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Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible, in 1953. It is based upon the belief of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, and the hysterical fear leading to campaigns of persecution against suspected witches.

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Introduction

Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible, in 1953. It is based upon the belief of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, and the hysterical fear leading to campaigns of persecution against suspected witches. Miller wrote the play in response to the strong influence of Joseph McCarthy in the 1950's, who feared that the Russian communists were planning to take over the world. Joseph McCarthy managed to start a national campaign in the USA against communists or anyone who was in association with them. People were encouraged to accuse close friends and acquaintances of communism, which can be described as a spiral of fear and suspicion. The 'Crucible' can be read as an allegory of the anti-Communist investigation in the USA throughout the 1950's. During this essay I will talk about the difference techniques Miller uses to create and sustain tension throughout the play. Salem, a small and isolated 16th century village, had only been in existence for 40 years when the play begins. Many people had made the voyage from England to escape religious persecution. They are very close-knit, very protective against outsiders, or anything unusual. The land bordering the village is largely unexplored, with wild animals roaming in the dense forest. Indian tribes, aswell as animals and savages, pose a constant threat. In the first act Miller creates tension by showing how the characters become more and more afraid of witchcraft. ...read more.

Middle

Another point of tension caused in the play is caused by the fact that the characters follow a strict Puritan code and this causes enormous guilt. The rules forbade singing or dancing and people had to attend worship with special wardens who took names of those failing to attend. Abigail and John Proctor have an affair, which breaks the Puritan rules, and Abigail figures that there is great hypocrisy in the community. In Act 1 Abigail says, 'I never knew what pretence Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by Christian women and their covenanted men. You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is you love me yet'. A further source of tension is that some of the villagers are unhappy with Reverend Parris. Parris feels persecuted in Salem and indeed everywhere he goes. He feels like he has authority and is insulted if someone opens the door without his permission. He is very self-absorbed and only cares about his appearance to the community of Salem and tries to keep the respect he has built up for himself, but Mrs Putman complains that he wants too much in return for his services. Throughout Act 1 we see that there is a conflict within the community, which has little to do with the witchcraft, but talk of the witch-hunt provides the community the chance to revenge themselves on old enemies and to settle old scores to do with land ownership. ...read more.

Conclusion

He wants to look after his family and figures he will have to confess in order to do so. Much of the tension from this part of the play comes from the audience hoping that John's life will be spared and that reason will triumph over mad bigotry. There is also tension because the people of Salem are becoming angered about the hangings and are getting to riot. Danforth and Hale are now caught in the tension of knowing that they are doing things only to keep the peace. For example, they want John to lie so they won't need to hang him. There is enormous tension in the audience because we all think about what we would do in his situation. Should he confess to save his life, or should be true to his principles and die? John is sentenced to hang but is told that if he signs a confession he will be spared. In a moment of weakness he signs but realises that he cannot be untrue to himself. John is hanged and the audience admire the way that this man has stood by his own beliefs. A great deal of tension in the Crucible comes form the fact that the society in Salem is tyranny, which is controlled by religious beliefs. The town was governed by a mixture of church and state law. ...read more.

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