Thomas Henesey 11.O 19th October 2002
An essay to trace the changes in the character of John Proctor with reference to his portrayal in Nicholas Hytner’s film of ‘The Crucible’
In this essay I will trace all of the key moments in the play ‘The Crucible’ that change the character of John Proctor. This essay will comment on the way that Daniel Day-Lewis plays John Proctor in Nicholas Hytner’s film of ‘The Crucible’.
The first time we encounter John Proctor in the play is when Betty Parris is ill. John Proctor shows his power by telling Mary Warren to go home. This really shows the control that he has over her and that he has respect in the village. Now we see the first section with Abigail. It is done differently in the film to in the play as in the play they are by Betty Parris’s bedroom but in the film they are outside behind a barn in the village. John’s reaction to Abigail is that he is lustful. He knows that his affair with her was wrong and that it would wreck his name in the village so he tells her that it is over. He denies the whole affair and tells her that it never existed. He does so that he knows that the affair never happened. When this scene is played in the film it is done behind a barn outside away from the other characters to give the effect that they are trying to hide something from the rest of the village. In this scene in the film Abigail kisses John and he replies for a while then when he has had time think he pushes her away from him. This shows us that he does still have feelings for her but he knows that he must hide it. John does still love his wife and he tells this to Abigail. This tells us that he was just having an affair and that he does still have feelings for his wife. John Proctor reaction to Abigail changes a lot throughout the play as at first he is lusting over her then he turns to calling her the devil. His change in opinion of Abigail is all due to the fact that she is insulting his wife and as I have said above John still loves his wife.
This is a preview of the whole essay
John’s relationship with his wife Elizabeth is strange and it is easy to see the change between John and Elizabeth throughout the play. There are distinct sections in the play that highlight different attitudes between the two of them. When we first see them in this scene alone they are not very loving towards each other and do not talk as though they are interested. In the film the feeling between John and Elizabeth is shown in the way that their house is presented, it is dark and has a cold feel to it. This is exactly how John feels out Elizabeth. In the notes that Arthur Miller gives us in the play he says ‘John gets up, goes to Elizabeth, kisses her. She receives it. With a certain disappointment, he returns to the table.’ This shows how John felt about Elizabeth it wasn’t a passionate relationship but a very polite one they didn’t really show emotion. A further time they are together, in a scene, is when Elizabeth is arrested. In this scene John shows how much he loves her. John becomes more involved in what is happening when someone that he loves is hurt. He is more irrational and is shouting and a real mess. In the film at this point John’s hair goes all over the place is shows that he is losing control of his life, his clothes are a mess and he is muddy and dirty this is a sharp contrast from the clean man earlier in the play when he first arrives to see Betty Parris. Then towards the end of the play you can really see the change in John and Elizabeth’s relationship it is clear to see the love between them as they share a long kiss in the film in front of everyone. They have clearly grown closer during the events that have happened this is a clear change in John from the beginning when he a Elizabeth were distant from each other they would only just share ‘a peck on the check’. There is now warmth in their relationship as appose to the cold relationship that they had before in the dark house they are now kissing in the sunshine outside.
To continue on with the changes in John Proctor this essay will go on to look at how is relationship with the village and with the authority has changed through out the play. John Proctor start off in the play as very respected man in the village and surrounding area his name was good and so was his family. When we first see John Proctor in the film he is working out on his farm with his workers and his sons this gives the audience some respect towards him because he is a hard worker so you can feel what the towns people felt for him. John name went from being a respected man in the village to being accused of witchcraft. John’s opinion of the village change when he is accused of witchcraft and he losses the respect that he had before. John’s attitude to the court also changes a lot at first he respects them and honours them then when his wife is accused of witchcraft he becomes an enemy of the court. When his wife is arrested he takes Mary Warren into the court to tell them that the girls are making it up but she changes her mind half way through her confession and all the girls run outside into the lake to stop the devil getting them. John then follows and ends up in the river all by himself shouting at the other town’s people he has changed and become outraged at them. The film shows John Proctor standing in the river looking very much like Jesus preaching to the people, which is strange since he is later accused of associating with the devil.
One of the key changes in John Proctor is in his confession. There are two confessions that John makes. The first is about his affair with Abigail in which he tells every body in the court about it. This is a great change in John, as at the start of the play he was trying to cover it all up with Abigail and pretend that nothing happened now he is telling the court of what happened. John’s second confession is to admit to witchcraft, which he doesn’t want to do, but does he gives in to what the law wants. Though he does confess to it he doesn’t let them have the confession to show to town because he doesn’t want his name to be wrecked. John is now in a real mess and is screaming and shouting and again he is muddy and messy in the film this is a good visual metaphor that shows his life falling apart and that he doesn’t have control of it any more.
When John Proctor goes to die he is a changed man. He has gone from being a good father, a good farmer, a good husband and a good towns person to being booed as he goes up to die for something that he didn’t do and all because he loved his wife and not Abigail. John Proctor’s relationship with Abigail started off with some lust in it but that has gone and now he has seen what kind of person she is and how persistent she is get what she wants. John’s relationship with Elizabeth has got better throughout the play they have become closer as friends and closer as husband and wife. John changes a lot in his relationship with the village and the court in the village. In the end he disagrees with everyone in the court and everyone disagrees with him. The village believes that he is involved with witchcraft and he doesn’t get a chance to prove them wrong. At his confession you can clearly see that he has changed a lot. It really is the final point to say that he has changed because of the fact that he is admitting to his affair with Abigail and at the begin he was trying to cover it up this proves how much of a change happened in his personality and his way of thinking.