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The title of the play, ‘The Crucible’ is significant as a crucible is a pot in which metals are melted down in order to purify them. Miller is suggesting that the play is concerned by a purging by fire, a form of ‘cleansing’. This is a metaphor for spiritual improvements as the result of exposure to great strain. One of the central themes of the play is the spiritual development of John Proctor. It is a powerful and complex play.
All of the action takes place indoors and it is very sombre, simplistic and it emphasises the lifestyle of the puritans and it echoes the chlaustrophobic atmosphere of the play.
The play focuses on ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. In the play Miller is discussing the forces of evil. In the attempt to stamp out evil there is certainly a degree of irony. The irony in this play is that evil and tragedy actually arises from the actions of the misguided and over zealous characters such as Danforth and Parris and to a certain extent Hale, who became responsible for deaths, misery and cruelty.
Miller is suggesting that humans are vulnerable to evil and he aims to show that the evil generated in Salem was through a combination of circumstances for which no one person could be held wholly responsible but yet none were guilt free. Miller has said that it was Abigail’s role in the events of the play that awakened his interest in the whole story, however, his treatment of her is controlled although is not dispassionate in any way.
She is a sensual adolescent and she is very flattered by Proctors attention to her while at the same time tries to disguise it. Abigail has many motives for causing the trouble that she does, one of which is her hostility towards Elizabeth, John Proctors wife, but this is by no means her only motive. A high spirited sense of mischief and the way which she controls her friends gives her enjoyment and is influential and although the point is not stressed, the violent nature of her parents deaths have unsettled her.
Abigail’s actions are also intriguing, right from act 1 she is causing a stir in Salem, when Betty awakens and cries out, Abigail tries to bully and threaten them into keeping quiet, later in this act, when Tituba and Abigail are being interrogated, she starts calling out names of devil worshippers. In act 2 we find out more about Abigail’s relationship with the Proctors, they discuss revealing that Abigail is a fraud and reveal how she was thrown out when Elizabeth found out about her affair with John. The rag doll was also another plot by Abigail to cause more trouble, she uses it to show that Elizabeth practices witchcraft.
So when the rag doll is discovered with a needle in it after Abigail stabs herself, it is a bad sign. The taking away of Elizabeth and the anger of John Proctor are all adverse affects of Abigail’s troublesome actions and Proctor decides to declare his adultery in court and to denounce Abigail’s lies, the consequences of this may be hard for him. Abigail also leads the accusations of witchcraft and by this point Elizabeth knows that Abigail probably name her in revenge for being dismissed and also to get John Proctor for herself.
Cheever later arrives to clarify the fact that Elizabeth has been named, by Abigail. Francis Nurse tries to explain to the court that it is being deceived by Abigail and the other girls. In act 3 as Abigail acts entering a trance and the pitch of hysteria rises, Proctor has had enough and denounces Abigail as a whore, revealing his adultery and therefore jeopardising his integrity and honour. In act 4, Abigail and Mary Warren steal i?? 30, a very large amount at the time and run away, in order to avoid the revealing of them being frauds.
Tituba is an interesting device used by Miller, she is mysterious, perhaps theatrical, and our lack of knowledge of her creates more mystery and intrigue, we know that she is a Barbadan slave for Reverend Parris who was taken from Barbados to come with them the Parris’s. This is useful to Miller, because Tituba does not need to have an identity, she is just used for a few themes, one is the dancing that occurs in the woods, instigated by Tituba, and later her confessions to dealings with the Devil.
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