Beginning with the opening scene in act II, explore the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor and show how it creates dramatic interest in the play as a whole. The Crucible contains jealousy, lust, suspicion and bitterness which symbolises the time in which it was written, the author Arthur Miller because of this play was nearly sent to jail. A crucible is a container in which metals are heated to extract the pure element from dross or impurities.
In Miller’s play “The Crucible” John Proctor is tested and by his death is shown to have been purified by the fire. Arthur Miller wrote the Crucible for two reasons one of which is that he, “had known about the witchcraft trials in Salem since my university days, and when given a copy of Marion Starkey’s book, “The Devil in Massachusetts” it helped me develop the idea and write the Crucible”.
The second is that he wrote the play at a time when there were indeed “witchcraft trials” occurring so “The Crucible” is seen as a political parable, where it holds a much deeper, stronger meaning as well as the obvious first meaning. Arthur Miller has written many plays and one of his most famous ones is Death of a Salesman, because of Arthur Miller’s unlucky childhood (his father lost his job during The Depression) he became “obsessed” with the idea that “tragedy does not have to happen to the rich and famous, but can happen to the ordinary man and still move the audience.
“Miller had written the Crucible during a period in American history known as the McCarthy era. McCarthyism is a term now used as applicable to instances of irrational fear and paranoia causing systematic or institutionalised action to be taken against any perceived scapegoat group such as homosexuals, coloured people or any other minority.
Senator Joseph McCarthy in 1950 started the House of Un-American Activities otherwise known as HUAC its purpose was to protect America from the “disease of the east” or Communism as it known, so Senator Joseph McCarthy used his power to throw innocent people or minorities into jail or rouse up suspicion and deep dislike about them by telling untruths because of his power everyone would believe to be true because no one would stand up to him in fear of being put in jail themselves, just like Abigail who can not be wrong because she is the “victim” who alone knows what she saw.
The play is based on the Salem Witchcraft Trials where in a puritan village some girls blamed witches on their reckless behaviour which almost certainly would have got them into trouble, so they passed the blame and this led to a “witch hunt” where the girls themselves chose who were witches, this quickly spun out of control when petty rivalries and feuds were settled by the parents who told their children whom to call witches, this period in history lasted a short time but many innocent people were killed.
The characters in the play which the question revolves around are John and Elizabeth Proctor. These two people live in the town of Salem a town full of puritans. John Proctor is a farmer, he is a hardworking man who is guilty of adultery with his maid Abigail a “strikingly, beautiful girl” who is deeply in love with him, and now because he is a honest man he told his wife his sin, he is suffering from her because she “forgets nothin’ and forgives nothin’.
He is an extremely passionate and dedicated character, he loves his wife dearly and he shows this because he means to “please her”, however Elizabeth Proctor is a good woman who “counts herself so plain” and is jealous that he bedded Abigail, this shows that she has failed in her duties as a wife for she feels “it is a cold wife to prompt lechery” and due to a recent miscarriage feels that she has failed in her duties as a mother as well, she is cold and aloof to John because “she never knew how to say her love”, she is constantly judging him always suspicious that because of her actions he has visited Abigail again, which leads to the outbursts of emotion which are displayed by John such as when he is doubted by Elizabeth for he says with a violent undertone that she still does “doubt him yet” he loves his wife and is always asking her emotions such as he thinks that she “is sad again” and yet he always knows that he is the reason for her unhappiness, for her reply is often.
“I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon” which means she thought he had gone to see Abigail. John Proctor gives to the relationship luxury, this is symbolised at the beginning of Act II he enters the house and tastes the stew, and he then adds salt and leaves it. The salt is luxurious because it is expensive. Elizabeth tries her hardest but it is John who makes the relationship more “flavoursome” also John lies to his wife about the seasoning of the stew he makes her believe she has done well, by complimenting the fact that “it is well seasoned” which pleases her because she replies that she “took great care”.
John Proctors relationship with his wife Elizabeth creates dramatic interest throughout the play as a whole, because he is hardworking, a proper farmer while his wife is a good woman who does the housekeeping and raises their two children. However it seems in the opening scene of Act II that it is more of a partnership than a marriage.
There is a lot of separation in the Proctor household this is shown by the body language between John and Elizabeth such as when ” her back is turned to him. He turns to her and watches her. A sense of their separation arises”. This creates interest as to what is going to happen and why is there such emptiness and coldness in this house.
John is obsessed with the fact that he committed adultery, while Elizabeth is always mentioning the adultery because she is upset by it, and she can never fully trust him especially when she finds out that it “is not as you told me” that John was in a room alone with Abigail, it truly shows that if one can not forgive themselves or the other than the marriage can not truly be happy, and on a larger scale this is what is happening in the town.
Throughout the play the dramatic interest is created by exaggerating greatly the tensions of John and Elizabeth Proctor this is shown through their distrust which is echoed on a larger scale by the distrust and petty squabbles in the town, however all that is needed for the tension to subside is forgiveness and trust which is unlikely almost impossible to happen in the town.