|Written by||Arthur Miller|
Reverend John Hale
Reverend Samuel Parris
|Date premiered||January 22, 1953|
|Place premiered||Martin Beck Theatre, New York City|
|Subject||Salem witch trials, McCarthyism|
The Crucible is a 1953 play by the American playwright Arthur Miller. It is a dramatized and partially fictionalized story of the Salem witch trials that took place in the Province of Massachusetts Bay during 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote the play as an allegory of McCarthyism, when the U.S. government blacklisted accused communists. Miller himself was questioned by the House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities in 1956 and convicted of "contempt of Congress" for refusing to identify others present at meetings he had attended.
The play was first performed at the Martin Beck Theater on Broadway on January 22, 1953. Miller felt that this production was too stylized and cold and the reviews for it were largely hostile (although The New York Times noted "a powerful play [in a] driving performance"). Nonetheless, the production won the 1953 "Best Play" Tony Award. A year later a new production succeeded and the play became a classic. It is a central work in the canon of American drama.
The Reverend Parris, watching over his sick daughter Betty, is wondering what is wrong with her. We soon learn that the entire town is buzzing with rumors that Betty is sick because of witchcraft. Rev. Parris had seen both Betty and his niece Abigail dancing in the forest with his slave, Tituba, the night before. That evening in the forest, he also saw Tituba waving her arms over a fire, a dress in the grass, and someone naked running through the trees. When first questioned, Abigail denies that she or Betty have been involved in witchcraft, but she admits that they were dancing in the forest with Tituba. Abigail lives in the Parris household because her own parents are dead. She used to live at the home of John and Elizabeth Proctor, but they asked her to leave for some mysterious reason.
When another couple, Thomas and Ann Putnam, arrives at the Parris household, they admit that they actually consulted Tituba, hoping she could conjure up the spirits of their seven dead offspring. They wanted to find out why all seven died so soon after childbirth. To Reverend Parris’s horror, the Putnams emphatically state that his slave Tituba consorts with the dead. The Putnams’s only living daughter, Ruth, is now struck by a similar ailment as Betty Parris, and this obviously has the Putnams up in arms.
When the minister and the Putnams are out of the room, Abigail threatens to harm the three other young girls in the room if they speak a word about what they did in the forest with Tituba.
John Proctor comes to see what is wrong with Betty. He confronts Abigail, who says that Betty is just pretending to be ill or possessed by evil spirits. As Proctor and Abigail have this conversation, it becomes clear that the two of them had an affair while Abigail worked in the Proctor household and Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, was ill. Abigail tries to flirt with Proctor, but he firmly tells her that their relationship is over. Abigail blames Elizabeth for his behavior, and tells him that they will be together again someday.
Reverend Parris and the Putnams return, and soon, the Reverend Hale arrives at the Parris home. Hale is a famed witch expert from a nearby town. Suddenly, in front of Reverend Hale, Abigail changes her story and begins to suggest that Tituba did indeed call on the Devil. Tituba, surprised at this accusation, vehemently denies it. But when Rev. Hale and Rev. Parris interrogate Tituba, under pressure she confesses to witchcraft, and fingers several other women as “witches” in the village, including Sarah Good and Sarah Osborne. While Tituba and Abigail are accusing women in the town, several other young girls, including Mary Warren (who now works in John Proctor’s household) follow Abigail’s lead and begin accusing other women as well.
Proctor and his wife Elizabeth mourn that their own household helper, Mary Warren, is caught up in the frenzy of accusations. Elizabeth is afraid. They know that Abigail is behind these accusations, and Elizabeth urges Proctor to go to town and reveal that Abigail basically said it was all a hoax. Elizabeth makes an allusion to the affair Proctor had with Abigail, and catches him in a lie – he told her he was not alone with Abigail at the Parris home, but in fact he was. Proctor, irritable and defensive, complains that Elizabeth still doesn’t trust him and never will again, even though he has been a good husband for the last seven months since Abigail left.
