I am comparing the two plays ‘The Crucible’ and ‘Little Malcolm And His Struggle Against The Eunuchs’. Arthur Miller wrote ‘The Crucible’ in 1953, at the time of McCarthyism. ‘Little Malcolm’ was written by David Halliwell in 1964. ‘The Crucible’ was set before it was written; however ‘Little Malcolm’ 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.
‘Little Malcolm’ was both written and set in 1964. The play is light hearted at the beginning, but during the scene we are performing, the plot takes on a more sinister turn. It is said that the idea came from when Halliwell was expelled from art school himself, however in his case he was allowed to return after a week, when his parents discussed the matter with the principal; this clearly does not happen in ‘Little Malcolm’. The idea of the plot is loosely based upon the rise of Hitler; he wasn’t taken seriously when he began his rise to power, but his charisma and powers of persuasion allowed him to achieve his aims. It is also based on the ‘hollowness’ of the 1960s protest movements, to show the futility and the idea that the characters have big plans, but ones which they can’t feasibly execute.
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.
In ‘Little Malcolm’, the play is centred around Malcolm Scrawdyke, a disruptive Art student in Huddersfield, Yorkshire. He is expelled from art school for his disruptive influence, so forms his own political party, the ‘Party of Dynamic Erection’ with his three friends Wick Blagdon, Irwin Ingham and Dennis Charles Nipple. Malcolm brands everyone who opposes him, especially the principal of the art school, a ‘Eunuch’.
At first, they are confident that students across the nation will hurry to join them. They decide that their first revolutionary act will be to humiliate the principle of the Art college, and the first Act of the play is a series of set pieces in which the students plan their attack. While this begins as an hilarious set of scenes, it gets darker as the play progresses; Malcolm shows himself to be power-mad and deluding during the scene which we are performing; he says to Wick that he wants power for sadistic purposes, ‘purely for its own sake’, then declares Nipple dead simply for being too clever to fit in and follow orders.
This scene is quite ironic, as Malcolm calls Nipple ‘deluded’, ‘mad’, and a ‘fantasist’, which is clear hypocrisy; of the group, Malcolm is the least realistic, and is clearly a fantasist. In the scenes which follow, Malcolm’s infatuation with Ann Gedge takes a darker turn, when he orders his cronies to beat her up with him, purely for a personal sense of power, to build up his self-esteem. As the play transpires, Malcolm’s acolytes abandon him, as they are more realistic than him. He is then left alone to plot one final fruitless plan, in a desperate attempt to recover a part of his original ideas.