The Crucible language essay Essay
The Crucible language essay
‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller fits into the genre of a Realism. It’s time period is set in the late 1600s. Thus the language used in the script is archaic and realistic for the time period it is set. The images that ‘The Crucible’ creates in the mind’s of the audience (although infrequent) are enlarged and exaggerated; Danforth declares he would ‘hang ten thousand that dared to rise against the law and an ocean of salt tears could not melt the resolution of the statutes’ John Proctor describes his farm as a ‘continent’ and his wife’s behaviour as an ‘everlasting funeral’.
This enhances the imagery in the minds of an audience. The play is of a naturalistic theme, but in the language Miller can be surreal. In order to make the audience aware of what is happening elsewhere than the scene (within naturalistic conversation) the characters discuss the events that are going on in the town, this is known as Reported action for example Abigail says to Paris ‘Uncle the rumour of witchcraft is all about’ this is a form of narrative for the audience who cannot leave the present scene on stage. Miller used the actual court records from the witchcraft trials to influence his wording in the script.
He studied these in great detail and attempted to use accurate dialect from this time period. However Miller admits that without planning to, he elaborated a few of the grammatical forms, particularly the double negatives. Another influential source for the use of language in ‘The Crucible’, which Miller referred too is the king James (authorised) version of the bible. When Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth, describes to him the effect Abigail has on the court room, imagery is used from the Old Testament of the bible saying ‘and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. ‘
The fact that everyone inside the play uses the same archaic speech, for example all the men are referred to as ‘mister’ and the women ‘goody’ short for goody wife, distances a twenty first century people; it gives the feeling of a diverse society from our own. Even though they are in America the characters do not speak with an American accent as they are still fairly early settlers in the country and sound British. In the script there are distinctive speech patterns enforced by Miller. The servants/slaves in the play use bad grammar for they are low status and uneducated for example Mercy, Proctor’s servant, says to him ‘I best be off.
I have my Ruth to watch’. In contrast to Paris the town pastor who has high status, he uses ‘proper’ wording e. g. ‘you compromise my very character…. I have put clothes upon your back’ and Proctor who is a farmer uses rough language like ‘I’ll show you a great doing on your arse one of these days. ‘ and uses abbreviations for instance ‘Ah, you’re wicked yet, aren’t y’! ‘ by this language you can tell he’s a bit of a farmer. Various colloquial phrases no longer used like ‘there be no blush about my name’ and ‘I say shut it’ both said by Abigail who is an orphan living with her Uncle, Paris.
The Proctor’s farm is big and further away from the town and when he describes it as a ‘continent’ that indicates to the audience its size and setting. There is not a lot of imagery in ‘The Crucible’ and this is because it is a naturalistic play and in real life people don’t usually go around trying to create imagery in their speech. Although, Miller does use repetition recurrently, particularly the words ‘witchcraft’, ‘God’ and ‘pretence’ which are the main themes of the play. These words play on the subconscious minds of the audience.
“God is dead” is a widely-quoted and sometimes a misconstrued statement by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. It is found in some of Nietzsche’s classic work. “God is dead” is not meant literally, as in “God is now physically dead”; rather, it is Nietzsche’s way of saying that the idea of God is no longer capable of acting as a source of any moral code or teleology. Proctor speaks this statement in the last act of the play when he is bound in prison, he is completely battered by his fellow Salemers and he can’t believe what cruelty human beings are capable of.
Miller makes Proctor say this because that is what he himself is thinking along with a lot of other people at that time of McCarthyism. In the beginning scene of Act two involving Proctor and Elizabeth there is significant language used. To begin with their language is not the same as a modern audience’s, their grammar is different; ‘I were planting far out to the forest edge’ this makes it harder for the audience to relate to the characters. We are reminded of their religion when Proctor says they should ‘pray now for a fair summer.
‘ The couple use simple, short sentences when talking to one another, which show conflict ‘Are you well today? ‘ ‘I am… ‘. it is a rabbit’ this conveys the tension between them. Proctor uses ominous metaphors in his speech for example ‘Lilac is the smell of nightfall’ and ‘It’s warm as blood beneath the clods. ‘ This hints at the blood shed to come. When Proctor rebukes his wife for letting their servant go to Salem he repeats again that it was ‘a fault’ this enforces his point of authority.
Proctor compares their servant to a mouse making Elizabeth, who seemingly can’t stand up to her, look even more pathetic. The word God keeps being repeated throughout the scene making an audience think of sin, religion and punishment. More biblical references are made when Goody Proctor states that ‘where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. ‘ Meaning Abigail who apparently has much power at the court, which the audience has found out about through the couples reported action in their conversation. Proctor: Oh, it is a black mischief. Again with the ominous wording.
Proctor tells Elizabeth he ‘will think on it’ referring to testifying in court about Abigail, Elizabeth repeats this statement ‘let you think on it’ her repeating this is mocking and disrespectful to John. Proctor retorts calling her ‘Women’ which is equally demeaning which is what Miller was aiming for. When in argument with his wife proctor talks formally compared to how he spoke before ‘I have good reason to think before I charge fraud on Abigail’ this is unfriendly, in comparison to how he spoke to Abigail his former lover, and similar to a parent using their child’s full name when reprimanding them.
‘An everlasting funeral marches round your heart’ Proctor tells Elizabeth, this again is ominous and he is foreseeing his own death at the end of the play. Proctor compares his wife to a court judge. Imagery for the audience when he says her justice ‘would freeze beer! ‘ Miller uses a rich variety of language techniques in the play/script of ‘The Crucible’, which communicate narrative, form and content to the observer, which have just been described previously, above.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 6 July 2017
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