Young Mary Warren returns to the Proctors’ house, exhausted from her day assisting in the trials. Proctor reprimands her for being away all day – after all, he declares, Mary is paid to help Elizabeth in the household and has been shirking all of her duties. Mary states that her work in the courts is of great significance; and, with an increased air of importance, Mary insists that she no longer should be ordered around by John Proctor. In a lighter moment, Mary gives Elizabeth a poppet (doll) that she stitched during the day – but, after heightened tension between Mary and Proctor, Mary claims she saved Elizabeth’s life because Elizabeth’s name came up in the trials that day.
When Mary goes to bed, Elizabeth says she has known from the beginning that her name would come up. She tells Proctor that he needs to set things straight with Abigail. He committed adultery with her – and having sex with a woman, Elizabeth says, is tantamount to giving that woman “a promise” – an implicit promise that the two lovers will be together permanently some day. Elizabeth says Proctor must break this promise deliberately. Proctor becomes angry, and again accuses his wife of never forgiving him for his indiscretions.
At this inopportune moment, Reverend Hale arrives. He is going around investigating the people whose names have turned up in the trial. Several other figures from the court show up. They are looking for proof of Elizabeth’s guilt, and inquire about any poppets in the house. Elizabeth says she has no poppets other than the one that Mary gave her that very day. Upon inspection, Mary’s doll is shown to have a needle stuck in its center. As it turns out, earlier that day, Abigail Williams claimed to have been mysteriously stuck with a needle, and accused Elizabeth Proctor of being the culprit. Though Mary does identify the doll as hers, the men cart Elizabeth Proctor off to jail anyway, against the angry protests of Proctor.
Act III opens in the courtroom, where Salem citizens Giles Corey, Francis Nurse, and John Proctor have come to try to interrupt the proceedings. All three have had their wives taken away on accusations of witchcraft. Giles Corey says that some of the accusations have been made so that greedy townspeople can get their hands on the property of those accused. Francis Nurse has brought a signed declaration of the good character of Goody (Mrs.) Corey, Goody Nurse, and Goody Proctor. Ninety-one people have signed it.
In addition, John Proctor brings his household girl, Mary Warren, to confess that she never saw the Devil and she and the other girls have been pretending all this time. When Abigail Williams and the other girls are brought out and confronted with this, they turn on Mary Warren, accusing her of witchcraft. The tension in the courtroom peaks. Proctor tries to put an end to the hysteria by admitting the truth: that he committed adultery with Abigail Williams, who is a liar and an adultress – and this proves that she cannot be trusted.
Abigail denies the accusation of adultery. To uncover the real story, Danforth decides to bring out Proctor’s wife Elizabeth from jail. Since Proctor insists that his wife Elizabeth will not lie, then her confirmation, or denial, of the adultery will set the record straight – and thus affirm Abigail Williams’ credibility, or lack thereof. Before publicly asking Elizabeth about the adultery, Danforth orders both Proctor and Abigail to turn around, so their facial expressions are not visible to Elizabeth. Because Elizabeth does not want to condemn her husband, she lies and says he is not a lecher. Danforth proceeds with the hearings, claiming the adultery to be untrue. Danforth sends Elizabeth back to prison as Proctor cries out, “I have confessed it!”
Reverend Hale, shaken, tells Danforth that he believes John Proctor, and asserts that he has always distrusted Abigail Williams. At this, Abigail lets out a “weird, wild, chilling cry” and claims to see a yellow bird on a beam on the ceiling, shrieking that it is Mary Warren threatening her with witchcraft. The other accusers follow Abigail’s lead and Mary Warren breaks down and joins them once again. In hysterics, Mary lies and says that John Proctor has been after her night and day and made her sign the Devil’s book. Proctor is arrested and taken to jail. Reverend Hale, mortified, denounces the court and walks out.
Act IV opens in a Salem jail cell. It is the day when Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor are to be hanged. Both have resisted confessing up to that point, but Rev. Hale – previously unseen at the court since Proctor’s arrest – is trying to encourage their confession. Even though he knows their confession would be a lie, he wants to save their lives. Rev. Parris is also trying to get them to confess, but that’s because he wants to save his own life: since the trials began, Parris has received some not-so-subtle threats to his life. To make matters worse, Abigail has fled, taking all of Parris’s money with her.
Since Proctor went to jail, over one hundred people have restored their lives by “confessing” to witchcraft, but the town is in shambles. There are orphans, cows wandering all over the place, and people bickering over who gets whose property.
