The word Crucible means pot, which is used for heating a substance or material in order to remove the baser elements. Usually chemists and goldsmiths use this pot in order to obtain precious metals in their pure form. Figuratively, it also signifies the severe system and situation. In this sense the title The Crucible is quite apt and relevant to the play. A title is like the signboard of a shop, as the signboard reveals what is the material available at the shop, similarly a good title helps the reader to judge the themes and concerns of the play.
In a religio-political situation like that depicted in the play, there can be nothing more testing and difficult for a poor illiterate individual. The existing legal system of Salem makes the vengeance awfully easy. A sweeping accusation can throw a person into destruction. Judges, as well as, prosecutors are as superstitious as the people of that area. A shrewd person can easily get rid of his enemies by simply accusing them of witchcraft. An extorted confession is an easy thing. Nobody bothers or investigates that whether the accusation is true or false. So the figurative meaning of Crucible is justified by its crucial story.
The literal meaning of this word is a large pot used by the witches in which they add dirty and obnoxious ingredients of devilish recipe, while boiling, its vapors or steam invokes the evil spirits. In the play we find Abigail with her friends in the woods where they have a kettle in which they are adding ingredients dictated by Tituba, a black servant of Parris. Here we may imply that Salem is symbolically represented as a crucible where we find the development of intrigues, scheming and cheating is at its boiling point. It is the greatest hype of the town.
The most significant explanation of its title is that John Proctor experienced the heat of severe and hard moments, which resulted in to his purgation. While facing the toughest time of his life he emerged as a better and purified individual whose morality somewhat improved.
The course of the events narrates that Abigail on the accusation of being infidel and impure has resigned from her job. This experience embitters her and determines her to take revenge over her insult. She accuses Elizabeth of being involved in witchcraft. The only option left for Proctor is to confess of his adultery with Abigail but in this disclosure his own good name will be at stake. Proctor has to make choice between the two hard possibilities; one is to save his wife and proclaim himself as leacher, while on the other hand leave his wife. Proctor went for the first, but his confession was ironically nullified by her faithful wife. The situation became grim and he was forced by the Reverend to confess that his adultery was a result of witchcraft worked upon him by others. At first Proctor agreed to it but the pricky conscience leave him not so. At last he made up his mind to give up his life as a martyr in the name of his integrity.
Arthur Miller has appropriately named it The Crucible because John Proctor achieved perfection at the end by leaving behind all the vice and shortcomings of his character. In this play there are implications to the political situation of America, as well. It also symbolizes the struggle from which Americans gained democracy out of communism.
The Crucible is a social satire, a criticism on the negative behaviors out of which at last the positivity was born but the things were never easy; people have to give their lives to achieve a prosperity and betterment not only in their characters but also in the society.
The Crucible is a play of sufferings and hardships resulting into improvement, enlightenment and perfection. A man is never entirely good or completely bad. He is a fusion of these two elements. There is an inclination towards evil but with the process of life, a man or even a nation is distilled from the impurities. In the terms of man, Proctor gives away his life to attain a spiritual rest; he left a good name behind him and preferred to die than to live in meanness. The final decision of Proctor is approved of and appreciated by his beloved wife, who saw it as a thing which lacked in his personality will now illuminate him more than ever.
Having examined the title of the play for various angels we conclude that The Crucible is an apt title for the play. It fits the theme and the action.