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The Crucible - The scene of Hale's first meeting with the Proctors is a scene of high drama.

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Introduction

The Crucible Essay The scene of Hale's first meeting with the Proctors is a scene of high drama. All great drama has a context and here the background is the religious history of the New World at the end of the 17th century. In 1692, the small town of Salem, Massachusetts, was sent into absolute turmoil. What we now know as the United States of America, but what was then just English Newfoundland had only recently been settled by the Europeans and the characters in the play The Crucible are among the first few non-native generations to occupy the land. When the settlers arrived there were no geographical boundaries or set plots of land and, as a result, there were often land ownership quarrels. This often led to vicious squabbling between the settlers, so Salem in 1692 was a place full of resentment. This sense of resentment is something which Miller brings out in his play. The British had restored their monarchy after the rule of Oliver Cromwell, but still inhabited an era of religious extremism where movements like Puritanism had adopted radical forms of Christianity. The ideas upheld by these sects had travelled across the Atlantic with the settlers and the inhabitants of Salem were living under a virtual theocracy, where church attendance and complete social conformity were vital. As well as becoming stricter in their religion. the English had also gone through a time where many of the problems which we now would explain scientifically would be blamed on "witches." Much of this can be traced back to the earlier reign of James I (or James VI of Scotland) who had been fascinated by witches, This attitude also travelled West with the pilgrims and we join the story of The Crucible with Salem in turmoil after an accusation of witchcraft has been made following the unexplained illness of the Reverend's young daughter - Betty Paris. ...read more.

Middle

Hale rises and seems worried, creating another feeling of tension. Proctor says that there is no love for Satan in this house and Hale prays for it dearly giving them both a glimmer of hope and comfort. However "his misgivings are clear," and we can assume from this, that Hale will presumably be more inclined to say that the devil is present in that house than ever before, based on what he has witnessed. Then Elizabeth, unable to restrain herself, says, "I do think you are suspecting me somewhat? Are you not?" Hale replies that he is not there to judge people, "but only to do the court's bidding." The scene continues with Proctor explaining that the children's sickness had nothing to do with witchcraft and this intrigues Hale. Hale asks whether they do in fact believe in witches. John does but Elizabeth does not, declaring, "If you say I am one then, I say there are none." Rhyming is used by Miller to stress the importance of this line to the audience. Hale replies "You surely do not fly against the gospel, the gospel-" but Proctor comes to her rescue by saying "She believe in the gospel, every word!" Proctor was in a type of Catch 22 situation whereby, if he did not interject and tell Hale that his wife did believe in the gospel then she would potentially be hanging herself. However if he does interject then he could possibly be incriminating his wife further simply by having to clarify her faith. Miller also uses Proctor's interjection to vary the pace of the scene, building tension in the mind of the audience. Hale, now apparently feeling a little sorry for the two, blesses them and tells them to baptize their third child and to go without fail each Sunday to Sabbath prayer. Almost immediately after this Giles Corey, husband to Martha Corey, enters closely followed by Francis Nurse, husband to Rebecca Nurse. ...read more.

Conclusion

However there is one further piece of context which gives this historical piece even greater resonance to a modern audience... As is explained in his essay "The Crucible in History" (from his essay collection "Echoes Down the Corridor) in "The Crucible" Arthur Miller, compared this chapter of history to that of his own era. Miller was persecuted by Senator Joseph McCarthy's committee of un-American activities, an organisation set up by the Senator once the Cold War started. Its purpose was to track down suspected Communists, particularly those in any sort of power or influence, and eliminate them from the political or global stage. The suspects that admitted to having had anything to do with Communism were forced to reveal the names of all those they knew to have done the same. If the accused would not confess, then jail sentences or fines could be enforced. Miller, although not a Communist, had attended a Communist meeting in order to contrast his political opinion with that of a Communist. A friend betrayed him to the committee and he escaped with a five hundred dollar fine and a thirty day jail sentence. Although he was made to declare that the Communist Party coming to power would be a 'disaster', he did not inform the committee of the names of the other people at the meeting. He wrote 'The Crucible' in order to highlight the dangers of ideological zealotry of any kind, using the parallels between the extreme prejudices of the late 17th century and that of Cold War McCarthyism as his graphic illustrations. In conclusion, if we consider this scene against the background of the 1950s McCarthy Communist 'witch trials', the audience would be well aware of the parallels between the two eras each with their won an all-pervading tension. They could identify with Proctor's tension, his feeling of helplessness and his "angered" tone all of which make good drama. Indeed this scene has a timeless dramatic appeal for anyone who has ever suffered the unkind, unfounded prejudice of others. David Rosenberg Page 1 09/05/2007 ...read more.

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