Judge Hathorne and Danforth call upon Elizabeth, still imprisoned, to talk to her husband to see if she can get him to confess. When Elizabeth finally agrees to speak with Proctor (who has been in the dungeon, separated from the other accused), the married couple finally gets a few private moments alone in the courthouse. In these warm exchanges, Elizabeth says she will not judge what Proctor decides to do, and affirms that she believes he is a good man. While Elizabeth will not judge Proctor, she herself cannot confess to witchcraft, as it would be a lie.
Proctor asks for Elizabeth’s forgiveness, and she says he needs to forgive himself. Elizabeth also says she realizes she had been a “cold wife,” which might have driven him to sleep with Abigail. She asks him for forgiveness and says she has never known such goodness in all her life as his. At first, this gives Proctor the determination to live, and he confesses verbally to Danforth and Hathorne.
But Proctor cannot bring himself to sign the “confession.” Knowing that the confession will be pinned to the church door, for his sons and other community members to see, is too much for Proctor to bear. Moreover, he will not incriminate anyone else in the town as a witch. He believes it should be enough to confess verbally and to only incriminate himself. When the court refuses this, Proctor, deeply emotional, tears up the written confession and crumples it. Shocked, Rev. Hale and Rev. Parris plead with Elizabeth to talk sense into her husband, but she realizes that this is, at last, his moment of redemption: “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” And so he goes to his death. The curtain falls as we hear the drum beat just before John Proctor is hanged.
Characters (in order of appearance)
- Reverend Samuel Parris
- Parris is the minister of Salem's church, disliked by many residents because of his greedy, domineering personality. He is more concerned about his reputation than the well-being of his sick daughter Betty. He is also more concerned about his missing niece, Abigail Williams, and the money taken by her, than for the lives of the dead and condemned on his conscience. His niece and daughter were the first to accuse others of witchcraft, and he owned the slave, Tituba, the first to be accused of witchcraft.
- Tituba is Reverend Parris's slave. Parris seems to have owned and purchased her in Barbados back in his time as a merchant. She cares for the children and prepares a potion for the girls to get the guys they like, Abigail wants to kill Elizabeth Proctor for John Proctor. Additionally, she attempts to raise the spirits of Ann Putnam's dead children. During the first scene of the play, she is turned in by Abigail and responds by claiming that four women in Salem are witches. She is not seen again until the final scene of the play taking place in the jail. By this point the events have troubled her to the point that she is haunted by hallucinations and hysteria – Both she and Sarah Good are driven mad, and are not mentally well.
- Abigail Williams
- Williams is Parris' 17-year-old niece and the play's antagonist. Abigail was previously the maid for the Proctor house, fired by Elizabeth after her discovery of Abigail's affair with her husband, John. Abigail and her uncle's slave, Tituba, lead the local girls in love-spell rituals in the Salem forest over a fire. Rumors of witchcraft fly, and Abigail tries to use the town's fear to her advantage. She accuses many of witchcraft, starting first with the society's outcasts and gradually moving up to respected members of the community. Finally, she accuses Elizabeth Proctor, believing that John truly loves her and not Elizabeth. Abigail wants Elizabeth out of the way so that she and John can marry. John says that Abigail "hopes to dance with me upon my wife's grave." She is manipulative and charismatic, attacking anyone who stands in her way. She flees Salem during the trials and, according to legend, becomes a prostitute in Boston.
- Susanna Walcott
- Susanna is a nervous and hasty girl, a little younger than Abigail and she participated with Abigail, Betty, Mercy and Mary in the ritual in the woods. She works for Dr. Griggs.
- Ann Putnam
- Ann Putnam is the wife of Thomas Putnam. She has one daughter, Ruth (also known as Ann Putnam, Jr.), but has "laid seven babies un-baptized in the earth." Ann is accusatory and harsh to many, but also very hurt by the deaths of her babies.
- Thomas Putnam
- Thomas Putnam lives in Salem village and owns a bit of land close to Giles Corey. Giles accuses him of trying to steal it, and says that Putnam got his daughter to accuse Giles' wife of witchcraft. This possibility is strongly supported by the play, and thus Putnam is one of the play's true villains because of his resentments toward others and tendency to use it to advance himself.
