Explain how dramatic tension is built up in this act, paying particular attention to the main characters, historical context and Miller’s stage directions. The action of the play is based on an historical event (and those events can be related to what goes on in the world today), the Salem witchcraft trials and hunts which took place in Massachusetts in 1692. But Miller author notice the drama has more recent parallels with the anti-Communist witch-hunts in the mid 1950s which was ran by the Un-American activities Commission.
In a contemporary context, you could see similarities with the recent media witch-hunts against a number of conspicuous figures from the worlds of politics, business, sport and show business. Arthur Miller has used unique techniques in Act 3 to build up dramatic tension with various climax points. Act 3 is the act where all the little things the characters have said and done come together. Through the use of dialogue, stage directions which enable us to envisage the scene on stage and characterisation we can see how dramatic tension is created by Miller which can not be easily accomplished in true-life play at that time.
Act 3 starts with an empty stage, but voices can be heard, there is no visual sighting of the characters. The audience can hear Hathorne, Martha Corey, Danforth and Giles. The tension then rises as they are in the anteroom of the general court; you cannot see the actors, but can only hear them. The stage direction is off stage (a roaring goes up from the people) this makes the audience think, what will happen next and that’s one of Miller’s ways of keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. The dialogue that goes on in the anteroom plays with the audience’s feelings.
In the speech rhetorical questions are used along with repetition to create sympathy, anger and worry. Judge Hathorne is questioning Martha Corey regarding witchcraft, he also implies this by using rhetorical questions that Martha would find difficult to answer “How do you know, then, that you are not a witch? ” This sort of question couldn’t be proved in anyway those days so Martha knew trouble was coming her way. Her husband Giles then comes to submit evidence to the court to prove his wife is innocent, but being the high court they do not allow anyone to come in and interrupt the session.
This then brings sympathy on Martha and the audience realise that. The scene then continues with Mary Warren who is a character of weak determination who allows herself to be bullied constantly. She is not an evil person, but her weak will combined with her desire to be someone in the Salem community forces her into a situation in which she does harm to other people. She attempts to stand up to her main pressure, Abigail Williams, but her lack of resolve undermines this effort and leads to the climax. She arrives with john Proctor (Elizabeth’s husband) and they back up the story of the girls being imposturous.
Why this is said, is because many people including Johns wife is on trial and John and the rest of the village know this isn’t true. This adds to dramatic tension when all is to be said in court. Also Mary is accused of lying now to the Judge or she was previously lying in court and this would but her in jail, but works her way out of it by saying she now belongs to God. Parris desperately tries to stop their testimony because he is Betty’s father and she was involved along with Abigail who is Parris’ niece.
There is tension in Parris’ eyes and he cannot allow this issue to turn to him or any member of his family (remembering he is a Reverend) . Parris then tries to divert the issue of the girls being fakes to Proctor being possessed by the devil, and this seems a shock and Parris tries to back this up by saying Proctor never goes to church on Sunday and that his baby hasn’t been baptised; then this turns the minds of the audience as they think Proctor is the one who has the Devil inside of him.
It now seems as if Proctor has kept a secret and has now been exposed, but Proctor defends himself by saying ‘I – I have no love for Mr Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love. Proctor receives news from Danthorth saying Elizabeth sent him a claim stating she was pregnant (if Elizabeth is to be found guilty, they cannot hang her whilst she is carrying an innocent baby, so she has at least a year). Of those accused, three were Rebecca Nurse (accused by the Putnams for the supernatural murder of Mrs.
Putnam’s babies), Martha Corey (for supernaturally cursing a man so that all the pigs he bought would die), and Elizabeth Proctor, John’s wife accused by Abigail of using a doll to supernaturally give her a stab wound in the stomach. But Mary was the one who left the dolly at the Proctor’s home and sewing needles where found in it; this affects the audience has they know what has happened and this makes the audience have sypathy for Elizabeth. ***
With Abigail being accused of pretending and manipulating all the girls (the girls follow Abigail because they are uneducated), all the main characters: John, Abigail, Mary and the girls are called to the high court. With John, Abigail, Mary facing Danforth tension is built up as we all think the truth has to come out now. Abigail denies all allegations and claims Mary was lying. This is also Abigail’s chance to get goody hung, by claiming those puppets were hers and she was the one who stuck needles; but Cheever and John both claim she only had puppets when she was a child.
Mary also added the puppet that was found was hers. Proctor then brings up the sighting Parris saw in the woods at night (the girls dancing naked) and Hale supports John on that. All attention is on attention the focused on Parris, but just like before he denies seeing them naked. Again Parris tries to divert the limelight to Mary by telling her to faint if she the girls were pretending. With Mary being timid she cannot do it and to the audience they see the possession of the devil being true as she cannot deny it by fainting, this is one of the climax points in the act.
Abigail has vengeance in her eyes; she feels Mary has betrayed her. ‘I – I know not. A wind, a cold wind, ahs come’ (her eyes fall on Mary Warren) Abigail yet again pretended that there was evil spirits coming after her and the girls, but this time they were coming fro Mary. The Girls play a big part in this as they act and feel what Abigail is supposedly feeling but no one knows they have been manipulated, and the tension the bring to the scene is extraordinary and that affect Miller has given the play changes the view of the audience constantly.
The judge tells Mary to stop, but she can’t because she is not doing it. At this point Mary is seen as the criminal, and John Proctor then steps in shouting ‘Whore, Whore’ silence hits the caught, he confesses his affair with Abigail (lechery leads to imprisonment), this has now twisted everything. Elizabeth is then called into the high court; John who is not allowed to make eye contact with Elizabeth hopes she can say the same thing. ‘Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher! ‘- exclaims Danforth, ‘No sir!! ‘ replies Elizabeth.
She is then removed from the court, John shouts to Elizabeth ‘I confessed it’ at this point John is seen as a liar, ‘She only thought to save my name’ – John tries to explain. Abigail screams along with the girls insisting there are evil spirits after the in the court room, Mary is begging them to stop it. The girls then flee to the side of the court room screaming the devil is coming. All this acting by the girls has yet again manipulated Mary and she turns the blame on John. This is because fear runs everyone’s life and blaming and accusations are taken advantage of.
‘You’re the Devils man’ John is stopped in his tracks by that remark made by Mary. The technique Miller has used in this act has created unbelievable tension and twists. Mary runs to Abigail saying she would never hurt her. Danforth asks proctor what you are. ‘I – say I – say – God is dead! ‘ ‘A fire, a fire is burning! I hear the boot of Lucifer, I see his filthy face! And it is my face, and your, Danforth! For them that quail to bring men out of ignorance, as I have quailed, and as you quail now when you know in all your black hearts that this be fraud – God damns our kind especially, and we will burn, we will burn together! ‘