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How does Arthur Miller portray the emotions of fear, superstition and revenge in the play The Crucible?

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Introduction

How does Arthur Miller portray the emotions of fear, superstition and revenge in the play 'The Crucible'? People have believed for a long time that a great deal of bad luck is inevitable if you were to spill salt or break a mirror. Superstitions like these have been around for hundreds of years, and in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, in the late seventeenth century, these superstitions hit the roof and caused great hysteria. The hysteria took the form of accusations of witchcraft and at the time this was a common superstition. Whenever there were people who appeared to be outsiders or different, they were feared and sometimes punished, Tituba for example is never fully trusted because of her origins, she is from Barbados and therefore different. Miller included her to highlight how unforgiving and devoutly Christian life was then. This case in particular is a good example for where superstition occurs in 'The Crucible'. Reverend Parris instantly suspects Tituba is up to no good; "I saw Tituba waving her arms over the fire when I came on you. Why was she doing that and I heard a screeching and gibberish coming from her mouth" (page 8) ...read more.

Middle

Abigail does not see it this way and she then goes on to coarse a stir in the vain hope the love could be rekindled. This hidden agenda is deliberately included by Miller to highlight how the lust or desire for something can force untold consequences on innocent people. The lies Abigail spreads to seek her revenge are similar to the lies people told during the trials Senator McCarthy staged in America during the 1950's. The climate of fear which communism created was running rife in the 1950's and McCarthy placed absolute trust in the trial system, like Reverend Danforth did without checking the accuracy of the information. Innocent people were ruined or hung in Salem as a result and fear lingered in Salem for a long time after. Fear plays a big part in 'The Crucible'. The character of Reverend Parris fears being driven from his position in the church; "There is a faction that is sworn to drive from my pulpit" (page 8). In the stage directions it says "Reverend Parris is praying now, and, although we cannot hear his words, a sense of confusion hangs about him". This shows that he is in a state when he speaks those words and is struck with fear. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a result of the McCarthy trials against communism in America taking place during his lifetime, Arthur Miller experienced the raw emotions firsthand. The trials were practically identical to the Salem witch trials and as Arthur Miller was experiencing them first hand this would have made writing this play a much more emotional experience. He could see how people were reacting so he could transfer these emotions into his play which made his work much more realistic. For example, good innocent people were made to become paranoid and then do anything - even lie to save themselves and in the play the audience can see how he has shown this. The people who lived in the village of Salem were all puritans and believed that god would only accept them if they were pure people. These beliefs ultimately destroyed them because the people of Salem would do anything not to be found guilty. As the audience see, the power of superstition, fear and revenge can distort the truth and these were all reasons for the accusations that flew. Arthur Miller portrayed the emotions well in 'The Crucible' by letting them shine through his characters. The play does not just show these emotions, it makes the audience feel the tension, the angst and the desperation. ...read more.

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