- Betty Parris
- Elizabeth "Betty" Parris is the ten-year-old daughter of Reverend Samuel Parris and is the first to become ill after being "bewitched". She accuses Abigail of drinking blood to kill Elizabeth Proctor.
- Mercy Lewis
- Servant to the Putnams and one of the girls caught in the woods with Abigail and Betty by Reverend Parris. She is described as being "a fat, sly, merciless girl of eighteen." She and the other girls browbeat Mary Warren into silence about what she saw in the woods in Act I. In Act III, she and the other girls claim to be under the influence of Mary Warren's spirit, which causes them to see and feel various phenomena. She escapes Salem with Abigail.
- Mary Warren
- Mary Warren serves as housemaid for the Proctors after Abigail Williams. She is a lonely girl who considers herself an "official of the court" at the beginning of the trials. John Proctor is shown to sometimes abuse her and hit her with a whip. She nearly confesses that she and the other girls were lying about witchcraft until the other girls pretend that she is sending out her spirit to them in the courtroom. This event, which could have led to her death, propels her to accuse John Proctor of witchcraft, stating that he forced her to lie about herself and the others.
- John Proctor
- John Proctor is a down-to-earth, forthright farmer and the play's protagonist. He has a sexual relationship with Abigail Williams while she is a servant at his farm. Although he speaks his mind and stands up to Parris, he has no wish to be a martyr and he is careful about what he says when he senses real danger. He does show courage and boldness in his opposition to Parris and Putnam and he fiercely resists the arrest of his wife. Proctor is cautious when it comes to denouncing Abigail, particularly when his wife, claiming to be pregnant, is not in immediate danger. However, he feels he owes it to his accused friends to expose Abigail as a liar. He works hard to build a defense for those accused and manages to persuade Mary Warren to tell the truth, but this success is short-lived. As a last resort, he suffers the public shame of confessing to his adultery with Abigail to no avail. In prison, he eventually confesses so that he can live with and care for his family, but finally he decides to die rather than lose his good name and admit to witchcraft; he thus refuses to confess. He does this for the sake of his children's reputation and because Elizabeth and others have refused to confess. He will not deny himself. He has doubted his ability to be a good man so far, but with Elizabeth's example and support he realizes he can be true to himself and accept death.
- Giles Corey
- Giles is a friend of John Proctor who is very concerned about his own land. He believes Thomas Putnam is trying to take his land and that of others by convincing the girls to accuse Giles' wife of witchcraft. Giles gains this information from an anonymous man whom he will not name, as he knows that the man would be put in prison if he did. He is subjected to being pressed by stones when he refuses to plea "aye or nay" to the charge of witchcraft. The character of Giles Corey is based on a real person. Giles' wife, Martha, is executed because of the witchcraft accusations. It is unusual for persons to refuse to plead, and extremely rare to find reports of persons who have been able to endure this painful form of death in silence, as explained in the following quote from Elizabeth Proctor:
- "He were not hanged. He would not answer yes or no to his indictment; for if he denied the charge they'd hang him surely, and auction out his property. So he stand mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm. It is the law, for he could not be condemned a wizard without he answer the indictment, aye or nay."
- From this it is obvious of Giles' reason for holding out so long against so much pain: As long as he did not answer yes or no, his children would be able to keep his estate. Whether this was for his children's sake or to spite Thomas Putnam's greedy obsession with buying up land is arguable. The play supports both possibilities.
- Rebecca Nurse
- Rebecca Nurse, wife of Francis Nurse, is highly respected in Salem for her helpful nature. Very firm in her opinions, and willing to make any sacrifice in the cause of truth, she voices her opposition to the idea of witchcraft. Near the end, she is accused of being a witch on the prompting of the Putnams, who are jealous of her good fortune.
- Reverend John Hale
- Hale is a well-respected minister reputed to be an expert on witchcraft. Reverend Hale is called in to Salem to examine the witchcraft trials and Parris's daughter Betty, who has fallen into a mysterious illness after being discovered participating in the suspect rituals. He originally believes that there are witches in Salem and advocates the trials, but later realizes the widespread corruption and abuse of the trials, and struggles to convince accused "witches" to lie by confessing and live, rather than to tell the truth and die.
