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Dramatic tension in act three of The Crucible

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Introduction

GCSE examination work The Crucible - Arthur Miller How does Miller create dramatic tension in Act Three of The Crucible and what purpose does it serve? The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, written in 1953, is a play about two subjects. Set in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, theoretically a pure, god-loving community, this play exposes the witch-hunts that took place at that time, and the atmosphere around them. But The Crucible also is a play about what happened in America in the 1950's: the McCarthyism communist hunts. Indeed, Miller was very touched by these, as he was himself imprisoned by false accusation. This play therefore presents the atmosphere in McCarthy America through an older but very similar story. By Act Three, the audience has a sense of the atmosphere of America 1692. We have seen how it all begun; the start of mass hysteria. The dramatic tension that will be exposed here, though, reaches its summit in Act Three. The very beginning of Act Three already is tense. Set in the antechamber of the court, it opens with the trial of Martha Corey, but which we cannot see. When the curtain rises, the audience is faced with an empty stage and strong, authoritive voices. ...read more.

Middle

"She never saw no spirits, sir." This silence from Mary Warren I very stressful, both for Proctor and Giles, who talk in her stead, and for the audience, who becomes more afraid of a failure. We see her frailty, and shyness even more. Miller therefore uses characterisation (here, of Mary Warren) as a way to create audience frustration, and to represent the weakness of McCarthy's opposition in the 50's. This same fragility is shown again later on in Act Three. Mary is faced with Abigail, whom she is very afraid of. Her presence in the court makes Mary speak even more "faintly", and when asked to faint, find she cannot. This shows how hard it is for Mary to turn against the majority. All eyes and all pressure are onto her, and being so shy and timid, she finds that she has "no sense of it". This is the result of mass hysteria. Before, Mary "heard the other girls screaming", and Mr Danforth "seemed to believe them", and so she "thought (she) saw them but (she) did not". This explains why she has "no sense of it" when asked. ...read more.

Conclusion

The way Miller makes the whole notion of truth dramatic is to have so many different motives, for the tension lies in the way these motives work off each other. Elizabeth, who "cannot lie" does so at the crucial moment when she has to tell the truth and admit her husband a lecher. This instant is very frustrating for the audience, for Proctor, but Elizabeth's lie was "a natural lie to tell", with a noble motive, for she "only thought to save (her husband)'s name". Miller's point in this is to show how people were condemned by their love for one another, as Proctor confessed to save Elizabeth, and Elizabeth lied to save Proctor. He means to show the audience how truth can be manipulated, or used in different ways, and somewhere, he is also warning us about lying. Similarly to the notion of truth in The Crucible is the notion of proof, and this, centred on the character of Deputy Governor Danforth. Anyone who knows about Joseph McCarthy and 1950's America knows that Danforth represents McCarthy. The irony of the situation is that Danforth thinks he represents justice, and more importantly God. The gap between what Danforth represents and what he thinks he represents is a subject of tension. ...read more.

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