1. CoreActionThe Crucible by Arthur Miller is aboutthe Salem witch trials of 1692, taking place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.The play was written in 1953 as an allegory to the McCarthyism—an event thathad great influence over Miller’s life. The sexual affairs between charactersalso correlate with Miller’s personal life. Although the connection between The Crucible and Miller’s life issignificant, it is more important to focus on the historical elements and howthey effect the action of the play.
For instance, during the colonial era therewas a strong influence of religion, gender roles, and fear of black magic.These elements combined with the crooked government create the plot of The Crucible. The key moment is whenJohn Proctor admits to the court his intimacy with Abigail Williams. The actionfalls as Proctor struggles with the moral dilemma over whether to save his lifeor be sacrificed. 2. StructureThe Crucible has an episodic structure. Theaction moves forward in time and occurs in a series of short, cause-and-effectscenes.
The story is linked by the samecharacter, place, and themes but there is individual sub-plots and purposes.For instance, the play is about the Salem witch trials and the prosecution andhanging of a number of persons in the colonial town. During this tragedy,Abigail Williams uses the situation to her advantage. After her affair withJohn Proctor, Abigail frames his wife of witchcraft in order to be with him.
Thereare also several debates over land throughout the play—the characters involvedin these disputes also begin accusing each other of witchcraft. 3. UnitBreakdown and 4. Characters Act 1, Part One (Opening) Reverend Parris prays over hisdaughter’s unconscious body, rumored to be the effect of witchcraft. Parris hasseen Abigail and group of girls dancing naked in the woods, perhaps enacting aritual. As a strong political figure, Parris must come to the bottom of thematter, and berates Abigail for information.
Abigail Williams denies partaking in witchcraft, although sheperformed a blood-drinking spell as a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor. Thereare rumors spreading around town about her and her affair with John Proctor. Thomas Putnam’s own daughter is in the same state as Parris’.
Itturns out that Mrs. Putman had requested Tituba (Parris’ slave) to contact thespirits of her dead children. Putnam urges Parris to announce he has discoveredwitchcraft in the town.
Relationships: Parris clearly resents Abigail because of herreputation and is quick to accuse her of witchcraft. Abigail is extremely wittyand easily undermines the reverend. Putnam has an everlasting grudge againstParris after his relative’s candidacy for the ministry was foiled. Status: Parris is a stern devout minister who believes the entirecongregation is under his control. He very much sees himself above everyoneelse, including Abigail who is powerless in this society. She created turmoiland takes charge of the town with her lies in deceit for her personal benefit.
Abigailhas a strong influence on her peers as she leads them in history’s greatestpractical joke. Shift: The most notable shift in action and mood is when Parrisinterrogates Abigail. There is an immediate feeling of tense pressure in allelements of the scene—visually, auditory, etc. Tempo: From the beginning, the script is very jumpy with a fasttempo. As tension rises, so does the tempo. The tempo slightly shifts withdialogues between different characters—a direct correlation between thestatuses of each character. Act 1, Part 2 (Entrance ofProctor) John Proctor is a farmer who had an affair with Abigail and waslater discovered by his wife Elizabeth.
He denies Abigail’s advances. Eventhough he still has feelings for her, he strives to remain faithful toElizabeth. Abigail waits for Proctor at night and is both saddened and angeredby his resistance. Parris’ authority is questioned by Proctor as he inquires aboutReverend Hale who has been summoned to hunt demons in the town. Putman has beef with both Parris and Proctor over government,wealth, and shared land.
Relationships: Abigail and Proctor have a romantic history that hasalready ended at the start of the play. Parris is callous towards Proctorbecause of the infidelity rumors and his lack of attendance to church. Status: Proctor sees Abigail as a child and insists on ending theirrelationship.
Parris still feels that everyone is beneath him and is mortifiedwhen Proctor questions him about the legal investigative processes of thesituation. Like Abigail, Proctor is a natural rebel and fights Parris forpower. There is a weird, triangular argument between Parris, Proctor, andPutman over government, land, and other matters. Tempo/Shift: The tempo continues to increase with tension, but therhythm flips back and forth as arguments shift between characters. Act 1, Part 3 (Entrance of Rev.
