The Crucible has a true historical background. It is set in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts. All the characters were real people who took part in real the witchcraft trials. Miller has created their personalities using his imagination as well as historical notes from the time. This makes the characters seem like real people with real lives. To allow the plot to go ahead, Abigail’s age was changed from twelve to seventeen. The whole back story between John Proctor and Abigail would have to be omitted from the script if Abigail was to remain as twelve years old.
The inclusion of the Abigail and John sub-plot story shows the audience that John regrets his mistakes and feels guilty about what he’s done. It makes him seem more human and makes Abigail seem more manipulative and devious. The way John acts towards his wife, aware that she knows what’s gone on, makes him seem like a more benevolent person. By including this story, Miller can control the audience’s opinions of these characters. Sub-plots are just one of the ways Miller can make us see the characters from his point of view.
The use of narration throughout the play is extensive, but in Act One, particularly, it is used in abundance. In fact, approximately twelve pages out of the forty in Act One are narration. The Act begins with five pages of narration. There is then another page to describe Thomas Putnam, half a page on John Proctor, one page on Rebecca Nurse , four pages about Mr Hale and half a page about Giles Corey. This is very unusual as most plays include hardly any narration and to use twelve out the forty pages of Act One for narration is quite a risky thing to do as the audience may become disinterested.
However, Miller pulls this off well and the narration adds atmosphere to the Act. Miller includes so much narration because he wants the audience to know the characters well before they feature heavily in the storyline. He gives the reader enough information about the characters’ strengths and weaknesses to from their own opinions of them and make their own speculations. We are given information about the characters’ pasts and how they behave rather than how they look. We are told how they could feature in the story and their good and bad qualities.
We are given a biased view of the characters because it is Miller’s own point of view. -If he wants to say that the character is a bad person he does this. He says of Parris; ‘In history he cut a villainous path, and there is very little good to be said for him. ‘ Miller gives us his view because he wants us to see the characters the way that he sees them. Narration is used to set the scene and to introduce new characters to the plot. Most of the main characters are introduced in Act One. Showing that right from the start they are important to the story and that the audience should not forget about them.
By using large amounts of narration in the play, Miller can control the appearances of the character’s in the reader’s mind. Because the characters are introduced properly, before they feature heavily in the plot, Miller’s idea of how they look and behave is fixed in the audience’s mind. If narration was done later, it would be harder to change the mental images that have already been formed. For example; ‘Proctor was a farmer in his middle thirties… with a quiet confidence and an unexpressed, hidden force. ‘ As well as narration, Miller also uses very detailed stage directions.
This means that he can control the play completely. From how the characters look, to the way that they behave on stage. For example, at the point when it is just Abigail, Betty, Mercy and Mary in the room, Miller uses a very precise stage direction for Abigail, ‘Smashes her across the face’. Miller uses the word ‘Smashes’ to show Abigail’s complete fury at what Betty is saying. He wants to show that Abigail is wild and irrepressible in her anger. Miller wants to show early on that Abigail is a very powerful and influential character and he does this, partly, through stage directions.