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How Does Arthur Miller Present The Characters of Abigail and Elizabeth and Shape Our Responses To Them?

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Introduction

GCSE English Literature The Crucible How Does Arthur Miller Present The Characters of Abigail and Elizabeth and Shape Our Responses To Them? The play 'The Crucible' is set the town of Salem, Massachusetts towards the end of the seventeenth century. The town of Salem was founded by the Pilgrim Fathers who followed the Puritan beliefs and practices. The Pilgrim Fathers fled from England so that they could practise their strict personal habits and morals in freedom. Amongst the many things the Puritans prohibited, the inhabitants of Salem believed in the Devil and that any sources of Witchcraft should be eradicated from their society. The main influence on Arthur Miller to write a play illustrating the malice madness of the Salem Witch-hunts in 1690 was the American fear of communism that swept the nation after the Second World War. Arthur Miller, himself, was directly accused of possessing communist links which were looked down upon and was fined and given a suspended prison sentence. A year later, a court acquitted him and cleared his name, shortly before the first performance of 'The Crucible' took place. The story of 'The Crucible' has therefore been based on historic American events both in the 1960s and more recently in the 1950s. Arthur Miller has presented the non-fictional characters in his play with different and significant character traits. This contradicts the stereotype that individuality was extremely rare within the Puritan community of Salem. Yet, the contradiction to this point is probably one of the main causes for how the small community became stirred into madness, superstition, paranoia and barbaric accusations. In this essay I will discuss how Arthur Miller presented the different character traits of Elizabeth and Abigail to his audience to shape their responses to both the women. I have already established that Arthur Miller has set 'The Crucible' in a small Puritan society which follows extremely strict laws and practises where individuality is unheard of. ...read more.

Middle

Each of Abigail's personality traits: deceit, pretence, desperation, aggression, controlling and threatening are shown by Miller to his audience mainly through her relationships with three significant characters: Proctor, Danforth and her peers. From the beginning of the court cases in Salem, Abigail has a strong bond with both of the judges, Hathorne and Danforth, as they are the two main victims of her control. The accusations of witchery within the town have started because of one girl, Abigail, and for this reason as well as the tense and suspicious attitudes of the inhabitants of Salem the two judges have no other option but to place all aspects of their faith in the seventeen year old girl. However, as the play proceeds and the accusations increase it is presented to the audience that Danforth begins to lose trust in Abigail and doubts what she is saying is true and this could determine the fate of their relationship. If Danforth does lose faith in Abigail, she will lose all the power she has in Salem at that precise moment. In Act Three, especially, the stage directions shown by Miller present to the audience the doubts within their relationship. Danforth says :(weakening):'Child, I do not mistrust you' and as the scene goes on more stage directions follow which illustrate the decline of trust within the relationship(blanched in horror), (Danforth seems unsteady), (Danforth cannot speak). Miller has presented to the audience the fact that Danforth's integrity is on the line with every one of Abigail's lies he believes. The court has hung so many people as a result of the accusations and each of these taken lives lie on Danforth's and Hathorne's conscience. Act Three highlights a possible turning point in the Abigail's and Danforth's relationship as Danforth begins to realise that, maybe, Abigail could be misleading the court with her accusations, yet his concerns of her accusations and their relationship could damage his reputation if they came out into public. ...read more.

Conclusion

Miller has created such a piece of compelling drama in his play 'The Crucible� due to the range of moods and emotions such as love, anger, hatred, passion, denial, confessions, jealousy and betrayal that he presents to his audience through his characters. He has also illustrated the distribution of power throughout a small community. 'The Crucible� displays the powers of human natures and how they reflect on certain character traits. However, what makes 'The Crucible' more dramatic is the fact that The Salem Witch trials did actually happen in 1962. And even though the Witch Trials as well as the fears of communism have passed throughout history, the events that happened in Miller's play could happen again not just with witchcraft but with any issue where suspicion is at the centre of a community. If you look back in history you would possibly come across thousands of innocent people who have been swept up by hysterical suspicion due to vulnerability of people. The play illustrates many stories within one community but all characters in the play are ordinary people who have the opportunity to achieve greatness in the face of adversity and Miller has shown how human condition can affect the way in which people deal with the adversity. A piece of drama can either be categorised as a comedy or a tragedy and a tragedy requires a hero, who in this, Miller has presented to be Proctor. This hero must have faults which would be Proctor's previous affair with Abigail. However, the hero is always redeemed and Proctor was redeemed through death. 'The Crucible' has not only been written to shape the audiences responses to different characters but also to raise awareness to the audience that extremism, hysteria and suspicion can all end in a tragedy, even in real life. Miller has for this reason presented the characters of two Puritan women, Abigail and Elizabeth differently to shape our responses accordingly to the tragedy genre of plays. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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