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How does Miler create a sense of tension and conflict between John and Elizabeth Proctor at the beginning of Act Two?

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Introduction

Essay Question: How does Miler create a sense of tension and conflict between John and Elizabeth Proctor at the beginning of Act Two? In Act Two, John and Elizabeth Proctor are conversing and there are signs to indicate that there are tensions occurring in their marriage. Although the main theme of the 'The Crucible' is Witchcraft, this Act concentrates mainly on the relationship of John and Elizabeth. Miller uses a variety of dramatic devices, like stage directions to promote this point. Prior to this act the girls have named the witches and John has returned from Salem. Considering that this is where Abigail (whom John had an affair with) resides, it does not improve his dying marriage and relations with his wife. Miller begins by setting the tone for the scene and describes the front room of Proctor's house. The room is described as 'low, dark and rather long'; this immediately gives the impression of a threatening and hostile place. Coupled with the empty room, this could signify loneliness and symbolize the emptiness and lack of affection within the marriage. The word 'halts' is used to depict an image of a shocked John as he hears his wife singing, upon his entrance to the house. ...read more.

Middle

This is slightly symbolic of their marriage. Both John and Elizabeth seem to be living in completely different worlds, however their thoughts are quite alike but the only reason that they don't is their reluctance to disclose these thoughts to one another. Once the two are seated and John advances to taste the rabbit he compliments Elizabeth on its seasoning. Although John has previously been seen to season it himself, his compliment could be seen as a way of making amends and praising her efforts rather than the actual outcome. It is not quite known just exactly what Miller was trying to represent through this line and some directors may wish to instruct the actor through a different approach so that the line is said with a hint of sarcasm, thus widening the separation. Whilst the latter option does seem more appropriate one would think that Elizabeth's 'blushing with pleasure' might perhaps prove that Miller used this line to show that she appreciates one of her husbands rare compliments. Unfortunately Elizabeth's next question does not bring about much of a response from and her husband and this could further prove how unimpressed he is. In the script, Speech is then interrupted by a brief interval of stage direction 'He eats. ...read more.

Conclusion

This is where a long table would again be particularly useful on stage. A long, silent walk utilising the length of the table, would further enhance the situation and separation. When John reminds his wife of his cider and the absent flowers this adds to the tension. Contrary to a contemporary seventeenth century Salem wife, a woman was expected to serve her husband - without fail. When she replies 'with a sense of reprimanding herself' this shows that perhaps something else is on her mind preventing from doing her 'job'. Although John then tries to be more romantic and Miller shows an opposing side to his character, the pause indicates their discomfort and when Elizabeth's 'back is turned to him' this is yet another effective way of making the audience notice the increasing distance between them, both physically and emotionally. Finally John then gives up and decides to try and address the problem that is bothering his wife. Miller's stage directions 'she doesn't want friction, and yet she must' portrays an image of a woman caught in two minds. Elizabeth wants to remain a good, obedient wife however she cannot resist challenging John about his whereabouts which led to his late arrival. The place of 'Salem' is mentioned and this could be Miller's way of Elizabeth inadvertently or perhaps indirectly showing her distrust towards John. When John learns of Marry Warren's presence in Salem his anger ...read more.

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