- Elizabeth Proctor
- John Proctor's wife, and a resident of Salem. She is accused of witchcraft, and is only saved from death due to the fact that she is pregnant. Abigail hates her for being Proctor's wife, and for keeping Proctor's heart. By the end of the play she feels that Proctor's affair is due to her own faults, much to Proctor's dismay. By the end Elizabeth chooses not to save John's life and allows him to hang saying she would not take away his goodness.
- Ezekiel Cheever
- An astute yet weak character; his most important appearance is in the Proctor household where he denounces Elizabeth Proctor for witchcraft, regarding the poppet (doll) which was placed in the Proctor house to make it appear that Elizabeth was practicing witchcraft against Abigail Williams. His reason is clouded by the authority of Salem for whom he works. He used to be friends with John Proctor, but when the accusations started, he quickly turned against his friends and their family who were accused of witchcraft. He tells Danforth that Proctor sometimes plows on Sundays and that Proctor missed church often. He acts as a scribe in Act 2 of The Crucible, and in some interpretations of the play, he hangs Proctor. The character is based on the actual son (with the same name) of Ezekiel Cheever, the famous schoolmaster and author of Accidence: A Short Introduction to the Latin Tongue.
- George Herrick/John Willard
- Herrick was the Marshal of Salem and in the play is responsible for bringing the defendants before the court. He is a sympathetic character, advising Deputy Governor Danforth of Proctor's good character and becoming friendly with the accused witches that he guards. Some productions name the character John Willard, a reference to constable John Willard who came to disbelieve the allegations and refused to make any further arrests. He himself was then arrested, charged with witchcraft and hanged.
- Judge John Hathorne
- The presiding judge over the Salem Witch Trials. Cold, ignorant, antagonistic, he constantly denies any new developments regarding the events in Salem Village. Hathorne could also be considered the "hangin' judge" of the era, wishing only to see people suffer. His only real moment of emotion in the play occurs in the final scene, where he appears almost joyful that Proctor considers confessing for a crime he didn't commit, this going along with his personality.
- Deputy Governor Thomas Danforth
- Mr. Danforth is a pretentious and selfish judge, who is extremely loyal to the rules and regulations of his position. Seen by Miller himself as being the true villain of the piece, he described him as thus in a New York Times article: “...[t]he rule-bearer, the man who always guards the boundaries which, if you insist on breaking through them, have the power to destroy you. His ‘evil’ is more than personal, it is nearly mythical. He does more evil than he knows how to do; while merely following his nose he guards ignorance, he is man’s limit.”
- Public opinion and his acute adherence to the law are most important to him. He seems to secretly know that the witch trials in Salem are all a lie yet will not release any of the prisoners because he is afraid of being viewed as weak and having his theocratic reputation undermined. When Proctor knowingly defies his authority by refusing to lie and sign a public confession saying that he is guilty of witchcraft and accusing others, Danforth, outraged at having his power undermined, immediately sentences him to hang along with the other prisoners, including Rebecca Nurse.
Janet Alexander — Betty Parris
Jacqueline Andre - Tituba
Fred Stewart – Rev. Samuel Parris
Madeleine Sherwood – Abigail Williams
Barbara Stanton – Susanna Walcott
Jane Hoffman – Mrs Ann Putnam
Raymond Bramley – Thomas Putnam
Dorothy Joliffe – Mercy Lewis
Jennie Egan – Mary Warren
Arthur Kennedy — John Proctor
Jean Adair — Rebecca Nurse
Joseph Sweeney — Giles Corey
E. G. Marshall — Rev. John Hale
Beatrice Straight — Elizabeth Proctor
Graham Velsey – Francis Nurse
Don McHenry – Ezekiel Cheever
George Mitchell — Marshall Herrick
Philip Coolidge – Judge Hathorne
Walter Hampden — Deputy-Gov. Danforth
Adele Fortin – Sarah Good
Donald Marye – Hopkins
The production directed by Jed Harris and produced by Kermit Bloomgarden.
