The second character the audience is introduced to in set 1 is John Proctor, who is key to the dramatic tension in the play. At once the audience knows that there is something going on between Abigail and Proctor because of Abigail’s behaviour. ‘Abigail has stood as though on tiptoe, absorbing his presence, wide eyed.’ The audience sees a link between Proctor and Abigail as her reaction on his entering is different from when say Mrs Put’m enters. At this point the audience is not sure what the connection is between Abigail and Proctor, but when the ‘knowing smile’ goes upon his face it can immediately be guessed that it is something sexual.
The tension slowly builds as the two characters play mind games with each other, Proctor: ‘his smile widening’. Abigail sees Proctors behaviour as him wanting her so her courage increases and she goes up to him and says ‘Give me a word, John. A soft word.’ This is where the anger within the scene comes about. ‘Her concentrated desire destroys his smile’. This is also the first place where sexual intent is written within the text.
Proctors anger is immediate as he realises her intentions but Abigail’s slowly rises as she is in a state of confusion. Many of the actions in this part are harsh and callous. ‘With a bitter anger’, ‘with a flash of anger’, ‘shaking her’ “Do you look for a whippin?” All of this happens within a few seconds and the tension is created quickly as in the form of a crescendo. As the audience can see here, any meeting between Abigail and Proctor is not going to be peaceful.
The confrontation between Abigail and Proctor on Set 1 in Act 1 prepares the audience for the later confrontation in the courthouse. This scene also introduces the audience to deceit and shame, which are also themes of the play and expanded in Act 3. “How do you call Heaven! Whore! Whore!” This is the first public speaking of what Proctor and Abigail did together and also their first public argument. The repetition that Miller uses intensifies the strength of the sentence showing how important it is. The audience feels the excitement as the news of their relationship is publicly announced. “I have known her” is what Proctor says and is enough for the tension to increase to an almighty high. At this point the audience is on the edge of their seats wanting to know what will happen because, as being a ‘lecher’ is terrible shame and sin.
The audience then continue to wait for an answer from Abigail. She immediately denies it “He is lying”. This is when the Judge decides to call Elizabeth through to the courtroom. He makes the decision to use her to find out the truth. Tension is intensified by the fact that the audience has to wait for what seems like a lifetime for each of Elisabeth’s answers. The actions she takes before answering the questions adds to the tension like ‘wetting her lips to stall for time’, ‘slight pause’ ‘glancing at Proctors back’. She does all of these things so that she might perhaps get reassurance from Proctor as the questions being asked are about him.
The initial encounter between Abigail and Proctor in set 1 forms the turning point for all of the characters in Act 3 because it is here, where either Abigail wins and all of the condemned lose or this is the point of Abigail’s downfall. In this scene the question, about John Proctor being a Lecher, is repeated several times to increase its importance. The audience already knows that John Proctor is a lecher, and the question being asked repeatedly increases the dramatic tension because we already know the answer and the rest of the courtroom is in darkness about the truth. This is also the encounter that draws the play to the serious themes of truth, lies, justice and injustice that are played out in act 3 in the courtroom.
DANFORTH: “Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher!” ELIZABETH: “No sir.” Here the audience is in completely shocked because it means that Elizabeth is going to die and so is every other condemned person, all because Elizabeth lies. This shocks the audience and then Elizabeth’s last words “Oh, God” signify the end of everything and her despair at what has happened. Now the audience feels at a loss.
They can’t believe what has just happened and what this means for the people of Salem. The audience feels a kind of confused guilt because they have been unable to help and let the truth be spread about what really is going on in Salem. Miller here uses the actions of the characters very well to create tension and also the setting, a court room adds tension within itself as this is where people are sent to get truth and justice.
The final character the audience meets in set 1 act 1 is Mr Hale. He is a lawyer and so being introduces the audience to the theme of justice. He brings with him an air of expectancy. As he walks in he brings with him a pile of books, which represents his great knowledge. Immediately we see that he is a man of great kindness as he greats all in the room personally. The audience can see instantaneously that the mood in the room has changed into a calmer and more collected atmosphere.
He asks for people to not jump to conclusions and to believe whatever he may say even if they don’t believe it. Everyone obeys what he says because he has that air of authority about him. This lessens the tension in the room. All the stage actions are calm like ‘pleased’, ‘thinks on it’ and ‘Noticing’. None of these words are over reactive or out of place, which helps to decrease the tension after the arguments and rash discussions, which took place in the bedroom.
In set 1 act 1 we have the first mentioning of the devil coming in different forms happens. Mr Hale specifically mentions a bird. Surprisingly enough in Act 3 Mary comes to Abigail in the courtroom as a bird. This is a clever use of making the girls look like liars. Throughout the play the girls never actually mention anything that they have done themselves. It is always someone else putting the words into the mouth. This creates tension throughout the play because you are constantly waiting for either the girls to make up a lie themselves and slip up or for someone to realise that they haven’t actually told anyone what they say is the truth.
In set 1 act 1 the audience is prepared for the drama in the courtroom of what is to unfold in act 3. Having said that Abigail is not a liar Elizabeth has ended up condemning herself and the others so the audience believes that all hope is lost. The tension reduces as the audience sits back and waits for what they assume will happen, the hanging of the condemned. This relaxed period lasts for only a short amount of time. As soon as the spotlight is pointed on Abigail she gives a ‘weird, chilling cry’. She immediately, and successfully turns the attention away from the adultery and onto what she wants everyone focused on.
She immediately mentions a bird which she then says is Mary. This brings the tension straight back up because someone that is considered to be on Abigail’s side is being accused of sending her spirit out. Here the girls successfully turn everything round so that it now looks as if Proctor has associated with the devil. The tension here is created by the aggravation of every character in the scene. Everyone is trying to get their points across but take sides at the very end, to whichever side seems the safest from the eye of the judge.
Miller successfully creates tension using setting and actions from set 1 to prepare the audience for the events, which are to unfold. The use of light and dark in Set 1 successfully set the mood for the whole play. The use of light coming through the windows successfully provides a stylistic device that the audience can refer to for Millers ideas of truth, hope and justice. Miller is effective in introducing the audience to the main characters and portraying their personalities for their encounters in later scenes in the play.
Miller successfully portrayed the mood that the characters were in by using setting and the actions to bring the play to life and add real dramatic excitement for the reader. In the play Miller effectively illustrated the injustice of society and that nothing can be done for one individual when they are left to fend for themselves.