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In 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, ten teen-age girls claimed that Reverend Samuel Parris' slave, Tituba and two elderly women from the town a Salem had bewitched them.

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Introduction

In 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, ten teen-age girls claimed that Reverend Samuel Parris' slave, Tituba and two elderly women from the town a Salem had bewitched them. In four months hundreds of people were imprisoned, 19 of whom were hanged and one was pressed to death with rock, all due to witchcraft. Two hundred and sixty years later the people of the United States became frightened that communism would strike America as it had in countries such as China and the USSR. People who were suspected of communism were brought before inquiries that were televised and were asked to sign confessions, lead by McCarthy. Senator Joseph McCarthy was anti-communist supporter who lead investigations to seek out people who had left wing sympathies. He worked on the principle of guilty until proved innocent, the opposite of methods usually worked with in a fair court system. One of the ways to get out of it was to name others. Most of the people brought before inquiries were not communists, although they may have been slightly left wing. Although they were not executed, they were prevented from ever working again. Miller wrote the play in the 1950's in America whilst this was going on. The main people who were attacked by these activities were people who worked in mass media, such as Miller himself. Miller saw a similarity between the Salem Witch trials of 1692 and the un-American activities in America in his life and wrote a play set in the Witch Trials in 1692. The main characters in the play are: Parris, a forty year old widower who was Reverend of the village; Abigail, Paris' niece aged 17; Proctor, a farmer in his mid-thirties married to Elizabeth with two children; Giles Corey, eighty year old man often blamed for problems in the village; Hale, nearing forty Reverend of Beverly, a nearby town and Danforth, Deputy Governor of the village. ...read more.

Middle

'There is blood on my head!' Hale believes that life is more important than principles: 'Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it.' Hale is a dynamic character in the play as we experience a change in character as he realises that Abigail is lying. Elizabeth is John Proctors wife and at the time of the trial reveals she is pregnant. After the birth of her second child Elizabeth became terminally ill. Elizabeth is a good, Christian woman, but she cannot help but feel jealousy towards Abigail as she knows that Proctor still feels something for her. She is cold towards Proctor and unforgiving about the affair. In court Proctor confesses his affair with Abigail in an attempt to prove that she is a liar. Danforth calls for Elizabeth as he is told that she cannot lie. However Elizabeth in an effort to save her husband's name lies, for the first time, in doing so she condemns her husband as a liar. This shows that she is prepared to lie for the first time in her life, revealing the love that she showed for him. In the final act when she is alone with Proctor she admits that it is not only him who has sinned in the relationship but herself as she admits that she never showed him the love he deserved 'It were a cold house I kept!' Elizabeth finally forgives John and he dies an honest man as is symbolised in Elizabeths line 'He have his goodness now, God forbid I take it from him!' Danforth is a man in his sixties and is Deputy Governor in the village. Danforth likes to do everything 'by the book' and he thinks very highly of himself. He sees everything in 'black and white' as is shown in his line 'But you must understand, sir, a person is either with this court or he must be counted against it, there be no road in between.' ...read more.

Conclusion

There is great contrast between certain moments for example Act One ends with frantic cries from the girls then Act Two begins with tension and silence between Elizabeth and John. Throughout the story you constantly ask yourself, will John stick to his principles and become a martyr or will he back down and live? Will people continue to believe Abigail? These elements of the play makes you want to read on and find out. The love element throughout the story makes it interesting and we can empathise with the characters, the plot is not unbelievable. The ending has a twist to it, we begin to believe that Proctor will sign the confession then he tears it up, the ending satisfies everybody, Proctor is forgiven and dies a hero. We know Abigail is a villain, but we cannot help but feel some sympathy for her, she watched her own parents killed, she is an orphan living in a community in which she feels suffocated and her heart has been torn apart. When we first began to read the play I did not understand it because there are so many characters and I did not understand the background to the play or generally what was happening. The language was difficult to understand and I did not understand where the play was leading. When we watched a video of the play I began to understand it and was disappointed when we finished reading the play as I had just begun to enjoy it. When I watched the video I learnt who all the characters were, what their positions were in the village and what was happening. I found it easier to understand and I felt that the costumes and the houses made me feel more like I was there. I thought the video was close to the script in the book and was a good representation of the play in film form. I think that if I read this play again I would really understand it and appreciate it even more. ...read more.

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