Continuing the theme of humanity and its behaviour, I believe the following events to be true to that. It is strange that in a play that revolves around its religious puritan upbringing, it also lacks a certain amount of Christian/Satanic or general imagery or symbolism. I would say that in comparison to a play such as Macbeth which relies on its disturbing imagery to convey the involvement of dark forces with the plot, The Crucible uses the reactions and actions of human beings to essentially shock the audience with as opposed to bold and obvious imagery.
The preceding actions of the girls is but a taste of the weak human nature that will to some degree be the ruination of the innocents of Salem: the inert readiness to speak out against those who will miss use power and authority to a larger agenda, is the collective attitude that will allow silence to manipulate the village’s fate. The tension is released as the anger and madness dies, but the atmosphere is left with a slight air of detectable pessimism as the girls (including Mercy,) leave with no attempt to rectify with Proctor anything he may have heard or stay for Abigail’s sake- (“I’d best be off, I have Ruth to watch.”) Instead they leave apologetically and sheepishly, I quote- ‘[Mercy sidles out.]’
Now that the stage is rid of the bulk, only the strong figure of Proctor, a slightly hidden Abigail and mute Betty remain. The scope is quiet, the audience surges with anxiety, as we are now fully aware of the extent of Abigail’s character and her master schemes for both characters on stage. The stage directions quote- ‘[Abigail has stood as though on tiptoe, absorbing his presence, wide-eyed. He glances at Betty on the bed.]’ The scene is perfectly set, almost waiting for Abigail to pounce.
The remainder of the scene has only dramatic effect in the two character’s direct speech and actions. It is the dramatic effect of the language in the dialogue that develops the characters for the benefit of the audience as history repeats- “You’re surely sportin’ with me.” The flirtatious attempts of Abigail do nothing but reveal the nature of their relationship. Proctor’s character is used in the first act and indeed second as a pawn, a strong male presence that conjures up history, friction and feelings between a variety of characters.
In this quote, Proctor’s reply demonstrates their current familiarity, as he obviously feels his would be rude answer appropriate in her case, which suggests history and the blunt coldness of his words suggests a tainted one- “You know me better,” This is used to great dramatic effect as this quote is an example of what classes this scene a ‘complication.’ The revelations between the two characters and the audience displays I theorize that in this epitome, a play like The Crucible has numerous complications, which take the severity of the actual complication (the witch hunts,) to a higher level. For example the threat of being accused by one villager is but trivial when the accusation of attempted murder through witchcraft of which Elizabeth and Proctor are fully aware leads to trial, is brought to their knowledge. This accusation of attempted murder is one complication that mounts to a highly climatic and tragic demise.
The heated and often dark references that Abigail uses are incredibly direct and delivered with a force that might suggest these are situations that are in need of persuasion. Not only the dramatic tension created by her choice of tactics, but the very level of desperation and inner naivety of the character that results in juvenile actions is incomprehensible! The confusion behind the ‘seemingly innocent’ Abigail is astounding and her unpredictability creates tension as the audience realises the precarious nature of the play when Abigail is involved.
The next scene I will analyse simply overflows with emotion, brought out through the character’s ordeals. Elizabeth is featured here, wife of Proctor and the other half of an unhappy marriage. Their struggles seemed to begin and end with ‘that harlot,’ once again Abigail is at the centre of insular turmoil. Leading up to this scene, we have seen a troubled and excluded couple; as Goody Proctor “kisses him with suspicion” and keeps their future happiness with it at the root of their marriage, Proctor bites his tongue with his sins past sins upon his shoulders. This scene is one of revelation and the audience sits enthralled as even tension created for the ultimate end disappears, as the couple who obviously still have love for one another quash their insecurities and make their peace.
The scene begins with this fluctuation of feelings toward one another still in tact. The atmosphere is one of grief and almost acceptance, as these accusations, deaths and confessions have continued over the past few months (since the previous scene,) and the two characters have bared gruelling witness to it all. Once again, this final appearance of Elizabeth to Proctor needs a more detailed explanation, as the stage directions take the audience through every one of their actions and therefore magnifying the importance of the revelation of this scene, ‘[Alone. Proctor walks to her, halts…]’
The gentle nature of Elizabeth has been taken advantage of, in order to coax proctor into a confession. Elizabeth has taken the opposite course of action and frees him from her suspicious grasp. Elizabeth’s query, though perhaps comical when an attempt is made to read it seriously, shows her utter lack of compassion and hope through the injustices of their predicament. Lack of compassion even for her own husband, though her enquiry made is meant in a considerate context- “You have been tortured?” Elizabeth continues to answer his questions in a cold and blunt manner, (their inhibitions still remain, anticipating the arrival of the emotional climax.)
Extending the theme of revelation, this is probed unintentionally by Elizabeth and her remarks, for example she says about the death of Giles Corey, “They press him John, more weight he says.” Proctor’s reply is influenced by this, the courage of Corey is taken by Proctor and used to state, “I have been thinking I would confess to them Elizabeth.” In addition, the quote of Elizabeth’s instigates she wishes him to form a course of action, which he does in the previous quote.
However, her reply is not one of looming suspicion or ruled by mistrust, it overcomes those petit consciences and the character finds the will to say, “I cannot judge you John.” No matter how Proctor begs for an order, a course of action or reassurance, Elizabeth stands strong and helps him to lose his inhibitions by making his own choice. The scene finally reaches a heart-wrenching climax as Elizabeth delivers the line “Only be sure of this, for I know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it.” Whatever the finale, this is a satisfying resolution because the characters have admitted exactly what the audience almost begs them to say, the actors deliver a service of satisfaction.
Perhaps the only the example of dramatic imagery is the recurring theme of winter inside the Proctor house, as opposed to the summer and heat in the midst of the Abigail/Proctor love affair. Elizabeth now admits that is was a cold attitude she had towards her husband; a shrivelled marriage that she kept, “a cold house.” Her admittance of this symbolises the last string of the old relationship broken. The dramatic effective adds to the release of tension between the characters as the entire situation diffuses.
Both of the character’s fronts falter as they indulge in insular peace, paving the way for the final resolution: the turmoil between husband and wife is finally resolved, Proctor has everything to live for and the strength to do what is need to remain with family and friends- or is it? Unfortunately, the phrase ‘too good to be true’ springs to mind, and also to the audience. The scene I analysed is in theory the penultimate resolution. It fits this description perfectly, as although it is misleading -because Proctor decides not to “have his life” and confess, but die with sanctity of name- it is satisfying. Dramatic tension is built extremely subtly behind the contagious joy of peace between the Proctors, foreseeing the ultimate loss of inhibitions for John.
True, the character has lost the stubbornness that kept his wife from him, but it is also true to Elizabeth’s statement that John has not forgiven himself: self confessed sinner he may be, but a proud man is John Proctor. The truth may be that even in death, let alone life would the character not forgive himself for his sins with Abigail. His martyrdom was the release of self-hatred through a noble stand; he held onto the only thing that in his opinion was not tainted, his name.
The Crucible recurs the theme of boundaries and limits, with such things as physical limits including the obsession with land, exclusive living (within colonies,) and with names. Proctor’s boundary was infact the preservation of his name, that is the only earthly piece of self he would not let go of- the only piece of self he realistically had left. This is a truly effective resolution, as the main character is finally at rest: Miller is no hero for surviving the courts, but his duty to society is done, his warning and message still survives fifty years on.