Based on the witch-hunts of the Seventeenth Century, Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ written in 1953, deals with various key themes such as witchcraft and religion which link together and play a major role in the events of the town of Salem. Hysteria breaks out when a group of girls are caught dancing in the woods. When faced with the accusation of witchcraft, the girls use lies to back up their denial and in turn pass the blame onto other members of the community. The date in which it was written is highly significant. It is the year that America was in the grip of a modern day “witch-hunt’ – ‘McCarthyism’.
I will discuss the continuing popularity of the play and the reasons for its frequent production, focusing on the idea of political propaganda and other factors that account for the story’s continued interest. The powerful and moving plot of ‘The Crucible’ is one of the foremost reasons much interest is drawn to the play. There are many emotional and tense scenes that grip the reader or audience’s attention. An example of this is the scene in which Elizabeth is called in to tell the courts whether or not Proctor, her husband, had an affair.
The audience or reader is placed in great suspense and anticipation, longing for Elizabeth to tell the truth; however she lies to save her husband, or so she thinks. “Danforth: Look at me! To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery? Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher! Elizabeth [faintly]: No, sir. ” It is at this point that a wave of frustration passes through the emotions of every person. This proves how well Miller creates audiences’ reactions through his script, and also uses situations people can relate to in the modern world.
“Proctor [crying out]: Elizabeth, I have confessed it! Elizabeth: Oh, God! ” Miller specifically writes that Proctor cried out, consequently showing the desperation he is in, and just how well Miller captures the emotion of the scene in his script. This is also shown by Elizabeth’s words. In her reaction she exclaims with blasphemy, going against the ‘Ten Commandments’ of their religion, immediately showing regret that she lied to the courts. During this scene much suspense is created and the audience or reader experiences many emotions that are still familiar today, confirming the quality of the play.
Another example of the impressive script is how Arthur Miller builds up the characters’ personalities. At the start of the play an opinion is formed of each character, but as the story develops, the reader or theatregoer’s view will change dramatically; to cite an example, Abigail. “Abigail Williams, seventeen, enters – a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling. ” Miller comments on her beauty and generally portrays her as likeable before the story has even begun to develop. By mentioning that she is an orphan, he suggests she has suffered in her life before, perhaps bringing pity for her.
However this portrayal of Abigail is false, as during the course of the play, the true manipulative, spiteful and selfish side shows through and all sympathy previously felt for her is lost. “Abigail: Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. ” Abigail’s sudden change of personality draws the audience or reader’s attention closer and as her altered character emerges the audience is captivated.