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The Crucible was written in 1952 by Arthur Miller

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

'Long held hatred of neighbours... could now be elevated to the arena of morality; one could cry witch against one's neighbour and feel perfectly justified in the bargain.' Moral Crusade or Personal Vendetta? The Crucible was written in 1952 by Arthur Miller. It was written to expel his fury at the McCarthyist trials of 50s America, The play is set in Salem, USA in 1692 during the time of the famous witch trials, which he used as an allegory for the courtroom trials of McCarthyist America. The essay title 'Moral Crusade or Personal Vendetta' draws parallels to the McCarthyism of the 1950's where whole lives were destroyed merely on the strength of accusations. McCarthyism was a movement in America which was obsessed with the fear of communism and "un- American" activity. 'The Crucible' is a naturalistic play in which the characters and actions are depicted in a manner which imitates life. The 'Salem Witch Trials' are historical fact and the characters in this play all existed, therefore Miller feels it is important to provide a lengthy introduction giving information about the characters and life in Salem. The playwright's voice is heard many times throughout the play in the form of interruptions to give historical and character backgrounds and detailed stage directions. It is obvious that Miller wanted the play to be performed exactly as it was written and he felt it important that the reader knew about the character before being introduced to them. Salem is a very traditional, strict town which is very ordered, quiet and occupied by Puritans. The Puritans adhered strictly to religious doctrine and they considered material and physical desires to be the work of the devil and a threat to their society. The Bible and their interpretation of the Bible was used to determine what was socially acceptable behaviour. Such behaviour that they considered inappropriate or unacceptable was punished both severely and publicly. ...read more.

Middle

He believes people are plotting against him and a faction plans to force him to leave Salem so he attempts to strengthen his authority through the witch trials thereby using them for his own means. After Parris receives a death threat, and hears of a rebellion against the court in Andover, where there have been similar witch trials, Parris fears that the hanging of two such upstanding citizens as Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor will incite a rebellion in Salem, similar to the one in Andover. The reason he gives is that 'postponement now speaks of floundering on my part.' He is not so much concerned about the lives of those condemned as about his own reputations. To determine if witchcraft is to blame for Betty's illness, Parris summons Hale, a Reverend from the Boston area. Unlike most of the other characters, Reverend Hale has nothing to gain from the trials and executions. He is a well meaning scholar with a reputation for knowledge and expertise symbolised by the many books he carries on entering the play. He also feels he can put the people of Salem at ease regarding their concerns about witchcraft. He does this by exhorting Tituba, the black slave, and the other girls to confess and denounce others to save themselves. When he succeeds he cries, 'glory to God, it is broken, they are free!' Reverend Hale is on a moral crusade, striving for justice unlike many of the other characters. He is impressed by Elizabeth Proctor's strong Christian faith. He is critical of John Proctor's poor record of attendance at church and is dismayed at finding that John Proctor cannot remember the Ten Commandments. Ironically, the only of the Ten Commandments that he cannot name is, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery.' Although Hale remains determined not to declare witchcraft unless he can prove it, he is taken in by the expectations of the people of Salem and begins by taking their evidence at face value. ...read more.

Conclusion

It is a play in which private grudges and feuding erupts into controversies that overwhelm an entire community. The problems of a single man, according to Miller, are not enough to 'contain the truth of the human situation.' Proctor's conscience is the focus of the play. The initial situation of the play is well devised to prevent the social forces that later provide the major conflict for Proctor as he becomes aware of the witch hunts and reveals his temper, his strengths and weaknesses. At times it seems that evil may win over blind justice. Proctor is a proud and strong man whose one mistake causes his own downfall. The relentless forces of evil in this melodrama are inevitable. The balance between order and freedom, which once existed, as displayed by the character of Proctor is being destroyed. Social and personal conflicts are dramatised in his destruction. This is done by fraud and a self-imposed hypnotism on the part of a society in panic. The climax suggests a symbolic end of an era, the waste of human lives and the confused state of a mankind whose personal disaster shatters the balance of the world. Order to this shattered state is restored by the hero making a personal sacrifice. Some of the characters in 'The Crucible' respond by behaving as though they are on a moral crusade and morally upright characters like Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor end up facing dilemmas of conscience and in conflict with authority. They would rather die than lose their good name by signing to witchcraft. However, a majority and insecurity are driven by fear to manipulate the situation for their own purposes and misinterpret events for their own end, until finally the situation and the events are out of control. An atmosphere of hysterical suspicion is created which drives people. Miller has created this. Miller has created this atmosphere in 'The Crucible' by the use of technical features such as characterisation, language, stage directions and lighting. Nikhil Sehmi Page 1 ...read more.

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