Explore the Importance of the Opening and Ending of Act 2 in Developing the Audiences Understand of the Characters of John and Elizabeth Proctor. How do these Sections of the Play Prepare us for the Events that Follow? The Crucible is a tragic play written by Arthur Miller in the 1950’s during the ‘Red Scare’, which can be compared to some of the events that took place in The Crucible. The ‘Red Scare’ was when Senator Joe McCarthy believed communists were taking over the U.S government.
Like The Crucible, anyone accused of communism were encouraged to confess to avoid punishment. Anyone who did not confess faced unemployment or damaged careers. Eighty-one members of the U.S government were accused and ten writers and directors were jailed for refusing questions. Miller himself was questioned but refused to answer, but avoided jail. It’s said the Crucible is loosely based on these times.
The story of The Crucible revolves around the witchcraft hysteria that took place in Salem in the 17th Century. Abigail Williams and a few other girls who lived in the village were caught dancing in the woods by Reverend Parris. They then started accusing other members of the village of witchcraft to take the attention off them and avoid punishment, but it all went way too far. It is based upon true-life events, although the historical accuracy of the play has been changed. For instance Abigail’s age has been raised from 12 to mid teens, possibly because Miller found that if she was younger the audience might have had more sympathy towards her than he would have liked it. It would also have been hard for the audience to understand how a girl so young could have been so evil and manipulative, and that Proctor could have had an affair with such a young girl.
The title is very apt as a Crucible is a container in which different metals are heated violently to extract the impurities from the pure element. This describes how Proctor was put through hell but admitted he’d committed adultery to try and save his wife and came out with his pride and innocence intact. I’m going to analyse the opening and ending of act II and talk about John and Elizabeth’s relationship. I will then come to a conclusion on how the events of that act prepare us for the events that follow and the importance of the act in the play as a whole,
Act II is set in the Proctor’s house eight days after the events of the last act. Miller begins every act by setting up a terrible possibility, which is then answered at the end of the act. The Proctors house seems to be set far away from the witchcraft hysteria going on in the village, which sets the question for act II, “Will the Proctors be caught up by the witch hunt?” The opening of act II reveals the relationship between John and Elizabeth, and Elizabeth’s true character. In Act I Abigail accuses Elizabeth of being “a cold, snivelling woman”, but it becomes apparent, as soon as act II starts, and she is heard in the background singing softly to her children, that she isn’t that at all.
But she still hasn’t forgiven Proctor completely for his affair and is suspicious when he arrives late home. There is a lot of tension between them, and their conversation is very formal unlike a normal married couple. When Proctor kisses her she doesn’t respond which leaves him disappointed. They both watch each other when the other one isn’t looking, as if they want to say something but they can’t. Elizabeth wants to please her husband as much as she can, and vice versa. Elizabeth “blushes with pleasure” when Proctor compliments her on her cooking. Proctor feels extremely guilty about his affair with Abigail, and says, “I have not moved from there to there without thinking to please you”.
He does everything he can to try and be the perfect husband. Elizabeth wants Proctor to go to Salem to denounce Abigail. When Elizabeth presses him on it he becomes angry. He is afraid his past sins will become a focus in the courtroom, and he has a good reputation in the village. John then lets slip that he was alone in the room with Abigail when she told him it was a fraud. Elizabeth loses her faith in him since he told her he talked to her in a crowd. This shows how Elizabeth still has doubts that the affair is over. John gets angry whenever his wife doubts his faithfulness, as he’s tried so hard to please her. He says “and still an everlasting funeral marches around your heart.” The Proctors’ relationship is hanging on a string, which can break very easily.