Hale) Reverend Hale is very familiar with witchcraft and comes toinvestigate the incidents in Salem. He questions Abigail about the forest. Heis later lead to violently interrogate Tituba.
After a series of allegations,he calls for the arrest of all witches in Salem. Abigail insists that they were not partaking in witchcraft. Shemakes the first accusation and leads Hale to Tituba, claiming that she made hedrink the blood. Tituba, Parris’ slave from Barbados, is accused of forcing thegirls to dance naked and drink blood.
After being harassed by Hale, Tituba makesthe next accusations and says that she saw four people with the devil includingGoody Osburn and Sarah Good, town outcasts. Status: Parris seems to be a little submissive to Hale as the fateof the town is in his Hands. Hale takes control over the investigation andbegins interrogating the townspeople as they are accused. Tempo: The tempocontinues to increase with tension. Shift: There are sharp shifts in rhythm, character, and mood as theaccusations begin. Act 2 John Proctor tells Elizabeth that Abigail’s dancing had nothing todo with witchcraft Proctor demands that Elizabeth stop judging him.
Johnthreatens to whip Mary when she returns home because she was ordered not toattend the trials. Later, Proctor admits to Hale that he is not a fan of Parrisas a minister. Elizabeth Proctor wants her husband to testify against Abigail andthe other girls. She is enraged when she hears that John and Abigail were alonetogether.
She is sure the Abigail was the one who accused her of witchcraft. Thetown marshals show up to arrest Elizabeth for witchcraft, using the doll asevidence (Abigail had seen Mary put a needle in the doll). Mary Warren returns home and gives Elizabeth a doll that she sewedduring the trials. Mary claims to have saved Elizabeth’s life after someone accusedher of witchcraft. After being sent to bed, she tells John to stop ordering heraround. She refuses to testify against Abigail in court because Abigailthreatened to kill her. Hale visits the Proctors with good intentions. He asks questionsabout the Proctor’s devotion to the church.
He is confused when Proctor tellshim about Abigail, because many people have already confessed to witchcraft—herealized they didn’t want to be hanged. Hale appears less certain of theaccusations. Relationship and status: Elizabeth still strongly distrusts John,who feels like he is constantly being judged in his own home.
John wants to putthe past behind them but Elizabeth will always feel like he owes her something.John and Mary’s dynamic is shifted after she returns from court, as if thetrials are empowering her to stand up for herself. Proctor and Hale have a longconversation that seems to put them on the same level, at least until the menshow up to arrest Elizabeth. Abigail obviously has great power over the groupof girls because Mary is scared of being killed. Tempo and shift: The tempo, again, increases as the tension buildsup.
In the beginning of the act, the tempo is rather slow despite the tensionat the dinner table. The tension peaks at moment when the men unexpectantlyshow up to arrest Elizabeth and the tempo speeds up with Proctor’s anger andHale’s confusion. This is also a major shift in the plot and a key moment inthe story because now John Proctor has been dragged into the mess and Hale haslost control of the investigation.
Act 3 Proctor tells the court that he just wants to fee his wife and hasno intentions of undermining the court. He learns that Elizabeth is pregnant.He continues to testify against Abigail in order to save the other accused.When Abigail enters, he calls her a whore and confesses his affair so that thecourt will believe that Abigail wants Elizabeth hanged. Mary testifies that she and the other girls were pretending to beafflicted by black magic, and that all the accusations are false. She laterjoins Abigail and the troop in hysterical screaming and accuses Proctor ofstanding with the devil. Parris accuses Proctor of trying to overthrow the court. Putnam gets in it with other men about land ownership, and accusesone of witchcraft in order to have him hanged and inherit his land.
Theseaccusations are clearly getting out of hand. Abigail denies Mary’s testimony. She leads her troop in shiveringdue to Mary’s supposed bewitchment. Elizabeth enters to attest to the rumor.
