The Crucible was written at the peak of the McCarthism era in the mid 20th century. The play was written by Arthur Miller to show the similarities between The McCarthy Trials and the Salem Witch Trials. This links well to the Crucible. The play is about a group of girls who are caught in the woods performing witch-like actions. The girls turn against everyone and start accusing people of being witches. This immediately creates tension.
In this essay, I am going to answer the question “How does Miller create tension in Act III, The Courtroom Scene? He creates tension in a number of ways. These ways are stage directions, events, language and friction between characters. Firstly, Arthur Miller uses stage directions to create tension in Act III. A particular example of this is when Goody Proctor is intensely questioned for the truth of her husband’s affair. The stage direction ‘In a crisis of indecision, she cannot speak’. This shows how she is lacerated between covering up for her husband or telling the truth. The situation that is so thrilling is that if she lies, she will of helped Abigail, as Abigail would be able to carry on with her mischievous doings. And if she tells the truth then Abigail would be found guilty of lying and false accusations.
The direction builds tension, as the audience already know that John Proctor has confessed to the affair with Abigail, and Goody Proctor doesn’t know this. Secondly. Miller creates tension by using events in Act III. The best example of this is on page 101, when Abigail and her girl friends are pretending that Mary Warren has convoked her spirit onto them. This is shown when Abigail says “why – ? why do you come, yellow bird?”
We as the audience automatically feel tension as we know Abigail and the girls are making all these alleged allegations up. We feel sorry for Mary Warren, as now she is being portrayed as an evil person. John Proctor is the only person who believes Mary Warren and does think Abigail and the girls are lying. He shows his feelings by saying “They’re pretending, Mr Danforth!” This creates tension as we feel that Proctor and Mary Warren are helpless. Proctor needs to help Mary Warren, as Goody Proctor will be persecuted if Abigail and the girls are not brought to justice.
Another event that takes place and creates tension is on page 104/105. This piece of tension links well to the last piece. The even is that after all of the commotion and lying from Abigail and the girls of Mary Warren summoning a spirit. Mary apologises for sending the spirit, even though it was a lie. This automatically creates tension as the audience are dumfounded by what Mary is doing. She is now covering up for the girls. So they don’t get the blame. When she says sorry. Abigail hugs her and they seem to be friends again. This leaves the judges baffled. This creates tension in a different way as well because Proctor is all alone now. The only way to save his wife is Mary Warren telling the truth, now she has turned against him. The audience feel sorry for Proctor, who should know by now that he and his wife are going to be persecuted.
Thirdly, Arthur Miller creates tension by using friction between characters in Act III. There are two excellent examples of this. Firstly, Mary Warren explains to the court of how Proctor wakes her up at night and says how they should over throw the court to save this wife. This friction is huge because just before Mary Warren states this the court, Mary and Proctor where helping each other. Mary and Proctor were helping each other. This creates tension because Proctor was left by Mary when she said sorry to Abigail for summoning her spirit, and now Mary has made allegation against Proctor. Nothing more could go wrong for him.
Mary goes on to say that Proctor has threatened her as well. “I’ll murder you”, he says, “if my wife hangs!” Thus creates tension as Mary and Proctor were friends but now he is threatening her. The audience feel an agonising heart-break for Proctor, yet feel he shouldn’t of threatened Mary. The friction has built up again. Secondly, on page 105, Proctor says that his and Danforths faces are like the devils. Proctor says, “I see his filthy face! And it is mine and your Danforth” It creates friction because Danforth is appalled that Proctor could relate him to the devil. Between these too character there has always been friction because Proctor believes the girls are lying, whereas Danforth doesn’t. When Proctor says this he means that Danforth has the face of the devil for allowing all of these false accusation to happen. Proctor has the face of the devil because he had the affair with Abigail, which sparked the whole event.
Lastly, language in The Crucible creates tension. An example o this is on page 98, when John Proctor admits he lusted for Abigail and tells the truth about the affair and how Abigail is trying to get revenge. The line is “She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave!!” This language is difficult for the audience to understand, as it is old English. This creates tension because it could mean different things and as the audience doesn’t know what it means, it lets imaginations come out and start to think what he means. To conclude Arthur Miller uses and creates tension to a full effect and pulls it off with great strength. The tension was good and easy to create as he used four main elements, stage directions, events, frictions between characters and language.