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Tension in Act Three of The Crucible Essay


How Does Arthur Miller Create Tension in Act Three in the Courtroom?

I am writing a review on the drama called the Crucible written by Arthur Miller; it was written in 1953. The word crucible means a vessel of a very refractory material used for melting and calcining a substance that requires a high degree of heat. The play is a real story based upon the events in 1692 in Salem, USA. The play was written in the McCarthyism days. It was just eight years after the Second World War and Berlin, the capital of Germany, was divided in two, one half being Americas and Britains where as the other side was the Soviet Unions. It was divided up between Capitalists and Communists. There was a lot of friction between the Soviet Union and America as they were completely opposite nations. The world was frightened of Communism at that time and the Cold War was going on. A very powerful man in America, Joseph McCarthy, the senator of America was Anti-Communist. The US government blacklisted and accused people of being Communist. If people were accused then they wouldnt be able to get decent jobs and this would ruin the persons lives and maybe it would be a bit of a disadvantage to the persons family. The play, the Crucible, reflects the attitudes and activities of contemporary America in the 1950s in particular the actions of McCarthy. He was writing it to say how it is terrible that mature human beings should be committing the same mistakes but in a different forms. Miller wrote the play to make the audience relate to the plot. In the seventeen hundreds witches were a thing that people were scared of. People were very religious and in those days people feared God and they thought if they did anything wrong God would know and he would punish. If any person were to be less religious, blasphemous or sinful they would be classed as a witch and put on trial.

In the drama the characters in Salem are terrified of the being accused of witches they are frightened that they are going to be labelled as one all but Abigail. Abigail is so powerful that she can try and accuse Danforth and that is what she does when she says to him, Let you beware, Mr Danforth. Think you be so mighty that the power of hell may not turn your wits. Abigail was so powerful because of peoples fear she could even threaten Danforth. People were worried they might accuse someone that they know so they may be known as a good Christian. However when people heard that people were being accused of being witches that associate with the devil most villagers were frightened of being accused. The fear spread through the village even more when people began being accused of it. The villagers were frightened just in case they get accused or maybe they would accuse someone they knew. For example when Mary accuses John Proctor when she feels that the situation is turning against her she says, Youre the devils man! Ill not hang with you! I love God, I love God. This suddenly changes the entire situation with those words, they save Marys back but they land Proctor in it. This was what happened in the village because it caused a big frenzy in it. It got to a stage where the Reverend John Hale who was a person who studied the evil works of the devil says to the deputy governor, Danforth, I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court. The fear throughout the village was so out of hand that it became ridiculous however people still believed it. However in it nobody does anything to stop the accusations being made, no one says that it is stupid and that it has to stop until Hale says, You cannot believe them. Only until the end of act three, this resembled what was going on with McCarthy but yet that was round about two hundred and fifty years later however is was the same position. It shows how human nature and fear are still the same as they were in those days and most probably people would do it in the twenty-first Century.

Miller uses one of his dramatic devices, the characters, which produce the spark, which lights the crucible. In the play the characters are mixed and there is a lot more to them than you would imagine. As the play goes on the characters show their true colours by their actions and words. However they are all very different people.

Abigail is a malevolent, shrewd, seductive, manipulative bitter young girl of the age of twelve. Abigail shows the instincts of human survival that make her evil and this is what the audience love to hate about her. She is evil via her language for example I have been hurt, Mr Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin out! I have been near to murdered every day because I have done my duty pointing out the Devils people. Her language is shrewd but extremely evil as she admits to being the reason why people have died but they have been murdered ruthlessly. She labels people that they are witches starting with Tituba because she is the weakest and Abigail preys on the weak. Abigail lived with Paris. She states this freely when she says; Indians smashed my dear parents heads on the pillow next to mine. She was a servant of John Proctor while his wife, Elizabeth, was ill Proctor and Abigail had an affair where his Beasts are bedded. This phrase says the only place for an affair is the barn where animals have sex. However it could be a metaphor. I think this because Proctor may think that he acted like an animal through his urges and stupidity. When Elizabeth found out she was dissatisfied by Abigail, Elizabeth put her out on the highroad. Proctor went back to Elizabeth; this made Abigail bitter and used. Where as John Proctor kept the whole matter quiet as it would ruin his good name. Elizabeth was a plain lady who wouldnt tell a lie as her husband states. Elizabeths language is normally clear and precise for example, What keeps you so late? Its almost dark. Proctor then says, I were planting far out to the forest edge Elizabeth then says, Oh, youre done then. You can tell that Elizabeth is plain but her language is very fluent and precise. However when she talks to Danforth in the courtroom she is stutters for example, She were this tells the audience that she is lying. Elizabeth also conveys her innocents when she says the verb think. She is a character who the audience can empathise with because she tells a lie to save someone who she loved and who hasnt done that in their life? Ironically Elizabeth doesnt die even though she is accused of being a witch but is saved as the trials do not continue.

