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Crucible Essay - What is the dramatic significance of Act 2 to the play as whole?

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Introduction

What is the dramatic significance of Act 2 to the play as whole? Consider the effects of character and action; the effect of dramatic devices; the layers of meaning in language, ideas themes; the historical context. Act two begins in the common room of The Proctors household. It has been eight days since Abigail and the girls made their accusations against the innocent people within the community of Salem. At the beginning of the scene the common room is empty and the only thing that can be heard is the voice of Elizabeth Proctor softly singing to her children. John soon arrives and as Elizabeth enters the common room the couple engage in a conversation of small talk that appears so painful it suggests tension. It appears that John has done wrong, as he is constantly trying to please her, and yet she seems most unimpressed. The scene progresses as the two sit down for dinner. Their servant, Mary Warren has defied the orders of John and Elizabeth by going to the courts in Salem. Elizabeth informs John that there have been fourteen arrests, she also tells him that the court have the power to hang the accused and that the Deputy Governor promises that people will be hung if they do not confess. John is bewildered by the arrests but reassures Elizabeth that Abigail swore her dancing had nothing to do with witchcraft. Elizabeth wants him to give this statement in court, but he protests that he cannot as Abigail told him this information while they were 'alone' together. ...read more.

Middle

Another character introduced in Act two is Mary Warren. She is extremely important to the Act as she is what makes the connection between village life and the sentencing that is happening at the courts, and with the proctor household. She is the one who tells us that there have been thirty-nine arrests. When she first arrives in Act two we find that she has defied the orders of John and Elizabeth by going to the court. When told that she must not return she rebels using the excuse "I am an official of the court". This is a fine example of how the hysteria of witchcraft has affected the everyday life in the community of Salem. Mary is a servant within the proctor household; she is paid nine pounds a year to 'keep the house'. She is not in a position to rebel against the word of Elizabeth or John, and under normal circumstances would not do so. We know that this is peculiar behaviour because of Elizabeth's reply to Proctor, when asked why she had let Mary go to the court. Elizabeth says 'She frightened all my strength away ... I forbid her to go, and she raises up her chin like the daughter of a prince and says to me, 'I must go to Salem, Goody Proctor'. It is clear to us now just how much the affair between Proctor and Abigail influences the current events and the events that are to follow. Mary also plays another role within Act two; she portrays to us the amount of hate that Abigail holds for Elizabeth. ...read more.

Conclusion

'(in terror): I cannot, they'll turn on me' The language throughout The Crucible is what Arthur Miller portrayed as seventeenth century. When Miller started to write The Crucible his first source of information were the actual court records in which all the court proceedings are minutely transcribed. In Millers autobiography 'Timebends' he says 'I wanted to study the actual words of the interrogations, a gnarled way of speaking ... and I came to love its feel like hard, burnished wood. Without planning to, I even elaborated a few of the grammatical forms myself, the double negatives especially.' This elaboration is most definitely apparent throughout the play. Miller has cleverly managed to give us speech that is old and therefore sets the scene, without too much of a difference from modern language, that we find ourselves struggling to translate. Words such as 'Aye', 'Nay' and 'Harlot' though all words that are considered old fashioned and seventeenth century, are not words of which we fail to understand the meaning. The language in this play does not just set a time scene but also a religious one. The language and vocabulary featured in this play is very much based on the King James Version of the Bible. A prime example of this: when Elizabeth tells John of Mary's visit to the courts, she describes the power of Abigail and the girls with a scene from the Old Testament. 'Abigail brings the other girls into court and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. ...read more.

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