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"The Crucible Effectively Demonstrates the Development of Hysteria and the Consequences of Mass Paranoia." Discuss this with Reference to the Play and the Time in Which it is Written.

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"The Crucible Effectively Demonstrates the Development of Hysteria and the Consequences of Mass Paranoia." Discuss this with Reference to the Play and the Time in Which it is Written. 'The Crucible' was written in 1952 by Arthur Miller and was first performed in 1953. It is about a village called Salem in America, set in the 17th century, where a suspicion of witchcraft and association with the Devil has arisen. This theme of accusation and paranoia is comparable with the period of McCarthyism in the United States of America, where many people were accused of communism and anti-Americanism. The play was written at about the same time as the events in the 1950s and in many ways reflects the villagers' anxiety towards their situation. The community of Salem is a strongly religious one and the villagers all attend the Christian church. The minister is the most important person in the village, as he holds a high position in their religion, therefore he is expected to give a good example. The village is surrounded by forest and the nearest town is a few miles away. This creates a strong bond in the community as each individual has to work hard in order to endure the trials of being part of an isolated society. ...read more.


Later in the play, the audience sees him asking for an even larger salary when he already earns the most in the village. Act I is a scene of hysteria compared to the second act, where Elizabeth and John are discussing the recent events when they are interrupted by Mary Warren, who has been absent for the day, claiming she is part of the court. Most of the scene is relaxed conversation with little action, with the focus on the discomfort experienced by Proctor and Elizabeth. The scene in Act IV where the two are talking is also quiet but not as relaxed, as there is an air of sadness and guilt because Proctor either has to die or defy the truth. Dividing the play in this way gives it more diversity, so the audience are not bored by constant action. It also gives more detail into the personal life of John Proctor, one of the key characters in the play. The suspicion of witchcraft is initially introduced in the first few pages of Act I and is then manipulated by Abigail as she realises the power that she can wield over Proctor. ...read more.


In essence I think Miller was trying to relate the hysterical witch-hunt in the 17th century to the events that were current when the play was being written. He gives lengthy stage directions to ensure that the play is acted out properly. Because they are so accurate, the director has an easier job creating the right effect for each scene, so it is more believable for the audience and they have a better understanding of it. The Crucible demonstrates how easily people can be manipulated by belief, and how belief in something can effectively blind people, making them think irrationally. The characters are plausible and consistent, and the audience can see how they develop throughout the play. All the events are believable (if not probable) and the language used is convincing as 17th century American. The audience can empathise with the characters, particularly with John Proctor, as they see early on the problems he has and understand the dilemma he faces in Act IV. I think the play should be thought of not as a piece of drama, but as a piece of literature illustrating how people's trust can be exploited to an individual's advantage. Alex Gill 01/05/07 10TY 1 ...read more.

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