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Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' - Dramatic Tension.

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Introduction

Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible'- Dramatic Tension Arthur Miller's 'The Crucible' explores the controversy, mayhem and confusion of the Salem witch trials and the era of McCarthyism in the 1950s. 'The Crucible' concentrates on the fate of some of the key figures caught up in the persecution. It powerfully depicts people and principles under pressure, and the issues and motivations involved. Miller uses several techniques in order to enhance dramatic tension throughout the play. One of the tensest scenes is in Act 3, Scene 3 focusing on the court scene between John Proctor and Mary Warren. A crucible is a container in which metals are heated to extract the pure element from dross or impurities. This definition is easily connected to the play. To start with, witches supposedly use cauldrons to brew their magic potions, and a synonym for cauldron is crucible. Not only do witches use cauldrons, but also the word crucible could have some metaphorical meaning. The actions in Salem were like that in a brewing cauldron, there were many heated arguments, and people were being 'stirred' and 'mixed' around like a vile potion, the pure elements being extracted are like John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse. One of the techniques Miller uses is that of allegory, the similarity between his play and McCarthyism. During the 1940s and 1950s Joseph McCarthy was senator in America, he was the chairman of the house of Un-America Activities Committee. His job was to investigate any movement of person who threatened the safety of the state. ...read more.

Middle

She is terrified of Abigail, 'She'll kill me for saying' that!' P.65 and, 'I cannot, they'll turn on me.' P.65. She wants to please everyone but she can't, her actions make things very tense, angering one person but pleasing another one. Proctor made Mary go forward in court and testify against Abigail. 'You're coming to court with me, Mary. You will tell it in court.' He believes no one is actually guilty of witchcraft and everyone in Salem is merely out for revenge, 'Oh, it is a black mischief.' Page 44. He tells Mary she must go to court, where she is one of the officials, and tell them that Abigail, and the other girls and herself were lying in court. Proctor wants to free Elizabeth as Abigail accused her. Danfoth questions Mary, he is unsure of whether to believe her. Should he accept what she is saying now, or what she previously claimed in court? 'I will tell you this- you are either lying now, or you were lying in the court, and in either case you have committed perjury and you will go to jail for it. You cannot lightly say you lied, Mary' Page 82. Miller effectively shows dramatic tension with Mary's character at this point. She experiences tension within herself as she struggles with her conscience, trying to decide whether she should save herself from Abigail or, save society and all those people who have been falsely accused. ...read more.

Conclusion

Miller's intentions in this scene are to fully stress how ridiculous the girls' accusations are. Also insinuating the same for Joseph McCarthy. For the anti-Communists watching or reading the play they would have probably made the connection between Abigail and Joseph McCarthy. If they supported Joseph McCarthy and his manic hunt for communists and sympathisers, then they would have been angry that Miller was making a mockery of McCarthy's methods. Arthur Miller wrote 'The Crucible' with a moral. By writing 'The Crucible' he warned the audience or reader that if they were not aware of history repeating itself, society could be in danger. Such as has been seen during the McCarthy era. As the witchcraft hysteria took place in one of America's wholesome, theocratic towns, it makes the miscarriage of justice such a mystery even today. Once combined, the devices and techniques prove to be an extremely effective way of creating, enhancing and heightening the dramatic tension throughout the play. The relationships between the main characters, the sub-text and language uses, the use of stage directions, the significance of allegory and Miller's intentions are full of dramatic tension. It is, however, difficult to say which technique proved to be the most effective. At the time the play was written the significance of allegory would have more than likely be the most effective technique used. But as the play has been shown many a time since then this effect wore off, being replaced as the most effective by relationships, and stage directions as the most effective method of enhancing the dramatic tension. Laura Mullinger 10Q 1 ...read more.

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