Elizabeth seems to have a sense of foreboding as she immediately gives them,”(a warning reminder)” that they cannot hang her as she is pregnant. The reader knows that she has misunderstood their purpose in bringing her to them, and Miller uses our knowledge of their plan to build up the tension as we are in suspense to see how they react. Danforth hesitates after reassuring her that they come not for her life. Hale then speaks- “Goody Proctor, your husband is marked to hang this morning.”
He is handling the situation more openly and his directness breaks the tension slightly. On the other hand, this could have an adverse effect on the reader as they may just become increasingly tense through frustration with Hale’s bluntness, if they think that this is the wrong way to handle the situation. Miller then includes a probing interrogation as he does many times in this section to create a build up of tension. He portrays the desperation of the men to persuade Elizabeth by this questioning aimed at making her feel guilty: “Be there no wifely tenderness within you?”- this is emotive language and is to arouse her feelings of love for John.
Also Hale says “You know, do you not, that I have no connection with the court?”- here Miller uses personal pronouns to express how it is important to all of them that John is saved. They again play on Elizabeth’s conscience when Hale says “if he is taken I count myself his murderer”. This line also shows Hale’s inner tensions- how he is struggling with his conscience in encouraging people to lie, but how he has decided to do so, as he would feel guilty if he didn’t at least attempt to save innocent lives. Danforth also puts pressure on Elizabeth when he says “Will you plead with him? I cannot think he will listen to another”.
Although much of this questioning is rhetorical and the characters are not expecting Elizabeth to answer. Miller uses it all effectively to increase the tension as the reader will notice how they all present Elizabeth with facts and give her nothing to argue with. They will therefore be tense in wondering how she can respond in any way but agreement. Miller also uses this interrogating to create tension by leaving unanswered questions in the readers’ minds.
There is not a single character in this section of the play, who is feeling relaxed as they all care very much about the outcome, and Miller uses this to add to the unbroken tension. Also, during this scene there is a sense of disagreement between Elizabeth and the four men. In the middle of the scene it is particularly clear how Miller uses different characters’ veiw points to create tension, where Hale is arguing with the judges over whether confessing to witchcraft would be a lie. Miller punctuates this part of the scene with exclamation marks to help the reader understand that he wishes for this to be a heated argument in which the characters perhaps speak harshly with raised voices adding to the tension.
The reader will also become more tense at this point as it is also open contempt of the court’s opinions by Hale and therefore may cause the reader to hope that Elizabeth will trust him more willingly. They may also become more tense out of worry for Hale due to how Danforth could react to this, as contempt of the court was considered as worthy of punishment. Danforth says, “I’ll hear no more of that!” The tension will increase again here as Danforth seems to have regained his authority and the reader will be in suspense of how harshly he will handle the situation in this mood. This tension remains for the duration of the scene as Hale continues on to Elizabeth and the matter of their disagreement remains unsettled.
In addition to them being careful not to give Elizabeth any way to argue with anything they say, Hale even trys to prove wrong any reason, that she may come up with, for her not to plead with John: Miller uses a similie in order for Hale to explain effectively to Elizabeth why she should not stick too strictly to her faith when it is not the right thing to do- “I came to this village like a bridegroom to it’s beloved…and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up.” Hale also trys to make her point of veiw seem unreasonable, and by using repetition as a means of persuasion, trys to make her feel guilty, this time by making it seem as though she would be doing Proctor a crime not to make him confess and have his life-“Let you not mistake your duty…”
By showing these desperate attempts at persuasion, again by using the various language devices, and by giving the stage direction”(with climatic desperation)” Miller gives us an image of Hale being quite frantic and his panicky mood will build up a similar feeling and yet more tension in the reader. Miller brings the tension up to it’s climax during Danforth’s speech as we know that he is the character with the power. Miller uses short sentences here and , therefore, lots of pauses. This sentence structure is used to slow down the pace and lengthen the waiting time of the reader, to see Elizabeth’s reaction, and hence, building up the tension even more. Danforth seems to have adopted a slightly harsher attitude towards Elizabeth and at one point he even attempts to bribe her into saving John, with her own fate-“your dry eyes now would be sufficient evidence that you have delivered up your soul to Hell!”
The reader will be in a tense state of disbeleif that Elizabeth still remains silent: Disbeleif that she isn’t reacting after they saw her lie for John in ActIII, and they may now even think that she really is as she was described earlier by Abigail-“a bitter woman, a lying, cold, snivelling woman.” Also tense, as the reader will be waiting to see if anything can change her mind at the last moment. Arthur Miller is clever here because just as the reader will have given up hope, and be tense in frustration with Danforth’s dismissal of the matter as he orders for Elizabeth to be taken out, the reaction that they wanted from her all along comes at last; Danforth said,”Take her out.
It profit nothing that she should speak to him!” and Elizabeth said, “(quietly) Let me speak with him, Excellency.” At this point the tension could have been relieved. However Parris, then speaking “(with hope)” says, “You’ll strive with him?”. Yet again she hesitates and this would put the reader back in a great state of tension as they know how crucial her co-operation is. However, the last line in my chosen section is spoken by Elizabeth, and Miller uses the lack of the stage direction,”(quietly)”, which had previously gone before Elizabeth’s speech, to show us that she has made the descision. At the end of this section the tension of whether Elizabeth will agree to plead with John has eventually been relieved. However, there is now a new tension as the reader is left wondering if Elizabeth will be successful in persuading John to confess, and effectively, will his life be saved?
I feel that this is perhaps the most tense scene in the play as the life of the main character depends upon it’s result. Miller has ensured that the reader knows exactly what they want this result to be in his portrayal of John to be a likeable character. Building up such strong feelings within the reader is how Miller creates the tension. In my essay I tried, often by outlining a particular point in a certain paragraph, to show how Miller uses a wide variety of methods to make this a tense section such as; the setting and time of day, our background knowledge, pauses, misunderstandingsand disagreements, language devices (used also to stress their desperation to persuade Elizabeth), interrogation, the mood of characters, stage directions (used also to create images) and the themes of condemnation for witchcraft, the Puritan society and religion, darkness and the devil, and of lying. These different methods all help Arthur Miller to create and then increase the tense feeling within the reader, and to build up the tension from previous events in the play, to a climax.