Danforth was the Deputy-Governor of his province- the most powerful man in the province. His job was to judge all witches, wizards, murderers and all who break the law. He executed many but when it came to end he realised he had got it wrong, so he had to make the so called witches and wizards to sign a statement that would keep his reputation in tact. Danforth was a devious, sly, clever man yet he did make mistakes. He also creates tension through his brutal questions towards people in the court and especially towards Elizabeth. One of the main characters, John Proctor, represents all that is good in every person in the audience who has done something wrong. Proctor articulates things with clarity for example when Proctor says to Elizabeth, spite on keeps me silent. It is hard to give a lie to dogs. Proctor describes Danforth and his colleagues as dogs because they are acting like animals slaughtering so many people. Miller uses Proctor to articulate things, which go on in the play for example he describes Elizabeth by saying, You are a marvel Elizabeth. In that sentence he uses a noun and a adjective. Paris is a silly man who sticks up for Abigail frequently for example, I never saw any of them naked then Danforth asks if the girls have danced but Paris replies, Aye, sir. This tells us he will stick up for Abigail so she cannot be accused. Danforth also sees Paris as a brainless man and others may think the same. Proctor also doesnt like Parris because he is changing the church by adding rich things such as gold chalices in the local Protestant church, which would have been plain, white church.

Another dramatic device that Miller uses is the setting. The play is set in Salem, which is a small village and the villagers are simple folk who lead very simple lives. Many people of the village would have been uneducated so they couldnt read or write. The village was most probably huge as villagers who owned land would have had acres of land. The village was isolated; this made the village very dramatic. If something was to happen everybody would know and they would panic more than people would today. News would get around quickly for example Elizabeth, who was in prison when she says to Proctor Giles is dead. The news would have spread and this brought the confidence in the characters to deny being witches. It says that news would spread and that is how the fear stretched through the village so quickly and so easily. Salem was restricted from all the other villages however Paris does say, the rumour here speaks rebellion in Andover. This suggests word did get around in some from. When Paris hears this he fears there will be a riot in Salem because the acused have confidence to deny what they have been accused of. The only real connection that Salem had with the villages was `Danforth because he has been to all the villages. We know this because he says, Andover is remedied. The court returns there on Friday and will resume examinations. This suggests Danforth was travelling from village to village, this meant he knew what was going on and he was not isolated like the others. There was no lines of communication because there was no internet, there was not telephones and people couldnt write letters because by the time they had been delivered there would be no point because the distance between the villages was great. For such an isolated, small, village there was a lot going on. It was full of fear, adultery, manipulation and conflict. So much was going on that one thing would set it off into total havoc and the spark was Abigail, a twelve year old, made the entire village turn into a disaster. Salem was the inside of the crucible just waiting for something to happen that would mean everything would set alight.

Religion was embedded into the fabric of all the characters lives. The people were God fearing and they made it an essential in their life to be good people who were constantly thinking of God. The way the characters talk gives you the impression that they are very religious. One of many examples of this is when Mary says, I am with God . People feared God because they thought that he might strike them down if they committed sins. Where as in our modern day or in the twentieth Century people would not say that I am not bad any more. Danforth uses this to his advantage in act three when he says to the girls, The law, based upon the bible, and the bible, writ by almighty God, forbid the practice of witchcraft, and describe death as the penalty thereof. This phrase gives the idea that people would listen to the bible as it was taken so seriously that if the girls were doing something against the bible then they would confess, as it would be better to confess rather than go against the bible. People knew there bible and they could refer to it as if it were normal. Every person would have been expected to know the Ten Commandments, if not they could be accused of witchcraft. When Hale went to Proctors house he asked Elizabeth Do you know your commandments, Elizabeth? Elizabeth replies to Hale that, I am a covenanted Christian women. Again this shows that religion played a big part in peoples lives a lot more than it does today. Religion also played a part in your morals and they meant so much in those days. People would never lie for example when Proctor cannot bring himself to say adultery. He just cannot say it because he cannot contradict himself by saying that commandment. Elizabeth quickly steps in by saying, Adultery, John. Elizabeth can say all of her commandments because she has never done anything wrong. This is an intriguing part of the play; Arthur Miller gets it just right because he has given you the information that you need. He also tells us that Elizabeth knows that John has done wrong and she has to step in quickly to tell. When you read it you can tell Proctor is embarrassed about it and he feels bad about what he has done; it has hurt his pride.

Throughout the play you have stage directions to tell you where the characters are, who leaves/comes in the scene, facial expressions and where to direct the characters.

