The Crucible is the story of an outbreak of hysteria related to witchcraft which resulted in the persecution of suspected witches. This occured in Salem, New England where Europeans had established their own Puritan religion. They followed strict moral codes and would tolerate no other, as we see when reverand Parris in a fury states ‘what are we, quakers?’.The Salem outbreak started when young girls of the village took part in magic ceremonies, ministers, doctors and magistrates were called in to investigate and accusations began to fly.
Before the hysterical madness had ended twenty were hanged and 200 others accused.John and Elizabeth Proctor are an upstanding couple in the community. John has an affair with Abigail, an orphan servant girl. We see John’s actions due to his affair intertwine with the fate of Salem village. John Proctor the protagonist dies the hero of the play despite his wrongdoing.John’s wife tells him ‘I never thought of you but a good man.’ at a time when John greatly doubts himself. I agree with Elizabeth Proctors opinion of her husband.
This essay will present a balanced argument and comment on Miller’s use of dramatic devices and their impact.In Act I we see John lie when Abigail accuses him of visiting her window. At first he lies to her and himself and says ‘I have hardly stepped off my farm this seven month’ but his honesty wins through and he admits ‘I may have looked up.’ Despite Abigail continuing to pursue him and his desire for her still there, John tells Abigail ‘I will cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again’ Here, the attention of the audience is soley on the pair, and there is an atmosphere of great suspense. The scene compels the audience to keep watching, wondering what could unfold next.
It is a very personal conversation between John and Abigail and reveals John’s strength of character and determination to return to his good values.After the frenzied climax of Act I we find the drama in Act II more intimate. We experience the difficulties John and Elizabeth are having.
John tells Elizabeth he has ‘gone tiptoe’ in his own house since the affair with Abigail. Elizabeth’s reaction is frosty and the mood is cold. Although the focus is on John and Elizabeth, Abigails presence is felt throughout. Despite this we can see John wishes to remain with Elizabeth showing his strong family values.Throughout we have seen John’s difficulties finding the strength to make the right decisions, but eventually he does. He is lacking courage when he is afraid to expose Abigail as a liar and in doing so reveal their affair. But he finds the courage and sacrifices himself in court where he admits ‘ I have known her, sir.
I have known her.’ Here we see John’s deep despair and shame for what he has done. In the end he finds the strenght he needs for others. This is an example of integrity, one of the themes running throughout the play.
Miller also uses stage directions effectively as a dramatic device.This is shown in the courtroom by Danforth [dumbfounded], Proctor [trembling, his life collapsing about him] and Francis [horrified], all these actions combine to create an incredibly tense atmosphere, which left me feeling very angry at the girls and pity for John. Elizabeth is brought to the courtroom to prove John’s accusation against Abigail, but her loyalty causes her to lie for the first time in her life, when she replies ‘No sir.’ to Danforths question ‘Is your husband a lecher?’ this destroys John’s case against Abigail and ironically, leads to his downfall.
Here we see the theme of loyalty which runs throughout the play.An undesirable side of John’s character is seen with his early harsh treatment of Elizabeth, we note a violent undertone when he questions her, ‘you doubt me yet?’. We may also dissaprove when he asks Abigail, ‘do you look for a whippin?’ and also when he threatens Mary with the whip for refusing to not go to court. This must be seen in the context of the time where whippings and harsh treatments were commonplace.
We dont actually see John carry out any violence and Elizabeth later on in court describes her husband as, ‘a good and righteous man. He is never drunk, as some or at the shovelboard but always at his work.’ When Mary refuses to go to bed John leaves her the choice, but she goes upstairs anyway. Miller uses this comic moment to show the deepening horror of things and how John and Elizabeth are at the mercy of a weak impressionable girl.
John’s affair with Abigail leads to us seeing a less than good side to his character. Many of John’s dishonourable actions stem from his affair. It could be argued that without the affair John’s character would not have been brought into question. Miller’s use of poetic language allows us to see John’s sensous character and that during his hardworking life he appreciates the beauty of the countryside, when he says ‘ I never see such a load of flowers on earth. Massachusets is a beauty in the spring!’. Considering the fact that Elizabeth has difficulty showing warmth in their marriage and John’s character is a sensous one, we can understand John’s betrayal even more.
In Act III when Elizabeth’s finally admits ‘John I counted myself so plain so poorly made no honest love could come to me’ revealing her lack of self confidence, Miller’s use of dramatic device in allowing John to forgive himself provokes great empathy for the pair and creates an awesome heartfelt scene.At the beginning of the play John is a respected member of the community, he is honest, upstanding and hardworking, all the signs of a good man. We see him grow into a noble and heroic character. Although he has given in to weakness we see him find the courage to stand up for what he believes in and remain loyal to his family, friends and religion.
With the support of Elizabeth he accepts death, and protects the good name and future of his children. Miller’s use of dramatic device and its impact formed my opinion that John Proctor was a man who wished to follow a good path in life. Although he strayed from this from this path he fought a great personal battle to return to it and put right his wrongs. He died a reluctant hero, I totally agree with Elizabeth proctors opinion ‘I never thought of you but a good man.’