In order to save John frombeing accused of adultery, she denounces the rumors, unaware that John hadalready confessed. Hale quits the trials after the court orders Proctor’s arrest. Relationships: Thought her trust is wavering, Elizabeth shows herendless devotion to her husband. Mary is s flip-flopping troublemaker whochanges her alliance between Proctor and Abigail.
Parris is still out to get Proctor. Putnam isjust ridiculous and tries takes down anyone in his way. Hale cuts his ties withthe court when he realizes they are all nuts. Status: Parris still sees himself as superior. Hale is finallygrounded. Abigail clearly has great authority over the girls and the town. Putnam thinks he deserves everything.
Tempo: The story climaxes in thisscene. The tempo was increasing up until this point in the play. AfterProctor’s plan begins to crumble, the tempo starts to slow. Shift: There is a shift when Elizabeth denies knowing about affairalthough Proctor had already confessed. That was the “oh shit” moment thatcaused a clear shift in tone, mood, character, rhythm, and tempo. Act 4 Danforth and Hawthorn demanded that Proctor sign an official confessionand attach it to the church door. Hale returns to Salem to persuade the prisoners to confess and savetheir lives. After they refuse, he begs Danforth and Hawthorn to pardon them.
He tells them they have created a world of rotten homes and fear. Paris reveals Abigail has robbed him and fled Salem. Proctor does not want to confess because he wants the persecutorsto feel guilty when they know he is innocent.
He agrees to confess. He deniesany of the other townspeople to be involved in witchcraft. After being forcedto sign a confession, he snatched it and tore it up.
He will not tarnish hisname. Elizabeth is sent to convince Proctor to confess, but she allows hehusband to do what he thinks is right. Relationship: Elizabeth shows ultimate respect for her husband.Hale tries so hard to save the condemned. Status: Danforth and Hawthorn try to undermine Proctor by makinghim sign a confession.
Proctor’s refusal puts him at a higher moral position,as they now have to watch him die while they know he is innocent. Tempo: The tempo continues to slow until the moment Proctor ishanged. There is a slight peak when he rips up the confession. Shift: There is an empowering shift in Proctor’s character themoment he tears up the confession.
5. LanguageMillerrecruited a seventeenth-century scholar to help him develop the language of thescript with a new echo, which the actors would be able to adopt (Miller, 158).He received town records for 1692 from the Salem courthouse where he foundeverything he needed, including dialogue transcripts from the witch trials.(Miller, “Journeyto ‘The Crucible'”). This creates a historically correct language notonly in diction but also in true dialogue that occurred during the trials in1692.6.
GroundPlan and 7. SoundI imagine thecrucible in a thrust configuration with a multilevel set. The details of thestructure will reflect those of 17th century architecture. Withlighting effects and particular placement of actors, scenes can feel very openor claustrophobic—a prominent feeling throughout the play.
The multilevelstructure can be utilized as a quaint colonial home or a rigid courthouse.Personally, it is hard for me to imagine sound for this production. It would beappropriate for the transitional music to rise in rhythm along with the play’srise in tension. Perhaps some horror-styled violin could be incorporated moreand more as the show progresses. Other than transitional music, there are noother defining sounds found in the play. 7. Environmentand StyleA theocraticgovernment runs Salem. The community is ruled by God through religious figuresthat double as political heads.
The residents are consumed by work and prayer.The colonial architecture is found in government buildings, churched, andhomes—all surrounded by plains of farmland. There is a strong hierarchy of thetownspeople, including a prominent sense of gender roles.
The religiousinfluence on colonial Salem comes along with a grave fear of the devil andwitchcraft, thus beginning the plot of TheCrucible. The Crucible: Dramaturgy Checklist1. Playwright’sBiographyArthur Miller(1915-2005) was born in Harlem, NY and later lived in Manhattan with hisimmigrant family of Polish and Jewish descent. His family lost everything inthe Stock Market Crash of 1929 and was forced to move to Brooklyn. While at theUniversity of Michigan, Miller wrote for the student newspaper and took a fewplaywright courses. During his college years, he completed his first play, No Villain, and later moved back East tobegin his playwriting career. He went on to write several acclaimed plays and novels;in particular, Death of a Salesman wonthe highest of praises including the Pulitzer Prize, the New York DramaCritics’ Circle Award, and several Tony Awards.