It isnt a necessary part of a play as Shakespeare wrote brilliant plays but none had stage directions. I think Arthur Miller used stage directions to tell the reader what was going on in his head; how he saw it. Stage directions can be very helpful to the actor/actress as it tells them how to react, choose your tone of voice, your body posture and to help them get the feel of your character. For example Miller uses direction like this with a slight note of indignation. This tells the reader/actor/actress how Abigail is feeling and how she should verbalize her line. Miller also uses directions like this silently they sit or turning to Giles. This tells us that the girls have come into the courtroom and how they come in. These directions are helpful as they tell you whats going on rather than a character having to describe what is going on. Stage directions can be short and snappy and Miller uses this many times. An example of this is to Mary, this is quick and easy; it is useful to know. Stage directions dont have to be used in a play but they are very helpful as it makes you more involved in the play

In act three there is a lot of suspense and to create it he uses pauses. In this act there is a lot of suspense when Proctor confesses to having known Abigail but when Elizabeth is called in the women that cant tell a lie does thinking that she has helped her husband. The suspense is created when Danforth he tells Abigail and Proctor to turn your back to Elizabeth so no eye contact can be made. This is called a dramatic stage device, which made the atmosphere acute. Throughout this act Miller uses Pause as a stage direction frequently as this creates the suspense that is needed in this part of the play. Miller does this when Elizabeth is going to lie to Danforth when she says, She dissatisfied me. (Pause.) And my husband. This helps the actor and when you read it you can sense the suspense. When you have suspense in a play or book you have to have pauses in whatever forms you chose. ,

In the play there are many things that happen when actions or words make the characters respond in different ways. Miller uses the backgrounds and feelings of the characters when they are put in difficult situations. The way characters respond is very important as you can see the characters for what they are, whether, they are a hard, nasty person or an honest and caring person through Millers dramatic device, which is the language. It also makes your reading more fun as it makes the plot more interesting and you can get to know your character. When Proctor responds to things in this act he is often irate or relaxed with the situation, he also is bewildered to what is going on. However he isnt stupid and he knows exactly what people are up to. You can tell Proctor is a good man but he has just been stupid and done the wrong things. It gets to the state that at the end of act three he shouts, I say I say God is dead! You can tell Proctor is patient throughout the play however he is only human and his wife is going to be sentenced to death but he knows that what Abigail is saying lies. He gets annoyed and shouts with plenty witnesses says a silly thing in his anger. Another interesting character or perhaps the most interesting character is Abigail, the king pin of the play; she is pure evil. Although she is very shrewd and knows how to get out of situations, this gets her out of trouble. This is the part where you have to suspend your belief because the characters cannot imagine someone telling such lies and being able to live with the guilt that you killed all those innocent people. The best part in the play where she gets out of a situation is when in act three Hale says, This girl has always struck me as false, but she replies by saying, You will not begone! Begone! Begone, I say. When she says that she has just lifted the pressure of Hale off and completely dumped it on Mary Warren and Abigail is safe for the moment as people are interested in why Abigail, an intelligent girls, is saying, Why do you come, yellow bird? Danforth and his colleagues have their heads turned to Hales statement and they want to get to the bottom of why Abigail is so frightened. In this play how characters respond really helps to make the plot more interesting and less boring.

My prior knowledge to witches is that they are evil creatures that can cast spells of any type on people. In the 1600s and 1700s people were accused of witches often, people were frightened like in the play. People who were accused would be put on trial for example they would have a weight on their leg and they would be pushed into a lake/sea/river and they would drown but if they were witches they would come back out of the water; they didnt because they were not witches. Another trial was when they would be pushed off a cliff and they would drop to their peril but if the person was not a witch they would fly up from the cliff. However no one survived these trials; need not say why. Witches were associated with the devil and as a Christian you would be sinning.

To conclude I think that this play is very interesting to read. In act three this is the climax of the book where everything happens for example when John Proctor shouts, God is dead. Also when Elizabeth goes tell a lie to Danforth and this brought the downfall of Proctor but saved Abigail. The Reverend Hale tells Danforth, I denounce these proceedings. This was an important part because it showed that the entire thing was out of hand and it needed to stop as soon as possible, he was the first person to realise and say what he thought of Abigail. When Miller adds pauses that is a great way to create suspense when it is needed in a play. The people in the play were very religious and they were very God-fearing people and when they heard that there were witches, the people were afraid however some people used the excuse of witches to take their land. The peoples reactions are extremely interesting in this play especially Abigail as she needs to be cunning in her replies and actions. This act is a crucial part in the play as it is the climax and throughout the play it is building up to this all through it and then it all happens. After this act the events after are all the final parts of the play and you begin to see how Danforth tries to cover his tracks and John Proctor dies a free man, innocent, honest man. This play is a very good one and it shows human nature at its worst. However this is a true story and human beings actually did this, which puts the play very much into perspective.

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