We have been exploring and analysing “The crucible”, a play by Arthur Miller. A play written during the hysteria of McCarthyism, in the 1950’s. This is reflected in some of the issues raised in the play. This essay will focus particularly on the importance of Act 4 to the play, in various forms and will include the social and historical setting of the play itself. We will start of with a short summary of Joseph McCarthy. Joseph lived a complicated life (1908-1957) as a Republican senator from Appleton, Wisconsin. His purpose was to whip up anti-communism during the 1950’s, and let me tell you now, he certainly didn’t fail!
Joseph McCarthy was known to accuse innocent people of being communists. The only way the accused could then be let off was if they too, accused another of being a communist, (even if they weren’t.) And so the time of McCarthyism began. Arthur Miller (author of “the crucible”) was one of the very few who wouldn’t confirm whether or not he was a communist or an anti-communist, this was very agitating for Joseph because he needed a straight yes or no answer to decide the consequence.
The play “the crucible” was wrote by Arthur Miller under the influence of this McCarthyism. He has cleverly entwined this into his writing by showing how absolutely anyone, no matter how religious and righteous they have been throughout their lives, could be accused of witchcraft. This is most strongly shown through the Character Rebecca Nurse. “The Crucible” is a play wrote about the unfair blacklisting and singling out of innocent people. Added with a splash of communism, and a thick layer of deep emotions, this play was unfaultable.
Arthur miller travelled back and explored the differences between America and Salem in the 17th century. Salem had changed dramatically. From being hard workers who would pull together as a community, to backstabbing individuals who would even note their neighbour’s names down. Just to get them into trouble for being out of church. The witch-hunts began because people started becoming detached from their neighbours and friends, and started working by themselves. Although these were terrible times, some people took advantage of the situation and grabbed the opportunity to own up to their own sins in forms of confession. For example, people cried witch for a lot of reasons, such as land, revenge, or even just to get a guilty secret of their back. They may have lost their lives, but they died with integrity and would be remembered for that.
The tragic ending of the Salem witch trials could have been helped if it were not for the extremity in religion and superstition. A clear example of their dramatic beliefs was that at the edge of the town was a wilderness. The people of Salem were convinced that there was a risk of Indians invading! Throughout the play, Arthur Miller has made his audience go through highs and lows of tension. However, It has all been cleverly put together so that we are as unprepared as possible for the final in Act 4, where we are hanging off the end of our seats, and praying for Proctor’s life!
The huge impact of Act 4, however, wouldn’t have been so heart wrenching if it were not for a number of smaller events that had been happening earlier in the play. Right from the start we are bombarded with lots of different lives and situations. From a screaming Betty at the beginning of act 1 to finding out that Proctor, a married man, had been cheating on his wife with Abigail Williams! At this point the audience really don’t know what to think.
We enter Act 2 and the tension is high. We are hit with a whole range of emotions as Elizabeth and John go from a tense atmosphere, to blazing rows and then finally ending with Elizabeth getting arrested. In Act 3 Miller’s audience is completely shocked by the weird goings on throughout the scene. Susannah, Abigail and mercy all go crazy and make it out to look like Mary has them under her power! Proctor then confesses to being a witch, even though he isn’t, and finally it all gets too much for Hale and he quits the court! Tension is on overload point at the end of this scene.