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'The Crucible' - review

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Introduction

'The Crucible' was set in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692. The government was a theocracy, ruled by god through religious officials. Hard work and church consumed the majority of a Salem resident's time and within the community there were simmering disputes over land. Matters of boundaries and deeds were a source of constant, bitter disagreements. The Puritans lived a strict, rigid and somber way of life, and had a predilection for interfering in other's affairs to guard against immorality. Power was so easily obtained by some because they knew how to manipulate people, or had power from being in a religious status, or was simply a male, who were considered god's earthly representatives. Abigail is the vehicle that drives the play, she is smart, wily, and vindictive when crossed, and she has a talent for deception. It is obvious from the start of the play that she is the villain of the play, even more so than Parris and Danforth. Abigail is low rung on the Puritan Salem social ladder, the only people 'below' her are slaves and social outcasts. For young girls in Salem, ministers and other males, especially adults, are god's earthly representatives, their authority derived from on high. So her power in the play is gained from her beauty, her forcefulness and her ability to manipulate everyone. Abigail's character is the exact opposite of Elizabeth's, and represents the repressed sexual and material desires that perhaps all of the Puritans possessed, but she does not suppress her desires. ...read more.

Middle

She threatens the other girls with violence if they refuse to go along with her plans, and she does not hesitate to accuse them of witchcraft if their loyalty proves untrue, she is driven by jealousy and desire but in the end she ends the life of the man she believed she loved. . Reverend Hale's power was mostly gained through him being a Priest, which automatically made him a strong believer of god and a person who disliked Witchcraft. Because he was reputed to be an expert in witchcraft, that would have also given him power, people would look to him and expect him to be able point out those who had 'signed the book of the Devil.' It comes across that Reverend Hale likes the fact that he is needed, and takes pride in the fact that they called him to look at Betty, it gives him the feel of authority and he likes the fact that he is regarded an expert on Witchcraft, for example when he says 'No, no. Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The devil is precise; the marks of his presence definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of Hell upon her.' It shows that he likes the fact of complete power. Hale abuses his power when he probes people for confessions and encourages them to testify, but he probably thought he was doing the right thing at this time in helping to unmask those who worshiped the devil. ...read more.

Conclusion

Both the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the Anti-Communist McCarthy Hearings in 1950 are examples of judicial hysteria where the law appears caught up in the frenzy to rid society of an apparent threat using very limited evidence. For this to happen there has to be a human environment, which feels it is being threatened by a force that will undermine its very existence. The members of the societies in both cases suffered a paranoiac reaction, and this, as we see in 'The Crucible' causes a great deal of hysteria. In the case of the McCarthy Trials, the western world was in the grip of the Cold War and this environment enabled McCarthy to instigate his hunt for Anti-Americans or Communists. In a way, he is similar to Abigail and he progressed from being an unimportant Senator to being a household name throughout the world at the end of his campaign. In 1954 his highly publicised Investigations Committee had explored all areas of American society for Communists, including the entertainment industry, and the army. These hearings were televised, and after many ruined careers, the accusations were shown to be baseless, just as Abigail's accusations were. The message that Miller is trying to put across about power in society is that the law should be viewed as flexible in order to obtain justice. When the letter of the law rules Courts, then it causes justice to suffer. That is why our modern laws are forever being modified and refined. By Natasha Singh ...read more.

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