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The Crucible

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Introduction

The Crucible The scene under consideration in Act 2 is characterised by an atmosphere of mounting tension. This is a feature of the play as a whole as we observe the community of Salem being overtaken by collective hysteria in which, ultimately, no one feels safe. History provides many examples of the way in which religious movements and political ideologies can be distorted into forms that represent a contradiction of the teachings expanded and the examples set by their founders. Arthur Miller draws parallels between the Salem witch-hunt and America in the McCarthy era, but, the reigns of terror unleashed by Stalin in the 1930's, by Mao Tse-Tung in the Cultural Revolution and by Robespierre in the French Revolution are other examples. Whenever a single ideology is granted, a pre-eminent position is established in a community at the expense of human rights and democratic freedoms, there is an ever present danger that ignorance, bigotry and fanaticism may overwhelm a community, leading to monstrous injustice which no one feels able to challenge. No one feels able to doubt Abigail because the penalty for such honesty, as Proctor learns in the climax of the play, is death. ...read more.

Middle

During this scene, there are instances where one or two words can have a dramatic effect on someone's state of mind. For example, when Hale asks John to recite the Ten Commandments, he remembers all of them, except 'Do Not Commit Adultery'. Because this is the commandment he has broken, he suffers a mental block and, "flailing for it" ends up repeating one of the other commandments. However, when Elizabeth assists him by delicately whispering "Adultery John", he is momentarily devastated. He attempts to laugh it off, but the audience may suspect from Hale's penetrating gaze that he has seen through John and guesses that he has committed adultery. The other major scene in which John's emotions are at breaking point is when Cheever and Herrick come "on business of the court," to take Elizabeth away to jail. At the start of the scene, Hale expressly stated that he had not come "on business of the court, but with the arrival of Cheever and Herrick, everything changes, and suddenly Hale is as powerless as John to determine Elizabeth's fate. Miller ahs portrayed John as having tried the reasoned, co-operative approach and, this having failed, John's desperate resort to open defiance to his understandable response to the sudden heightening of the stakes. ...read more.

Conclusion

There are a few moments of significant impact in this scene. Firstly, Hale has been told about why all the people have confessed to witchcraft, and this proves a quite major turning point as, Hale now begins to understand the people's point of view. The reader would see that deep down, Hale knows that these people are most probably innocent: "It is his own suspicion," but, he doesn't want to go against the court, so he has to put up an argument. Later, John makes Hale realise what is happening when he inquires about why Abigail is considered to be innocent: "Is the accuser always holy now?" The significance of this scene to the play as a whole is, that within this scene, people like Giles and Francis now want to go to Salem, to try to get the charges against their wives dropped. However, John Proctor at the beginning of the scene was very hesitant about going to Salem, but, now he willing to go to almost any lengths to free his wife. As a result, the details of his adultery get out. ...read more.

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