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The themes and issues in Arthur Millers "The Crucible".

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Introduction

The themes and issues in Arthur Millers "The Crucible" reflect the historical and social context in which the play was written. The play was written in 1953, in the middle of the McCarthy political witch-hunt and is set against the backdrop of the mad witch-hunts of the Salem witch trials in the late 17th century (1692). It is about a town, after accusations from a few girls, which begins a mad hunt for witches that did not exist. Many townspeople were hanged on charges of witchcraft. Miller brings about the absurdity of the incident with the theme of truth and righteousness. The theme is conveyed through the struggles of Millers main character, John Proctor. When Miller was summoned before the House Un-American Activities Committee, he was placed in the same position as John Proctor. Miller was asked to give the names of people he had seen at a meeting of communist writers ten years before. Miller refused to answer this question (just like Proctor refused to sign the false confession) and was therefore fined for contempt of Congress. Miller parallels these two conflicts from 1692 and 1953 into "The Crucible" making it clear that the themes and issues dealt with are ones which we deals with now, in modern times, not just in the old days. ...read more.

Middle

At the same time though, Proctor questions his moral sense. After his affair with Abigail, he questions whether or not he is a moral man even though the affair was the only major flaw attributed to Proctor, who is in other respects honourable and ethical. It is a sign of his morality that he does not feel himself adequate to place himself as a martyr for the cause of justice when he is given the choice to save himself at the end of the play. Whenever playing the part of Proctor you would have to get across to the audience that he is obviously outspoken and blunt in his view of witchcraft, but he chooses to downplay the significance of Abigail's accusations. He has a tendency to remain apart from the rest of Salem, which is shown through his decision not to attend church, his rows with Parris and his facing up to the officials of the court. When acting therefore, a strong independence of character has to be shown. His tendency to remain apart from the group could be shown by the actor placing himself far away from the rest of the characters on the stage, except for Elizabeth who he truly loves and wants to please. ...read more.

Conclusion

Guilt is an emotion which most of us feel today and often affects decisions we have to make, just like the conflicts, which Proctor had to overcome. We can tell Proctor is a good man as he does what his conscience told him to do - tear up the confession, which leads to his death. We also see Elizabeth's actions when guilt overcomes her too. In act three she lies because she feels partly responsible for Johns looking elsewhere for love. Elizabeth is a woman who never lies but she is prepared to lie to defend Proctor because her love for him and her guilt over not treating him as well as she could. This is a good comparison on how guilt can make you react in different situations. When acting the part of Elizabeth a difference of attitude would have to be shown between act two and three. Is act two she is very suspicious of Proctor and it is obvious that she doesn't trust him which could be shown in her finding it hard to make eye contact with him and not being very affectionate towards him. In act three she feels so sorry about the way she had acted before and it is clear that she loves her husband very much. ...read more.

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