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How does Miller create tension in "the Crucible"? Analyse two episodes and evaluate Miller's success.

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Introduction

Vicki Harris 10z How does Miller create tension in "the Crucible"? Analyse two episodes and evaluate Miller's success. Written by Arthur Miller in the early 1950's, "The Crucible" notes the story of the quiet town of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. As the play progresses, a major witch hunt takes place after a group of young girls claim to have danced with the Devil. Although the play is fictional, Miller based it on real people and events documented in records made after the actual witch hunts took place, at around the time the play was set it. I have chosen to analyse the conversation in Act 1, between Abigail and John where she attempts to entice him back to her, however John is adamant he will not be drawn in by her charms and appears to not be tempted. I shall also analyse the section of Act 4 where John Proctor 'confesses' to partaking in witchcraft, but then changes his mind after realising he values his morals more than his life. The first episode begins with Betty in bead and, after supposedly dancing with the Devil; she is in an apparent trance-like sleep. At the same time, John and Abigail are talking about their affair, something that took place before the play began. ...read more.

Middle

The audience would probably presume the same sort of scenario, or something that has grown from what happened here, would be played out at a later point in the story. This episode uses mainly vocal techniques, volume, language, and pace, to create variations in tension. There is also a single, carefully placed, moment of harsh physical contact that helps in creating a huge surge in tension in the last moments of the episode. The second episode takes place in Act 4, where John Proctor says he will confess to dealing with the Devil in order to save his life, only to revoke this confession when he realises he would rather die with a clear conscience than live thanks to a false declaration of guilt. This is the climax of the entire play and, as such, contains many techniques to subtly create tension. The main technique, evident throughout the confession episode, is dramatic irony. We see John Proctor, a seemingly strong character who is very stuck to his morals, prepared to give a confession in order to save his life, when we know that he and all the other people accused of witchcraft are actually innocent. This means that the whole way through this part of the play, tension is felt because the audience are aware of the massive injustice taking place on the stage, however they have no powers to stop it. ...read more.

Conclusion

These people were communists, and Arthur Miller saw writing this play as a good way of provoking peoples thoughts on the matter. He hoped it would make them see that these things didn't exist - at least the threat from them didn't - and he hoped people would watch his play, go home and see the similarities between what went on in Salem in 1692 and what was going on in the present day of early day 1950's. Miller wanted people to make a stand against the people trying to 'dispose' of the communists and saw writing a play as a good way of getting an otherwise difficult to explain point across. To conclude, Miller uses many techniques, ranging from simple variations in volume, interrupting lines and changing the pace of a conversation to more obvious things such as physical contact in order to create, maintain and vary tension levels. I think Arthur Miller has used a good mixture of different techniques, some subtle, some more blatant, to create a play, and in particular the two episodes I have chosen, in which I can feel the tension. Surely, the best way that I can evaluate his success is upon how much tension I felt when watching the play, and that was a great amount. ...read more.

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