“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller Essay
“The Crucible” by Arthur Miller
This play is based on the real events of the Salem witch hunt however is not completely accurate by reducing the amount of girls “crying out” and that Abigail’s age had been raised as she was just really eleven years old as with such other things. The play’s base is still the same by showing that there were nineteen men and women convicted of witch craft that were hanged and how another man over eighty years old was pressed to death with heavy stones for not confessing whilst dozens stayed in jail for months without trials. This was all McCarthyism that was still around when The Crucible was written and was a witch hunt looking for evil which focused on Communists that they found everywhere. This was how Miller portrayed how primitive the American 1950’s were by relating it to McCarthyism in the 1690’s.
The basic hysteria that swept through the witch hunt was also kept that looked as it could have been due to frontier war, economic conditions, personal jealousies and even teenage boredom that lead to mad accusations, trials and executions. These people were primitive in medicine and accused the devil of all illnesses or anything else that was an inconvenience. They were also puritans and older generations may have been bitter from having to move from other counties due to there rigid beliefs. All this happened between the spring and summer of 1692 in Salem, America due to congregational strife with plain back stabbing which caused life in fear.
Miller portrayed John Proctors character as kind with strong opinions and principles. He also looked hard working and although he was deeply religious he chose not to go to church regularly because he thought the “Minister was not suitable”. John was definitely passionate in anything he believed in regardless of what others said or thought.
Miller portrayed that Elizabeth Proctor’s character was cold, plain and was bored of life and that her entire life was a duty. I think she was also worried of what other people thought of her and her household life and even thought her husband was too good for her as she viewed herself as plain.
I think Miller portrayed John and Elizabeth’s status in the village as well respected as they were hard working puritans and was what everyone else viewed them as however they were regarded with suspicion from some people as they were known to be different as John’s view of the Minister was strong.
Miller showed how John and Elizabeth’s marriage strain was due to Elizabeth’s suspicion of adultery with Abigail Williams so there was a great lack of trust and also the way that Elizabeth was ill and bed stricken for a period of time so was unable to look after the home and children so suspicion rose even more as she had no idea of what her husband was doing behind her back.
The background of John and Elizabeth’s relationship was that they were married, had two children and a home with a farm to look after. Elizabeth lacked confidence in her relationship and viewed herself as plain and boring which led her to believe John’s adultery even more with the thought that he would go with a more attractive women, that gives the reason for why she cleared Abigail out of her home.
Miller portrays that John and Elizabeth’s thoughts of each other were suspicious and unaffectionate however I think that they both wanted to change these thoughts around into there opposites.
I think that John and Elizabeth are trying to save their marriage by staying together and by the way John stopped committing adultery and is ridden with guilt. I also think they would like to add more effort in their relationship to save it but both don’t know what to do or how to express their feelings but are trying to be as nice as possible to each other however it doesn’t always last.
Miller also portrays the tension felt between the couple in act two by showing that Elizabeth’s physical actions and reactions are not emotional towards John in any way. This shows how Elizabeth is bitter towards John and doesn’t want to go near him. John doesn’t know what to do to reduce the tension so in a way keeps a certain physical distance whilst still ridden with guilt. An example of this is when “John gets up from the table and kisses Elizabeth on the cheek who receives it however John then returns to the table with a certain disappointment”. The reactions as shown are very stiff and uncertain as well as the way John is trying to be emotional with Elizabeth but she is just acting the opposite.
Miller also portrays tension in John and Elizabeth’s relationship by their speech in act two when John says “pray now for a fair summer”. This shows how he’s trying to start a conversation but Elizabeth just replies with “Aye”, that is a straight clipped answer with no interest or emotion added. John then tries to add emotion and interest by asking if she’s well but Elizabeth just replies with ” I am, It’s rabbit”. This shows how brisk and sharply she’s trying to stop the conversation so she doesn’t have to involve her personal feelings or emotions and clearly shows she’s not interested and is not comfortable with the situation.
All this shows their tension in their relationship is very deep and that John is trying to fix the tension but Elizabeth isn’t interested with her clear sharp answers with no emotional attachment to a single word as well as her lack of feeling or emotion in her stiff physical movements and reactions.
The meeting of John and Elizabeth in prison tells us that their relationship is getting closer and that they really love, care and respect each other. Their relationship has greatly developed since act two and have been brought closer together. I think that there is now an almost complete elimination of tension as being in prison has caused a lot more emotions which needed to be released that brought them closer together and where their able to have full meaningful conversations such as when Elizabeth says “Giles is dead” then John replies with “When were he hanged?” Elizabeth then replies with “He were not hanged, he would not answer aye or nay to his indictment; for if he denied the charges they’d hang him surely, and auction out his property so he stayed mute, and died Christian under the law. And so his sons will have his farm.
It is the law, for he could not be condemned a wizard without he answers the indictment, aye or nay” This shows how Elizabeth’s now talking without tension and is having a deep and long conversation unlike act two, there is also now body language such as when John looks at Elizabeth “Incredulously” after she says Giles is dead. Their relationship has also improved by talking about their friends which they never had done before.
I think that at that point John and Elizabeth really care and feel passionate about each other and are trying to give each other support by Elizabeth talking about what had happened to their friends as to give John a hint on what to do. John is also now relying on his wife for support and help by asking Elizabeth if he should confess and what Elizabeth thinks while she replies with “I cannot judge you John” John then asks a pure question. “What will you have me do?” Elizabeth then replies with “As you will, I would have it. I want you living John, that’s for sure”. This is all a great transformation of emotions from act two.
I think this scene helps us understand the deeper problems in their relationship by showing how they’ve opened up in a crisis whereas in act two Elizabeth was jealous of the other woman and bitter so tried to show no emotion as if she didn’t care and how John wanted to make it up with her, I think Elizabeth also thought she was plain and thought John would want to go with another woman, this indicates that these were the deeper problems in their relationship.
Miller shows us that John and Elizabeth’s relationship has changed greatly by their speech and body language such as when John was meant to confess and refuses to tell a lie to keep his pride and respect. This was shown at the end of act four where John’s eyes were full of tears and says “I can. And there’s your first marvel, that I can. You have made your magic now, for now I do think I have a shred of goodness in John Proctor. Not enough to weave a banner with, but white enough to keep it from such dogs”. Elizabeth then in a burst of terror, rushes to him and weeps against his hand. This is a great change from act two and the stage directions are changed to the highest emotion and grief possible by the way Elizabeth is going to lose the most important person in her life who has chosen to die for the faith of God and Elizabeth has no control or intention of stopping him.
Miller shows that the tension between John and Elizabeth has been released by grief, passion and the highest amount of pressure with the thought of that they will never see each other on the Earth again but I also think that the tension is released by everything being out in the open so everything was true so there was no lies inside John with the feeling of forgiveness from Elizabeth and that John was going to be released from the madness.
The relationship has developed through the play from being unemotional, stiff with awkward speech and stage directions on act two, to opening up to each other and revealing there innermost feelings for each other by the end of act four by their speech and stage directions.
During the course of this essay I have learnt that John and Elizabeth’s relationship was at first suspicious, untrustworthy and with a lot of jealousy and bitterness from Elizabeth’s side to john’s side being ridden with guilt. However even with all these problems Miller portrayed how they both had a hidden greatness of love between them which they didn’t know how to release until they were under pressure, however they made up for all they’d missed at the end which I’m sure they’d have regretted all the problems progressed at the start of the play and wished they’d had the relationship at the start which they had at the end and lived and died with the thought that it was all due to Abigail Williams.