Centre for Continuing Education

HSC English Standard & Advanced Preparation Course - Common Module: 'The Crucible'

HSC English. The smart way to prepare for your HSC.

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This HSC English preparation course focuses on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (first performed 1954) for the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences.

The new one-day course will review the context, content and structure of the play in relation to representation of individual and collective human experience. Related issues include contradictions and paradoxes in human identity, and how literature can challenge assumptions and ‘ignite new ideas’.

The review of the play begins with context: Miller’s response to McCarthyism and the Cold War period is both a modern tragedy set back in the period of the witchcraft trials in Salem in 1692, and a warning against political hysteria about Communism and a failure of freedom in America in the 1950s. Initial discussion focuses the ‘historical analogy’, its pros and cons and relevance to the present.

Analysis of the story of John Proctor and his wife and Abigail explores the play as a representation of individual and collective experience with a focus on politics and religion, sex and marriage, collective instability and corruption, and individual responsibility. Analysis of selected passages explores Miller’s commentary about public order versus individual freedom; his view of political history; authority and questioning of authority, including religion and politics like religion (with Proctor); and making choices in a time that seems tragic and apocalyptic.

Comparison to selections from other texts further encourages personal responses about individual and collective human experience – The Crucible is a play that is extremely confrontational and well suited to encourage students to challenge assumptions and explore new ideas.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • analyse and discuss The Crucible in relation to the concept of ‘textual integrity’ including context, narrative, structure, themes, literary style, key words and motifs
  • analyse and discuss The Crucible as a representation of individual and collective human experience, in particular, as a modern tragedy that presents an historical analogy about politics and religion, and Cold War America in the 1950s McCarthy period and the Salem witchcraft trials of the late seventeenth century
  • analyse and discuss the wide range of connections between The Crucible and individual and collective human experiences and identity, including pubic order and individual freedom, and protest against tradition and authority (as with Proctor)
  • make informed and personal connections between key experiences and themes in The Crucible and the present, including Proctor, his wife and Abigail; pessimism; and self-interest and corruption.


  • Critical study of The Crucible as a complex text in relation to the concept of textual integrity, including narrative and genre, context and meaning, with attention to the form of modern tragedy.
  • An overview and analysis of selected passages from The Crucible in order to encourage students to challenge assumptions and explore new ideas about individual and collective human experience in confrontation with the pessimism of the play. The selected passages focus Miller’s view of political history; his commentary about public order and individual freedom; the power and danger of reading books (Giles Corey and his wife); self-interest and corruption (as with the minor characters); Proctor’s defiance of religion and authority; and Proctor’s final significance as a tragic hero.
  • Group discussion about selected critical comment, related texts and NESA examination material to enhance independent student critical responses that make connections between the play and the present, and between the play and other texts and their own writing.

Intended audience

HSC English Standard and Advanced students studying Arthur Miller’s The Crucible for the Common Module: Texts and Human Experiences.

Delivery style

Small classes. Lecture and workshop style. Group discussion for interactive exploration of the text and informed personal student responses.


You will be provided with a course booklet (electronic copy). Please bring along your own copy of the text.

Bring your own device

You are required to bring your own device (Windows or Mac) and a power chord. Please ensure your device is fully charged as access to power is limited.

Please note that University does not carry any responsibility for your lost, stolen, or damaged devices whilst on the University premises.


NESA English Advanced Stage 6 Syllabus (2017)
EA 12-1, EA 12-2, EA 12-3, EA 12-4, EA 12-5, EA 12-6, EA 12-7, EA 12-8, EA 12-9

Getting Through Your HSC: A Practical Guide

While you progress through this journey and also the conclusion of your schooling life, we know you’ll have a lot on your mind – exams, future study, careers – but remember, while keeping focused on these bigger goals and aspirations, it’s also important not to forget your own health and well-being.

For tips on staying motivated and keeping focused, dealing with anxiety, keeping healthy, relaxation, pre-study exercise and more, read our article Getting Through Your HSC: A Practical Guide.


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