The Crucible is a play based on a true story set in the 17th century, about a closely-knit community in Salem, Massachusetts which from the accusations of girl â€“ Abigail Williams â€“ led to a witch hunt all over the town which ended up having over half of the town hung and the other half set free because they agreed when they were called witches but ‘wanted to repent their sins’.
Arthur Miller wrote Crucible in the mid 20th century as a parallel to the ‘witch hunt’ against communists and people with left wing views led by senator McCarthy in the 1950s. This involved making anyone with anything near to communist views made unemployable so that America wasn’t ‘taken over’ by communism.
Because this play very strongly conveyed Miller’s views about McCarthyism at that time it was not able to be performed in theatres in America when it was first ready as any educated member of the audience could unravel the parallels that Miller made.Order now
In any play there are three things that can be determined by the play write apart from the script: the stage directions, the set, and the lighting. Miller has given directions very specifically on all three of these so that the play looks near to exactly as he first envisioned it to be and to keep the tension in the play working as it should.
Throughout the play there are times where there is a lot of tension, uncertainty and drama. This helps to “suspend the belief” of the audience and keep them interested in the play. The main contributor to this build up is John Proctor whose quirky remarks and strange choices lead to the whole play becoming a bigger drama than any audience might have first thought.
From even before the play has started John Proctor made a choice that was thought of to be very taboo â€“ having an affair with Abigail. In the play, Abigail is 16. Although quite a young age to be running off with a middle-aged man was not as young as the real documents told: she was really 12, but in the 1950’s the audience, no matter how educated would not have been able to cope with the story line of a 12 year old girl going and sleeping with a middle aged man so the dramatist changed the age to 16.
After this early and disgraceful choice he continues to push the boundaries by choosing not to go to church. Since this was a Puritan and Quaker community the thought of not going to church would make many people cry blasphemy. But Proctor had a good reason, which was that he hated the way the Reverend Parris ran the ceremony. Not going set him aside as rouge and because of this conflict Proctor had with religion he increased the tension, as this is how the majority of tension is created in a play.
He next makes a big decision to end his relationship with Abigail so to try to patch up his marriage and to try to start over. But Abigail doesn’t take to this very well and accuses Proctor’s wife of being a witch. Being his wife, the drama can thrive on the conflict within John and the conflicts he has focusing on this topic with both Abigail and Elizabeth. The conflict due to the now unrequited love of Abigail towards John led her to be more cunning and in her determination, comes a greater factor of tension and uncertainty into what she will do next.
The decision that really increases the uncertainty is the decision Elizabeth â€“ John’s wife â€“ makes to protect her husband over telling the truth. John previously said to the Danforth “she have never lied”. Therefore when asked whether John had an affair with Abigail â€“ earlier making it obvious that she knew of it â€“ the audience expects her to say yes because she had never lied in her life, but to make the tension climax Miller makes her say no, which to an audience that had never seen the play before would shock, and enthral them at the same time.
The main tension and drama building decision made by John Proctor is in Act 4: after being put in jail for not admitting to being a witch when accused, Danforth comes to see John, to supposedly set him free. All John has to do to be freed and not go to be hung on that very same day is to sign a piece of paper that says he admits to being a witch. Despite being advised by the comforting and wise Reverend Hail, he will not give Danforth the signed document. “But it’s my name!” He makes a conscious decision to keep his self-respect, which is what a ‘hero’ in most stories and plays tries to achieve.
By giving them the sheet of paper he would have signed his life away to a lie, this was something he could not do. Even after his wife forgave him for everything he did and apologised for everything she did to make him feel bad and then told him “whatever you will do it is a good man that does it” which would mean to her that she wouldn’t care if he gave in to them. Despite all of this he puts all he can into maintaining his dignity and not giving in. He only told the truth and because he kept his name, even though he was hung he leaves the play having the audience on his side.
Along with the choices there are some very subtle things that Miller uses to add to the atmosphere of the play. Firstly the language used predominantly in the play is colloquial language of the 17th century Quakers. This makes the characters much more realistic as the language they use is common with where they are and of the time. It also helps to show just how familiar everyone is with everyone living in Salem and that because of this anyone could be accused next. All Abigail needed to do was figuratively pull a name out of a hat, and accuse that person.
But this type of language is not used in all parts. In the courtroom scene 3 the language changes to a much more formal version of this same dialect, mainly because of the presence of the judges who lived in another town and were unknown by the majority of people. Therefore the tension can build up more easily but since it is in a courtroom the people are unable to take the step onwards to climax this tension and so it just increases throughout the scene.
Using the technique of conflict, Miller successfully created a drama with unexpected plot twists and betrayal that needed a basis of a true story to help it along with making believable characters and a believable witch hunt. Being a great contributor to the excitement that the play bring John Proctor is an essential character who drives the tension, drama and uncertainty in the play and when doing what is the right thing, he shows the audience that any person can change. He is just one example of a great character changing his morals.