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How does Arthur Miller create tension in Act Three of "The Crucible"?

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Introduction

How does Arthur Miller create tension in Act Three of "The Crucible"? "The Crucible" is a play centred around morals, guilt and good and evil. It portrays these themes through witchcraft and an intensely religious society, set in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. The acrimonious and joyless community full of petty jealousies and fear if attack from Native Americans, actually symbolises events in America during the 1950s, of which Arthur Miller was a part of. He wrote "The Crucible" as an allegory, running parallel with what happened in 1950s America, controlled by Senator Joseph McCarthy and here represented by Salem judge, Danforth. McCarthy was head of the 1950s accusations of communism, making 205 public charges and blacklisting many playwrights, directors and actors from Hollywood Studios, including Arthur Miller. Miller could not directly write about his experiences so instead chose to represent them in Salem. The fact that it is set further back in history also emphasises the stupidity of the situation, and that this kind of modern day witch-hunt belongs in the past. Right from the symbolic title, Miller makes a statement as to the themes of the play. The scientific meaning of the word "crucible" is a small round dish used, at high temperatures, to purify substances. ...read more.

Middle

This can be seen in the way she searches for assurance from John in the stage direction, "Elizabeth tries to glance at Proctor" when she doesn't know what to say. The directions also say "not knowing what to say, sensing a situation, wetting her lips to stall for time". This builds up suspense as the audience have no idea whether she will lie - against her religion and nature, or tell the truth. She is a very unpredictable character who the audience have no real insight into because she is so quiet, building the tension as the scene goes on. The character of Abigail is very different to that of Elizabeth. Her self-confidence and confrontational nature means she can overpower even adult judges who cross her path, as a teenager. An example of this in the courtroom is when she steps up to Danforth and says "What look do you give me? I'll not have such looks!" The stage directions then say "Danforth cannot speak", Abigail has succeeded in dumfounding the man who holds her destiny, and gaining the upper hand. Abigail is also the driving force behind the play. She bears most of the responsibility for the girls meeting with Tituba in the woods, and once Parris discovers them, she attempts to conceal her behaviour because it will reveal her affair with Proctor if she confesses to casting a spell on Elizabeth Proctor. ...read more.

Conclusion

All of the main characters are involved, in the same courtroom, bringing together the contrasting personalities and battles. It is where John reveals his terrible secret, Elizabeth lies to save him, Reverend Parris and Abigail both act to save themselves and the balance between success and failure for each person constantly flickers. With only one sane person that can hold any objective view, Hale - who is totally outnumbered, the scene is sure to lead to a drastic outcome, keeping the audience guessing all the time.This scene also takes the audience on a metaphorical roller coaster with the highest peak of tension where Elizabeth is about to give her answer. The moment she finally responds releases all the tension, revealing the tragic outcome. Along the way Arthur Miller successfully uses language, stage directions, themes, contrasting characters and even the title to create and build tension, keeping the audience involved all the time. Miller's play also fulfilled its purpose of making a point about the event it runs against from the 1950s- showing how something so stupid - like false accusations, can cause so much damage and ruin so may lives. It also demonstrates how one person can take it upon themselves to right what is happening, but that with a ruling body so set upon their own views - it may still end in tragedy. ...read more.

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