good name
    Proctor, familiarly, with warmth, although he knows he is approaching the edge of Giles’ tolerance with this: Is it the Devil’s fault that a man cannot say you good morning without you clap him for defamation?
  34. inculcation
    teaching or impressing upon the mind by frequent instruction
    when we see the steady and methodical inculcation into humanity of the idea of man’s worthlessness--until redeemed--the necessity of the Devil may become evident as a weapon, a weapon designed and used time and time again in every age to whip men into a surrender to a particular church or church-state.
  35. enthrall
    hold spellbound
    The Catholic Church, through its Inquisition, is famous for cultivating Lucifer as the arch-fiend, but the Church’s enemies relied no less upon the Old Boy to keep the human mind enthralled.
  36. propitiation
    the act of placating and overcoming distrust and animosity
    I have no doubt that people were communing with, and even worshiping, the Devil in Salem, and if the whole truth could be known in this case, as it is in others, we should discover a regular and conventionalized propitiation of the dark spirit.
  37. licentious
    lacking moral discipline
    We have all manner of licentious people in the village!
  38. blanch
    turn pale, as if in fear
    Parris, blanched: She called the Devil?
  39. exaltation
    a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion
    Hale, with rising exaltation: You are God’s instrument put in our hands to discover the Devil’s agents among us.
  40. enrapture
    hold spellbound
    She is enraptured, as though in a pearly light.
    Compare with "enthrall" in this list--although the given definitions are identical, the Middle English "thral" means "slave" and emphasizes the effect of a belief in the Devil. In Medieval Latin, "raptura" means "ecstasy" and in Latin, "rapere" means "to seize"--both connect to the Christian idea of Rapture, when the saved are caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord. Here, Abigail is dissembling, but she is convincing enough to enrapture her observers.

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