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How are the seeds of future conflict sown in the First Act of 'The Crucible'

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Introduction

How are the seeds of future conflict sown in the First Act of 'The Crucible' The first words - the Crucible - of this play serve as an excellent guide to the forthcoming events of paranoia and hysteria. A crucible is an object, in which materials, often metals, are heated to extreme temperatures where they are then purified. This play shows a community in Salem, Massachusetts in the late 17th century, which ignites, and burns with accusations of witchcraft, retribution, and mass hysteria. In this essay however, I will explore the first act of the play, which forms a strong foundation for the events that are soon to spiral out of control. The first act deals with all the main characters that symbolise the ideas dealt with within the play. I shall discuss each of the characters in turn and the role that they play in 'The Crucible'. In my opinion, it is use of characters that makes a play effective, and it is important that the reader can relate to them. In this play, without the complexity of the characters and their motives, I believe that 'The Crucible' would not have such tensions, and the heights of such intensity would not be reached by the accusations of witchcraft. The setting that Miller chooses for this play is particularly important. Miller establishes at the start of Act One that life in Salem is very rigid and has a close-knit society. This quality of the society in Salem makes it particularly receptive to the mass hysteria of the witch trials that are soon to follow. ...read more.

Middle

The last and the main accuser of witchcraft is Abigail Williams. Miller quickly establishes Abigail as a pretender, or "a strikingly beautiful girl, with an endless capacity for dissembling". She demonstrates a great ability for self-preservation: she admits what she must at times, and places the blame for her actions on the most convenient source, in this case Tituba. An excellent example is given within the First Act, when Abigail says, "I always hear her laughing in my sleep. I hear her singing her Barbados songs and tempting me with-". Her motivations lie at the bottom of the accusations that grip Salem. It is therefore important that Miller establishes early on in Act One her affair with John Proctor, a character yet to be mentioned. All the accusations grow from her desire to displace Goody Proctor as John Proctor's wife. She originally wants to use the witchcraft trials to achieve her aim, but soon finds that the trials serve as an escape valve for others' hidden motives. She finds this to her disadvantage at the end of the play after John Proctor himself is accused and is hung. In contrast to these three characters, the next characters show the opposition facing the accusations. Firstly I will discuss the protagonist of the play - John Proctor, whom I have already mentioned. Proctor is a steady man, in whose presence "a fool felt his foolishness instantly". He is described as "a man in his prime, with a quiet confidence, and an unexpressed, hidden force", which reveals his nature to the reader. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Arthur Miller uses the First Act of 'The Crucible' as a strong foundation for the mass hysteria and the intensity of the paranoia that follows in the play. The themes of the play need to be sown into the play quickly and effectively so as to ensure the quick rise of tension. The main issue throughout the play of the conflict of religion and superstition is involved straight away and Miller establishes the stem of all the accusations of Abigail's affair with Proctor quickly, as well as giving an insight into the motivations of the other characters. Miller establishes the characteristics of the Salem community that make it so receptive to the witch hunt and how accusations can ignite fears and panic which can seize a town to such a great extent. 'The Crucible', thought of as an allegory to the McCarthyism that gripped America is elaborately constructed to illustrate how fear and hysteria mixed with an atmosphere of persecution may lead to tragically unjust consequences. The seeds of future conflict are intricately sown in the first Act to provide 'The Crucible' with a solid base on which the accusations raise the tension and conflict to such extreme heights and where characters are wrapped up in the hysteria that make the play so compelling. All the important themes are encompassed during the first Act, such as the shifting of blame, and the conflicts of characters, that allow the rest of the play to spiral out of all proportions permitting 'The Crucible' to be so powerful and utterly riveting. Alex Bowles 1 ...read more.

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