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The Crucible Essay

Arthur Miller was born in New York, October of 115. His play The Crucible deals with the witchcraft trials of 16 that took place in Salem, Massachusetts. One of the reasons Arthur Miller wrote this play was because of an historical event in American history. Not the witch trials of Salem, but the movement in the 150’s led by senator Joe McCarthy to seek and identify members of the Communist Party that he felt were trying to overthrow the government. This movement ruined many innocent people because of its drive to seek what it thought to be the truth no matter who was hurt in the process.

The second act moves into what should be considered the private room of the Proctors home. The conversation between John and Elizabeth Proctor is intimate and even at times mundane, but there is a significant amount of tension that remains between the couple that is undoubtedly caused by Proctors affair with Abigail Williams. Elizabeth Proctor is intensely suspicious of her husband, worrying when he arrives at home late for dinner and adopting a condescending tone when her husband admits that he was momentarily alone with Abigail Williams.

Miller establishes Elizabeth Proctor as a morally upright woman, respectable and dignified, yet with an air of superiority that renders her distant from her husband. Elizabeth has made her home into a repressive atmosphere, as she continues to punish her husband for his wrongdoing.

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When John Proctor enters the house at the beginning of act II, he notices that a stew is brewing in a pot that is hanging over the fire, and walks over to the fireplace. On the way to the fireplace, he takes off his coat and drops it on to the table, covering up the bible which is the tables’ centrepiece. This placing of the bible is important because John and Elizabeth sit around the table, on either side of the bible, which signifies that life revolves around the bible. At the fireplace he takes a spoon and tastes the stew, and he is not quite satisfied with it, so he adds a pinch of salt to it. This could symbolise that he is not satisfied with his relation with Elizabeth, and that something is missing.

Arthur Miller made a conscious attempt to link the two ideas (an allegory) -the Salem witch trials of 16, and McCarthy communism trials of the 150s. The parallelism of the two historical times makes one aware of the cycle of history that humans experience, and the insidious results of the hysteria that characterised both time periods.

Many of the characters in the play go through changes because of the intensity of the play. In fact the title of the play, crucible, means a severe trial or test which would bring out the best in things.

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