Miller uses effective craftsmanship to structure his play. He uses climax and resolution well in order to captivate his audience. Act 1 begins in total silence with Parris kneeling in prayer; this implies tranquillity and calmness. However throughout the act the climax builds resulting in total hysteria from Abigail and the girls. Again just as Act 1, Act 2 begins in silence only this time with John and his wife Elizabeth Proctor, sat either end of a long dinner table. It is as if Miller is allowing time to reflect upon the previous action, by creating serenity.
Act 4 however is totally converse to previous acts. Act 4 begins with a quiet conversation which lads into the courtroom later in the act. Within Act 4 is the final court scene where John Proctor is taken away to hang; unlike the climax at the end of each act, Act 4 ends in calmness as Elizabeth is resigned to what is going to happen to her husband: this enables the audience to empathise with Elizabeth. The serenity which begins and ends Act 4 enables the audience to have a final reflection time.
The staging of the court scene is an effective use of symbolism; the fact that they use a separate room instead of the actual court, shows how our own country keeps us in the dark just as they portray in the play, they also show us how information is believed more when it is produced from a more respected citizen. The Crucible was written in the 1950’s however is set in the 17th century. The social context of the play is 1950’s America, where the Cold War was taking place. The American population was strongly in fear of communists.
With the Soviet Union rapidly growing fear of communism also elevated. With hysteria of the spreading Soviet Union, many Americans were scared that communism would take over. This hysteria spread very similar to the witch hysteria in Salem. Like the events in Salem, people were being accused of being communists, Millers Crucible opened at the height of McCarthyism showing the dangers of spreading false hysteria: Miller chose to use the Salem witch trials to portray McCarthyism as he believed that they were both results of spreading hysteria in search of a scapegoat.
Miler chose to portray his feelings as an allegory (a story told by another story) as he wanted to raise social awareness about the circumstances Senator John McCarthy was forcing people to live under without being arrested. McCarthy led the witch-hunt by persecuting the accused and forcing them to give names in order for them to be released. It is clear that the allegory is so powerful as it is still taught and performed today; meaning we learn Millers point over and over again.
The reason for McCarthy’s persecutions was that communists believed in a classless society meaning people such as McCarthy would lose power and money. McCarthy disagreed that America should be like Cuba where Castro had declared them a communist society. John Lennon’s song Imagine tells the story of a communist society where everyone is equal. Because of Millers craftsmanship striking parallels can be drawn with the 1692 witch-hunt and 1950’s McCarthyism trauma both historically as well as socially.
The historical context of the play is 17th century New England where the puritan religion was in strong force. Puritans believed that from birth one was already predestined to either heaven or hell. Patriarchal beliefs that puritans held in the community added further stresses to people’s everyday lives. Men believed that women should be totally subservient to men, hence all of the cleaners in The Crucible (Mary Warren, Abigail and Tituba) all being women. Another puritan belief is that children should be seen and not heard, however this is totally converse to the play where
“The children are jangling the keys to the kingdom” It is clear in the play that the puritan lifestyle strongly affects the society in Salem. Small town mentality makes living by the same rules more of a chore than a belief. In relation to the world today it is clear that America is still an autocratic society. Misinformation is also a similarity to Salem and our own country today, the subject of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq sent many of our friends and families to their own death, all because of serious consequences of misinformation.
The events of Salem can be referred to as a paradox to what one might have expected from God-fearing people such as the puritans, it is this which mainly pivots the happenings in Salem. In relation to the controversial goings on in the play, critics such as Moss elaborate on the themes of hysteria “His subject was mass hysteria: what its social and psychological consequences might be… ” and reputation “John accepts the greater humiliation of confessing… since he has already blackened his name by publicly admitting adultery… Indignation… compels
him to salvage self respect” “How may I live without my name? ” The fact that critics have explored the themes emphasises to The Crucible’s audience the major foundations to the play: this enables the audience to delve further into the plays meaning, and even empathise with characters such as John and Elizabeth. In conclusion to my essay I believe I have learnt the major connections to three different centuries. All 17th, 20th, and 21st centuries have strong connections and similarities in light of scapegoats, misinformation, and even incorrect accusations.
For example in the17th century innocent people were hanged, in the 20th century innocent people were falsely imprisoned and in the 21st century innocent people were sent to war for others conflicts: some were killed. Because of all of this I feel even more strongly about people telling the truth than before I became familiar with The Crucible. From The Crucible I have learnt a lot about past and present society. The thing which mainly stands out is the continuous spreading of false hysteria.
In the past 4 centuries many ‘plagues’ of hysteria have spread resulting in a variety of suffering: such as the mental and physical suffering of those in Salem and those associated with the McCarthyism era. The Crucible can be used as a good lesson for us all based on the grounds that lying comes with serious consequences, evident in the play. In my opinion I believe Millers message to be very clear, it is as if he is emphasising the effects of lies and misinformation and also the severity and damage these can lead to.