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Act Four provides a shocking conclusion to Arthur Miller's play. How does he manage to draw the audience so firmly behind John Proctor, and what relevance does the play hold for audiences of today?

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Introduction

Act Four provides a shocking conclusion to Arthur Miller's play. How does he manage to draw the audience so firmly behind John Proctor, and what relevance does the play hold for audiences of today? A 'crucible' is a melting pot in which metals are melted down in extreme heat, to burn off any impurities. This, therefore, is an appropriate name for Arthur Miller's 1953 play The Crucible. The play is set in the village of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. At this time, the society of Salem was based around a theocracy - a combination of state and religious power - whose function was to keep the community together, and to prevent any type of disunity that might open it to destruction by material or ideological enemies. The people were puritanical in every respect; their creed forbade anything that resembled vain enjoyment, such as a theatre or novels. They did not celebrate Christmas, and a holiday from work meant nothing more than time to concentrate even more on prayer. They were also urged to keep their morals through hard work. To the Europeans of the time, the whole province was inhabited by a sect of barbaric fanatics, and the workers had to fight the land all the time to produce their goods for export, although these goods were of ever increasing quality. ...read more.

Middle

Where this does not affect his public life, he feels that he needs the support and forgiveness of Elizabeth, and it angers him that his honesty is doubted. Another thing that endears an audience of The Crucible to John Proctor is the sense of innocence surrounding him. We know that he has sinned by having the affair with Abigail. However, he believes that, because he has confessed himself to Elizabeth, and allowed her to dismiss Abigail, that she should automatically forgive him, and stop suspecting him all the time. He believes that Elizabeth has judged him, and that 'her justice would freeze beer'. And this seems to be a typical assumption of a man with the character of John Proctor. However, John Proctor does not see the way the danger that Abigail poses until it is too late. Whereas Elizabeth sees straight away that Abigail is plotting to have her killed so that she may take her place as John's wife, John is unable to comprehend this, and does not see how much danger Abigail Williams poses to the life of his wife, or the way her intentions could affect him. He simply believes, or wants to believe, that the high court will see that the accusations against Elizabeth are totally unfounded, and she will escape conviction. ...read more.

Conclusion

*** In conclusion, The Crucible ends on a very shocking and unexpected note with the death of John Proctor, and the fashion in which John Proctor is sentenced manufactures a situation in which we see John Proctor as a hero and a saint. This prompts an angry response from the audience, and delivers strong morals that still have relevance to society today. John Proctor is an innocent and honest man, who falls victim to the spiralling events of a hysterical, paranoid society, taken to the brink of destruction by the witchcraft trials. We see that John Proctor is only getting involved in the trials because he knows they are false, and to save his innocent wife and friends, and in the end, we see him die because he cannot bear to live with the guilt of lying to save his own, sinful life when so many before him had died in pure innocence. Today, we can understand that perhaps we should not be so easily taken in by the hysteria of events, and attempt to understand what is happening before we make judgments, and to know that the power of belief without understanding is a deadly force, which can ruin people's lives, and also destroy faith in the judiciary system, as it did in 1692 Salem. 20th Century Drama Coursework for GCSE English Grade A/A* ...read more.

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