How far does Act 1 of "The Crucible" prepare the audience for the drama to follow?

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How far does Act 1 of “The Crucible” prepare the audience for the drama to follow?

“The Crucible” was written by Arthur Miller and is performed all over the world.  Many clues contribute to the way people question this play and how the dramatic suspense is built up.  Details help create the atmosphere and keep the audience interested.  Many meanings and allegory can be taken from this play with the help of some information already known.  This play also explores many issues of this time and of the past.

First of all the title is short and simple – “The Crucible”.  The meanings of crucible can be a severe test or trial, a melting pot or a vessel in which substances are heated to high temperatures.  This can give the audience a brief idea of what the play may be about.  The different meanings for just a simple word may indicate that the play deals with many issues and can involve trickery or confusion in a simple or small situation.

The first scene opens with a view of Reverend Parris kneeling beside a bed praying.  His daughter is lying on the bed, but the audience do not yet know this.  This first view is shocking to the audience.  He gives off a sense of confusion and begins to weep.  This grabs the attention of the audience straight away and has dramatic potential.  The audience will start asking questions already such as is he praying because he has done something to her?  The audience may perceive that the girl is dying, but because the audience do not yet know the relationship of the reverend and the girl it keeps them questioning.  The props used e.g. the candle, rafters, wooden furniture and the using of the shaft of light peeping through a small window gives the audience a good idea of the time in which this play is set.  The candle and the narrow shaft of light give the impression of not seeing clearly.  Since the room is fairly clear it doesn’t distract the audience from the characters.  Tituba enters briefly but the line, “My Betty be hearty soon?” shows that she is obviously very attached to her, but not related because she is black.  Since she is black and now that the audience know the era they can tell that she must have been a slave.  When Parris snaps at Tituba the audience is inclined to think he is blaming her for something.  It shows the audience that she must have a bigger part than portrayed by the brief introduction.  

Abigail enters with Susanna Walcott.  The audience may feel even more interested when Susanna says “…he cannot discover no medicine for it in his books.”  She is referring to the doctor and this may make the audience predict that the story could be about a search for a cure or discovering a new illness especially in the way crucible can mean a melting pot, for medicine perhaps.  We know now that Abigail and Reverend Parris are related as she calls him Uncle and Betty must be related, as he is so concerned and determined, “Then he must search on.”  As soon as Susanna begins to mention “unnatural causes” meaning witchcraft being the reason why Betty is like this, Rev. Parris dismisses it straight away.  Except the audience do not yet know that she is talking about witchcraft so this suggests mystery, which keeps them in suspense or if the audience has already worked that out it could make them believe that he knows witchcraft is involved.  It could also imply that he is a very religious reverend or that he certainly does not want a bad name in the village, “Speak nothin’ of it in the village, Susanna.”  Susanna exits and then Parris talks with Abigail.

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The audience discover that witchcraft has almost certainly been going on.  Abigail denies all forms of witchcraft but admits to dancing.  Parris obviously doesn’t believe her as he questions her very hard, in a way of a trial or test, which again refers to the title.  If Parris doesn’t believe her then the audience would agree not to as well since he knows her better than they.  The audience can tell that he is very strictly against dancing, “That my daughter and my niece I discovered dancing like heathen in the forest?”  This gives the audience a better idea ...

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