Arthur Miller wrote this play in accordance and reference to the persecution placed upon him and many others by the committee of un-American activities. He was persecuted for his way of thinking, and this inspired him to write the play ” The Crucible” to make people realise that history is being repeated. In his mind, the way he and the other communists were treated bared a great likeness to that of the “witches” of Salem and the way the Jews were treated during the holocaust. In the sixteen hundreds Salem was ruled by a theocracy so their ideas of truth and justice would have varied from ours. The puritans ideology was that if the bible says its so, it’s so.
Most of us are now aware that most of the bible is not to be taken literally, but symbolically. The play itself is based upon the idea of witchcraft and the outcome of hypocrisy and the drama that revolves around it. Lies are a force for destruction; it rips apart a whole community in a dramatic manner. This “game” results in death for the accused and it wouldn’t be believed if it wasn’t for selfish ministers out to save their status, reputation and money. The innocents are condemned to death.
The question is ‘How does Miller use the concept of witchcraft for dramatic effect and to expose hypocrisy?’ In basic terms, I have to show how witchcraft has been used to create an exciting outcome uncovering hypocrisy. The key words in this question consist of witchcraft, hypocrisy and drama. Therefore, I must engage with the idea of hypocrisy, truth and justice throughout this piece.
Witchcraft is the practices or art of witches, sorcery, involves enchantments and intercourse with evil spirits. Hypocrisy is the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess and in basic terms: an act or instance of falseness. Drama is a prose or verse composition, especially one telling a serious story, that is intended for representation by actors impersonating the characters and performing the dialogue and action.
The people of Salem believe they are strict Christians, superior, respected, virtuous and attend church every Sunday. As a community on the whole, the Salem society is mutually against any form of witchcraft and dancing hence the witch trials. This is why it is ironic that the Reverend’s daughter and niece (his household) are the sinner’s and going against the rules of the church. Tituba (West Indian, owned by Rev Parris as a domestic servant) and the girls danced naked and concocted spells in the woods before they were witnessed by Reverend Parris.
In actual fact, I believe this is in the 10 Commandments of which the Salem public know of by heart, as well as being against the law. Even dancing in the woods alone is an offence. So including the witchcraft, it would result in a serious punishment of which means a great deal to this community. To think that death could come of a hopelessly thought-out, single night of what was meant to be, fun. The night of fun turned a whole community upside down and exposed various hidden secrets.
From another perspective (i.e. being involved in the situation) it would be difficult to make utter sense of the truth as there are too many lies and hidden secrets among the community and all for some self-contained reason. As a majority, the lies spoken are to benefit oneself based upon the idea of money, status, reputation and/or life or death. This creates dramatic impact as for the 20th century viewers (of whom the film was produced for) know that these days, it is complete nonsense to sentence to death or punish for dancing or experimenting with witchcraft. 20th century viewers, in greater numbers, believe there is no such thing as the power of witchcraft.
It is only a ritual and an act of pretence. In that approach, it is quite ironic. Also, the way dramatic impact has been used is in the way of you wanting to see more, engage the viewer to keep watching, and want to see the outcome. It makes you want to see if the liars claiming to be the innocent are exposed, if the accused that are telling the truth are released, the aftermath to their reputation and status. This illustrates some evidence of how witchcraft creates dramatic effect but witchcraft also exposes hypocrisy to the audience. The way in which it does this is witchcraft brings out the selfishness of the characters.
For instance, the court case with the two judges, Hathorne and Danforth were completely hypocritical. This is because they were led into believing witchcraft was among the village of Salem and so when they are told by Giles that the girls are lying, they refuse to believe it. They thought that it will make them appear foolish because they didn’t see it for themselves and don’t want to go back on their decision. They need to withhold their reputation and status. Just to clarify and back up my theory a little more, another example of how witchcraft exposes hypocrisy is when Abigail lies to get out of trouble. In a whisper she says to the judges “Not I, sir – Tituba and Ruth.” This goes to show that she will blame others to get herself out of trouble and this is hypocritical of her.