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A Comparison between Arther Miller's "The Crucible" and Bernard Shaw's "St Joan"

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Introduction

Comparison between "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller and "St Joan" by George Bernard Shaw Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", is a play examining the mass hysteria of the 1692 Salem witch trials. When the girls from the village are found dancing in the forest and the minister's daughter Betty Paris falls into a coma-like state, rumours of witchcraft run riot, prompted by the girls ringleader Abigail Williams. This leads to the hanging of nineteen innocent people. Some themes in "The Crucible" connected with those of "St Joan" by George Bernard Shaw. "St Joan" is set in 1400 France during the Hundred Years' war, and based on the true story of a nineteen year old peasant girl. Joan makes claims of hearing the voices of saints instructing her to lead France, and convinces the heir to the throne to take his rightful place as King of France. Catholicism was the main religion in France at the time, and catholic rulers feared the rise of Protestantism, Joan's claims of personal relationships with saints went against the Catholic belief that you must speak to God through the church. ...read more.

Middle

The Crucible examines the lives of puritans in 1600's America, puritans was the name given to religious and political reformers who fled their native land in search of religious freedom, and settled and colonized New England in the 17th century. It was seen as a political parable, due to its many parallels to McCarthyism; which took place in the time at which Miller wrote. McCarthyism was the name given to the paranoid search for any American citizen with any adherence to communism under the chairmanship of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Through marking the similarities between the mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism, such as witnesses calling out names of their friends and neighbours, unfair trials, and arrests of those who refused to testify, Miller was trying to convey the madness and paranoia that McCarthyism had caused, suggesting that, as with the Salem witch trials, the situation had gone too far. Miller uses naturalism in the play, the events shown as if there were a fourth wall where the audience sits. ...read more.

Conclusion

In "The Crucible" Miller brings out the theme of truth and righteousness. This theme is conveyed through the struggles of Miller's main character, John Proctor, who once had an affair with Abigail Williams whilst she was working as a maid in his house. Proctor keeps a firm belief that Abigail is encouraging accusations of witchcraft in an attempt to have Proctor's wife Elizabeth hanged. Similarly, this theme is also apparent in "St Joan" when Joan continues to believe that it was her bidding to help the French army even when her life is in danger, and refuses to confess to the crime of heresy to which she believes she is innocent of. In both plays the penultimate scene includes the tearing of a written confession that would save the character's own lives, symbolising that both Proctor and Joan accept their own death in order to achieve righteousness by the end of the play. "The Crucible" and "St Joan" successfully create effective interpretations of true stories. Overall it is the messages that the playwrights put forward to the audience that makes the strongest connection between the two plays. Both playwrights created strong protagonists to make the audience consider the importance of standing up for your beliefs. ...read more.

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