Examine the end of act one in ‘The Crucible. ‘ Consider its importance of this scene to the rest of the play and analyse how Miller makes it dramatic. ‘The Crucible’ was written in 1952 by the twentieth century American playwright Arthur Miller (1915-. ) Miller was born in New York and educated at the University of Michigan where he began to write plays. Most of Miller’s plays are set in contemporary America and on the whole offer a realistic portrayal of life and society and the theme of self-realization is re-current e. g. John Proctor in ‘The Crucible’.
‘The Crucible’ was the third play Miller wrote. It is a play about the Salem Witchcraft Trials of 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. It was used as a parable for McCarthyism in America in the 1950s. Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’ has recently been made into a hugely successful film that stars Hollywood actress Winona Ryder showing its enduring themes. The play concentrates on key figures of the trials: Abigail Williams, Mary Warren, John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor and Reverend Samuel Parris. These were all real people trapped in the devastation of the time.
The disturbing storyline powerfully depicts people under pressure and certain issues involved, Senator Joseph McCarthy; an important figure in the USA in the 1950’s is mentioned somewhat in ‘The Crucible. ‘ For instance; a certain similarity between the Salem Witchcraft Trials and McCarthyism was the fact that they both failed to make a plausible case against anyone, both their colourful and cleverly presented accusations drove people out of their jobs (and in ‘The Crucible’) and their towns and brought popular condemnation to others.
The persecution of innocent souls is apparent in both Senator Joseph McCarthy’s work and of ‘The Crucible. ‘ McCarthyism was when all left wing views were arraigned for un-American activities during the 1950s. ‘The Crucible’ has much strength, its main and most imminent being its deeper meaning relating to America in the 1950s. The play explores the themes of witchcraft, the struggle between good and evil and a fear of individuality. At the end of Act One Reverend Hale of Beverly, an authorative on witchcraft arrives at Reverend Parris’s house.
He is trying to awaken Betty from her bed, as she has not woken since Parris caught Betty and some other girls from the wood with Tituba, Parris’s Negro slave. The atmosphere is tense due to the fact the scene is taking place in the dark, upstairs room of Betty’s bedroom. Its homely state and the close proximity of the characters add suspense and tension. The locals have no explanation for Betty’s behaviour other than that she is bewitched. More local disturbances were likely to be blamed on witchcraft, and the hunt for witches began.
The community in Salem was all Puritan settlers who had fled from persecution in England and hoped to have found a city of souls. The town was deeply religious as a result of a close relationship between the church and the law, it was, in fact a theocracy. Betty’s supposed bewitching would have become very prominent within the village and struck terror into the very core of such a community. Hale begins the scene with suspense. His persona is re-iterated as a brave and fearless man when he alarms the audience with the words, ‘if the Devil is in her you will witness frightful wonders in this room.
‘ He scares Mr. Putnam and asks him to stand close in case she flies. Witches were believed to have certain powers that were given to them by their master: the Devil. It was believed that they could make themselves invisible, or change themselves and others into animals, birds or other creatures, and that they could fly. The audience immediately expects a climax to the act, tantalised by the prospect of Hale now casting out the Devil. We watch breathlessly as Hale observes her. Hale is authorative towards Betty and concentrates fully on trying to wake her. Tension increases.
Parris breaks the atmosphere of suspense, which once again expresses his insecurity of his good name and reputation. This theme is demonstrated throughout the play. ‘How can it be the Devil? Why would he choose my house to strike? ‘ His fear of reputation and a despairing plea is reinforced and Hale cleverly answers Parris’s queries. This demonstrates Hale’s strength of belief in the evil plague. ‘It is the best the Devil wants, and who is better than the Minister? ‘ The audience immediately is taken aback by Hales quick intelligence. Strangely however, Hales words are nai??
ve because there are many people within the village who are better than the Minister. Hale uses these words as alleviation. Hale believes it is more of a conquest for the Devil if he uses Parris’s house to strike, Parris is somewhat flattered. Hale continues to thoroughly examine Betty and as briefly mentioned before on page thirty-one, ‘The Devil is precise: the marks of his presence are as definite as stone. ‘ He asks Betty is someone afflicts her. There is a speculation that Hale is putting ideas into the young girl’s heads. He questions Betty and enquires, ‘perhaps some bird invisible to others comes to you- perhaps.
‘ A little further on in the play, when the girls are being interrogated in court, they declare that a yellow bird- invisible to others, if flying nearby. (Page 74) Holding his hands out, Hale undertones in Latin, the phrase, ‘In nominee Domini Saboath sul filique ite ad infernos. ‘ The effect on the audience is awe and the characters are bewildered because of the fact that no-one actually knows what he has just said. Although, as a result of his action this reflects on the character of Hale, and the fact that he has a very scientific and religious approach to an issue which is moral and about the soul.
You can therefore relate Hales behaviour to that of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s in American court cases. Betty does not stir. His attention is drawn to the vigilant Abigail. He is quite severe towards Abigail and his eyes ‘narrow. ‘ The atmosphere becomes oppressive. Facts are revealed gradually and Parris admits he saw a kettle in the grass where they were dancing. The concise conversations between Abigail, Hale and Parris become quick and short utterances, due to the severity of the case. Hales questions have become more explicit as he has become more impatiently suspicious.
Miller now increases the tension with the speed of the dialogue between Abigail, Hale and Parris. There are very few stage directions required during this particular scene because the action is carried purely through the language. Abigail is clearly thinking on her feet, with hesitant pauses in between words particularly evident. Hale puts more ideas into Abigail’s head and suggests a frog, a mouse or perhaps something else jumped into the kettle that was found by Parris. Parris fearfully remembers he thought he saw ‘some movement in the soup.
‘ Jumping to her defence Abigail screams, ‘that jumped in, we never put it in! ‘ She does this because she knows that good evidence to show that something was moving in the kettle could produce a suspicion of witchcraft leant upon her. Jumping to her defences in such a way could make an opposite reaction to what she wants and Hale may think that the way she is carrying out this investigation is very belligerent and aggressive. She would not want to be thought of as that because it could make her look even more suspicious.