I am comparing the two plays ‘The Crucible’ and ‘In The City’ (3rd part of ‘Barbarians’). Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible in 1953, at the time of McCarthyism. ‘In the City’ was written by Barrie Keefe in 1977. ‘The Crucible’ was set before it was written; however ‘In The City’ was set around the time it was written. ‘The Crucible’ is set in 1692, Salem, Massachusetts. There is a general theme of suspicion, as the Salem witch trials were what was happening at the time, and show how the suspicion and superstition led to constant accusations and harsh punishments. This idea stemmed from the original stimulus of the McCarthy communist persecutions, as does the idea of ‘naming names’ to get off the hook.
It was written as an allegory; Miller would not have gotten away with writing a play openly on the political affairs of the time, due to censorship laws. He himself had been in front of the ‘House of Un-American Activities Committee’ (H.U.A.C.), an organisation who demanded that anyone who had attended a communist meeting had to name anyone who they had seen there. This is shown when Betty and Abigail are saying ‘I saw… with the Devil’. Another likeness is the strict Puritan morals of 1692, and strict American morals in 1953. The ‘Aliens Act’ was an issue at the time, an anti-immigrant law made by President Truman.
‘In The City’ was both written and set in 1977. The historical event that the play involved was the war in Ireland, showing how truly horrific it was, Jan being used to get this point across. In 1977 racism was a big issue, and this is what the play is based around. It also shows distinction between different levels of classes, as although Louis is working-class, Paul and Jan see him as above them because he got ‘all the breaks’.
The morality of Paul is shown, as he is a violent, racist man. He is quite happy to hospitalise Louis just for laughing at him, showing partially the morals at the time of a select few. It is designed to shock the audience. While ‘The Crucible’ is about respectability, keeping ‘a good name’ etc., ‘In The City’ is more about the boundaries between classes and races. These boundaries are supposedly broken at the carnival, shown in Louis’s speech, but Paul doesn’t appear to care about this. ‘The Crucible’ was written more about how unjust the government was, however in complete contrast ‘In The City’ is showing injustice from the other end of the spectrum, the working class.
The plot in ‘The Crucible’ centres around accusations of witchcraft. It begins with the idea of the girls dancing naked in the woods, shown when Parris is discussing them. The next key point is when Betty is ‘possessed’ so Reverend Hale is called to ‘exorcise the Devil’. It is then revealed that Abigail was dismissed from John Proctor’s service by his wife, as she was having an affair with John. Abigail and Betty then both begin to ‘name names’. In the next act, it transpires that there are 17 people condemned to hang for witchcraft, and that the Proctors are having a tough relationship due to John’s affair.
Hale arrives to question them both, and towards the end Elizabeth Proctor is arrested. In the next act, the trial takes place. The girls pretend that Mary Warren is bewitching them, and the Judges seem to be won over by it. John, trying to defend Mary at first, ends up being accused due to Mary Warren naming him. He goes wild at the trial and ends up claiming to be a witch. Rebecca Nurse is condemned to hang, and John Proctor will be set free. After refusing to sign his confession, a lie, he is hanged. John Proctor is a strong character, a peasant farmer, and loyal to an extent. Elizabeth Proctor is a weak character, who doesn’t feel girls should have so much power to hang people.
Reverend Hale is a sympathetic, defensive, determined character who becomes desperate as the play progresses. Danforth is a strong character; almost merciless, not prepared to buckle under the pressure of what was going on in court and is occasionally angry. Abigail Williams is a strong, threatening, character. She is imposing, intimidating, manipulative and commands a lot of power.