2002 Broadway revival cast:
Liam Neeson – John Proctor
Laura Linney – Elizabeth Proctor
Brian Murray – Deputy Governor Danforth
John Benjamin Hickey – Reverend John Hale
Christopher Evan Welch – Reverend Parris
Angela Bettis – Abigail Williams
Tom Aldredge – Giles Corey
Stephen Lee Anderson – Hopkins
Kristen Bell – Susanna Wallcott
Laura Breckenridge – Girl in Courtroom
Jennifer Carpenter – Mary Warren
Betsy Hogg – Betty Parris
J. R. Horne – Judge Hathorne
Patrice Johnson – Tituba
Sevrin Anne Mason – Mercy Lewis
Paul O'Brien – Thomas Putnam
Jeanna Paulsen – Ann Putnam
Frank Raiter – Francis Nurse
Dale Soules – Sarah Good/voice of Martha Corey
Helen Stenborg – Rebecca Nurse
Henry Stram – Ezekiel Cheever
Jack Willis – Marshal Herrick
In 1953, the same year the play had its debut, Miller wrote, "The Crucible is taken from history. No character is in the play who did not take a similar role in Salem, 1692."  This statement does not bear close scrutiny. Miller seems to have made both deliberate changes and accidental mistakes. Abigail Williams' age was increased from 11 or 12 to 17 (though others from the group of early accusers were 17). Most egregious from an historian's point of view, Miller seems to have confused Danforth with Stoughton. Both were subsequent Deputy Governors, but Stoughton was the strong and forceful leader of the trials and ally of Cotton Mather.
In the 1953 essay "Journey to The Crucible", Miller writes of visiting Salem and feeling like the only one interested in what really happened in 1692. However, in fact, a long line of historians had gone before Miller attempting to record and tease apart the complexities of what took place at Salem, and certain battle lines had long before been drawn: Calef vs. Mather; Upham vs. Poole, sceptics or scholars vs. the faithful and the religious establishment. Miller's imaginings were largely plausible and his work is true in spirit—the court proceedings were, if anything, wilder and more histrionic than depicted—but Miller's changes and haphazard scholarship seem lamentable, given the squabbling that has long taken place over various interpretations of the numerous details and facts.
Many of Miller's characters were based on people who had little in the public record other than their statements from the trials, but others survived to expand, recant, or comment on the role they played at Salem, including jury members, accusers, confessors, and judges. Parris issued his first in a series of apologies November 26, 1694 and was removed from his position in 1697. In 1698, Hale finished composing a lengthy essay about Salem that was reprinted by Burr in 1914.
Language of the period
The play's action takes place 70 years after the community arrived as settlers from Britain. The people on whom the characters are based would have retained strong regional dialects from their home country. Miller gave all his characters the same colloquialisms, such as "Goody" for good wife, and drew on the rhythms and speech patterns of the King James Bible to achieve the effect of historical perspective he wanted.
The word "crucible" is contextually defined as a container in which metals or other substances are subjected to high temperatures. Each character is metaphorically a metal subjected to the heat of the surrounding situation. The characters whose moral standards prevail in the face of death, such as John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, symbolically refuse to melt. "Crucible" could also refer to the literary technique in which characters are placed in an inescapable situation and forced through conflict.
||This article possibly contains original research. (June 2014)|
The play was first adapted for film as The Crucible (1957) (also titled Hexenjagd or Les Sorcières de Salem), a joint Franco-East German film production by Belgian director Raymond Rouleau with a screenplay adapted by Jean-Paul Sartre, and by Miller himself as The Crucible (1996), the latter with a cast including Paul Scofield, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Winona Ryder. Miller's adaptation earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Screenplay based on Previously Produced Material, his only nomination.
The play was adapted by composer Robert Ward as an opera, The Crucible, which was first performed in 1961 and received the 1962 Pulitzer Prize for Music and the New York Music Critics Circle Citation.
The play has been presented several times on television. One notable 1968 production starred George C. Scott as John Proctor, Colleen Dewhurst (Scott's wife at the time) as Elizabeth Proctor, Melvyn Douglas as Thomas Danforth, and Tuesday Weld as Abigail Williams. The RSC stage production, seen in London's West End in 2006, was recorded for the V&A Theatre & Performance Department's National Video Archive of Performance.
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: The Crucible|
- The Crucible at the Internet Broadway Database
- The Crucible (1957 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Crucible (1996 film) at the Internet Movie Database
- The Crucible at the Internet off-Broadway Database
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