Throughout the history of mankind, the misapplication of power, marring of souls has been a part of life. Human emotion is a major factor in prejudice, politics and persecution in modern day. Persecution can be defined in many ways, but no matter how it is defined it is a tragic event. The Crucible is a play set in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, written by Arthur Miller in 1953. It is based on the calamitous, witch trials of Salem, at which two young girls deceitfully accused a slave, Tituba of witchery.
As a result callous accusations flew from every direction in the town resulting in almost two-dozen innocent men and women hanged and many more jailed. The extract I am studying lays the foundations for the rest of the play, upon which the story line is built on. It is in the first act and comprises the first three pages of the play. The excerpt shows the audience the first lies told in the play by Abigail “It were a sport, uncle” Betty Parris is still unconscious and is thought to be possessed by spirits. Abigail is denying any suspicion of her conjuring spirits.
She is opposing against her uncle, saying he has mistaken himself of what he saw in the forest, ‘ You mistake yourself uncle. ‘ Her Uncle Rev Parris is determined to get to the bottom of this fiasco, due to the fact that his place in society is at stake, and his daughter’s life is at stake. From the passage we can see some light shed on the characters. These characteristics stick with each of them throughout the play. The two main characters in the extract are Abigail Williams and Rev Parris. The first act establishes the primary characters of the play who instigate the Salem witch trials.
Each has his particular obsessions and motivations that drive him to push for the trials. The first and perhaps most reprehensible of these characters is the Reverend Samuel Parris, a man who symbolises the particular quality of moral repression and paranoia that characterise these trials. Miller immediately establishes Parris, as a man whose main concern is his daughter, for whom he shows little emotion. It is Tituba who shows more concern for Betty Parris” My Betty be hearty soon? ” , than her father who rules this household.
When he discusses finding Abigail and Betty dancing in the woods, his concern is not the sin that they committed, but rather the possibility that his enemies may use this sin against him “.. for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it. ” Parris will manifest a sharp paranoia concerning enemies, even when they may not exist. The particular quality of Parris that renders him dangerous is his strong belief in the presence of evil; even before the witchcraft paranoia, Procter indicates that Parris showed an obsession with damnation and hell in order to strike fear into his parishioners.
With the seeming presence of witchcraft in Salem, Parris now has a concrete, physical manifestation of the evil he so fears. Abigail is a seventeen-year-old niece of Rev. Parris. She is malicious, caniving and a vengeful girl, who in an attempt to protect herself from punishment, instigates the Salem Witch trials and leads the charge of accusations. We see in the excerpt, that Abigail has no real regret of conjuring up spirits and will persevere to any lengths to discharge her name of witchcraft.
She uses techniques such as ‘sympathy’, and ‘acting’ to address the matter brought up by Rev. Parris. These two techniques are emphasised throughout the play during Abigail’s time in court and while talking to John Procter and the jury. Reverend Samuel Parris is depicted as weak, paranoid “Do you understand that I have my enemies? ” and suspicious in the extract. He instigates the witchcraft paranoia when he finds his daughter and niece dancing in the woods with several other girls. Parris as a result is continually beset with fears that others conspire against him.
We see that in the extract even though he ironically does not believe Abigail about doing dancing and witchcraft “I saw it! “,, he perpetuates all deception due to the fact that it is in his own self interest. This does show us the audience, that Rev Parris is not trustworthy as, if he can hide such a sinister thought of such from the community, he maybe holding many others, just to keep as Reverend of the town. From the characters in this play, I feel Arthur Miller does want the audience to create abstract ideas from them.
One character in particular, which is not mentioned in the extract, but is an influential character in the play is John Procter. I feel Miller uses The Crucible to express his views on what was happening in America when the play was written in 1950’s. The ‘Red Scare’ was result of Senator McCarthy wanting to receive public attention, through an anti-Soviet Campaign which searched for people working among others that believed in communist views or someone who might know of such a person became a common act. This crusade itself was based upon non-existent claims that some workers were communists.
The hunting down and persecuting of supposed communists were a mere attempt to increase Senator McCarthy’s political base. But just like Abigail Williams, his grip on the situation soon crumbled, leaving him disturbed and dishonoured. Arthur Miller engages the audience to a large extent, by toying with their emotions and allowing the audience to think about historical context of the play. For example at the end of each act Miller draws the curtain on the girls’ firing frenzy and false accusations of witchcraft against many women in Salem.
Leaving the audience with climax at the end of each act enhances the play to be like a soap opera. This ensures that the audience gets deeper and deeper into the storyline. I feel, for a director to produce this play on stage is a huge task. Climatic scenes would have to be dealt with carefully to keep the audience interested, and the detail of the characters thought carefully to produce the full effect of this play. An extract such as the one given to me has to be analysed and such things as, lighting, sound, music, and actor look have to be taken in mind if the extract is to be produced successfully.