His marriage to Marilyn Monroeplaced Miller in the Hollywood spotlight. Miller barely wrote during theirmarriage, with the exception of TheMisfits. After her death, Miller penned Afterthe Fall, which is supposedly based on their relationship. In 1956, theHouse of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) called Miller to appear beforethe committee. Because The Crucible isan allegory about McCarthyism, Miller came under inspection.
During Miller’s stand againstthe HUAC, Brooks Atkinson wrote, “He refused to be an informer. He refusedto turn his private conscience over to administration by the state. He hasaccordingly been found in contempt of Congress. That is the measure of the manwho has written these high-minded plays.” (Biography.com Editors. ) These events have severalcorrelations with the plot and characters of The Crucible. 2.
TheWriting of the PlayLion Feuchtwanger(a German-Jewish playwright exiled in the US) wrote a play about the SalemWitch Trials Wahnoder der Teufel in Boston (Delusion, or The Devil in Boston) as an allegory forthe prosecution of communists. The show premiered in Germany is 1949, and latertranslated and performed in Los Angels four years later. Miller somewhat lacksoriginality as the subject matter is possibly influenced by Feuchtwanger’s Wahnoder der Teufel in Boston. Bothplays were published and performed around the same time subsequently manycritics labeled them as “another play on Salem witches.” Albeit it was notedthat Feuchtwanger’s play had fewer dramatic high points. The question whetherone writer might have influenced the other remains unanswered. The importantpoint is that they both take different approaches onstage (Maierhofer, Waltraud).3.
Historyof Past ProductionsIn 1953, the firstproduction of The Crucible receivednegative reviews. Miller blames it on the stylized, stoic interpretation ofdirector Jed Harris (Miller, 158). Within the next 12 months, the show blew upand became an American classic, constantly being staged and read in schoolsaround the globe. Why? Because of the universal themes of illicit sexuality,fear of supernatural, and political manipulation. The film (1996) reaches amuch broader audience uncovers others connections to political terror. 4.
OtherWorks by the PlaywrightThere is a clearcorrelation between the works of Arthur Miller and his stories. He focuses onthe American Dream as a reflection of his parent’s immigration to America. Healso emphasizes the importance of name, deceit and social wrongs. In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman is moreconcerned about having a “big name” rather than creating a reputation as adedicated worker. In The Crucible, theimportance of name is highlighted in John Proctor’s pride and willingness todie rather than tarnish his reputation. The overall concern reflects Miller’sexperience with the HUAC and his refusal to give up the names of hiscolleagues. In terms of deceit, Abigail William’s duplicity of ElizabethProctor is symbolic of the affair Miller had with Monroe. Similarly in Death of a Salesman, Willy takes hisfamily’s money to buy stockings other women (“Miller,Arthur”).
The events and themes of Miller’s stories reflect thoseof his own life. 5. Historical,Cultural, Political, and Religious BackgroundAsstated above, there are several timely events that bridge Miller and his work.Miller was inspected during the McCarthy period and watched several of hisfriends and colleagues deceive each other—and allegory for The Crucible.
His relationship with Monroe is represented in Abigail William’s affair withJohn Proctor. Miller lived during The Great Depression and several of hisplays, including Death of a Salesman takeplace during that period or are reminiscent of the events. As he shaped his characters,Miller connected to John Proctor, who was able to fight the madness around him.
He related to the universal experience of being unable to believe the state haslost its mind (Miller, 158). In terms of accuracy, all the characters in The Crucible are taken from history,with the exception of age changes. Miller spent some time in Salem forresearch. He received town records for 1692 from the courthouse where he foundeverything he needed, including dialogue transcripts from the witch trials. (Miller,”Journey to’The Crucible'”).
6. Criticismof the playThe first production of The Crucible received rather negative reviews. Miller blames it onthe stylized, stoic interpretation of director Jed Harris (Miller, 158). Theplay has since won several awards for performances on stage, film, opera, andtelevision.