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GCSE English Directors Notes on Act 4 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Introduction

GCSE English Twentieth Century Drama Coursework Assignment Directors Notes on Act 4 of The Crucible by Arthur Miller As the Director of this play, I feel it is my responsibility to offer you advice on playing the character of John Proctor. I'm sure you'll find it may help you to understand the character if you are aware of the social and historical context of the play. The play is set in 1692 and is based upon the outbreak of accusations in Salem, Massachusetts. Arthur Miller wrote the play The Crucible, using the 17th-century case of witch trials (and fictionalising it) to comment on a 20th-century phenomenon-the hunting of communists as if they were witches. In 17th century Salem the inhabitants feared witchcraft, like America feared communism, both were exaggerated and both communities overreacted to an insignificant threat to their stability of life. Arthur Miller had always had a personal interest in the Salem Witch trials, but at the time he was writing the play, America was in the middle of the McCarthy political "Witch Hunt". Miller himself was called up before a committee for signing petitions, and he began to notice many similarities between the two trials, such as the naming of names and public confessions. This has meant that his play is seen as a political parable. In 1692, the colonists in Salem were Puritans and very protective of their particular religion and would tolerate no other. ...read more.

Middle

You stand increasingly close, until touching, then after a moment of intense silence let out half a shallow laugh and sit down. Elizabeth will join you and again there is silence as you give her, and she returns a searching look, as if there is so much to say, and you don't know where to begin. You look down and then the tension breaks as you attempt to start a conversation. "The child?" You continue a halfhearted conversation with long silences between monosyllabic answers. Both of you sense the conversation is not getting anywhere. Elizabeth becomes visibly pained as you ask about the children and after a pause you say, "you are a marvel Elizabeth" respectfully, as you stand and come closer to her, she looks away, silent tears running down her face. The second key moment in Act 4 is when Proctor has to respond to Elizabeth asking for forgiveness. He is already filled with guilt for what he has done to her, and to see her blaming it on herself would cause Proctor an immense amount of grief, he would be so upset by his sins affecting her, when he sees she has done nothing wrong. "...It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery..." Proctor could show this in the way he reacts, physically to her. As he says "enough, enough" he should look up at her as he says it, then down in shame. ...read more.

Conclusion

Proctor's courageous decision, at the close of the play, to die rather than confess to a sin that he did not commit, finally breaks the cycle. The court collapses shortly afterward, undone by the refusal of its victims to propagate lies. Another one of the plays themes relevant to Act 4 is Reputation. , Proctor seeks to keep his good name from being spoilt. Early in the play, he has a chance to put a stop to the girls' accusations, but his desire to preserve his reputation keeps him from testifying against Abigail. At the end of the play, however, Proctor's desire to keep his good name leads him to make the choice not to make a false confession and to die without signing his name to an untrue statement. "I have given you my soul; leave me my name!" he cries to Danforth. By refusing to ruin his name, he redeems himself for his earlier sins and dies with integrity, another theme of the play. In conclusion, you should reflect in your representation of Proctor the many changes he goes through in this Act. From ashamed, to righteous as he denies the court a false confession. Proctor is honest and upright, but has made one mistake, which confessing to cost him his life. He is very proud and his integrity is very important to him, I wish you the very best of luck in playing this complex character on stage. Hayley Martin Director of The Crucible ...read more.

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