Every great playwright has his or her time in the spotlight, for Arthur Miller it is believed this time came when he created The Crucible. The play is based on the corruption of the Salem witch trials which condemned many to an unjust death. Numerous amounts of criticism and interpretations were published to help the reader visualize a clearer picture of the play and understand what was happening during that period of time. The setting of language and the force of evil along with a review on hysteria and ideology and finally and interpretation on the devil in Salem can all be discussed in The Crucible as well as in this paper.
The Crucible for Miller was a turning point as far as being a playwright was concerned. It was the first time in his playwright career that he did not base his play on a Greek background. Miller’s creation also turned heads because the reader noticed a more diverse choice of characters with individual descriptions on characters such as Hale, Abigail, Putnam and Proctor. Miller also uses the basic subject of his play very well, he bases the fate of one Massachusetts town on the decision of a few people. Curtis believed the greatest drama occurred during the collision of divine and secular law. (68) I feel this statement to be true, all was quiet in Salem and the whole fiasco could have been avoided if Rev. Parris had told the town Betty was sick in bed instead of blurting out that she was possessed. Most likely divine and secular law would not have conflicted and the townspeople would not have been accused so harshly. The role of titles in the play shows one characters greatness over another. One’s integrity, reputation, prestige, functional power and selfish pride. To be in full agreement with this statement would be false, it sounds as if these characters were permanently stitched with these titles. For example, John Proctor was considered a decent man who wasn’t perfect only because he stopped attending mass on Sundays on account of his wives illness. Unfortunately the honorable thing to do when accused of witchcraft was to die with dignity and not confess to a crime that was not committed. However, Proctor almost acted on a dishonorable note by confessing to the false accusations presented to him so as to be released from jail. Proctor came through in the end by tearing up his confession after seeing the disappointment in his wife and friend. Proctor had the title of “Good Guy.” (Curtis 67-69)
Another Example is Rev. Parris. Parris is a conceded preacher who portrays himself as a higher being on the soul thought that he is a reverend and since he is “closest to God” he has authority over everyone. He was always in demand of material possessions for his preaching services and sided with the law more than the Bible. Towards the end of the play Parris recognized his wrongful ways when his daughter and niece ran away and became prostitutes. Parris pleaded with the remaining prisoners to confess so he would not have their deaths on his conscience Rev. Parris received the title of “Mr. Dislikable.” (Curtis 67-69)
Hysteria and ideology both played a major role in the play. They assisted the reader in realizing that the play wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. “ It is the product of theatrical dexterity and a young mans moral passion rather than of a fruitful and reverberating imagination.” (Hayes 32) The statement above is very true to the subject at hand. The play was based more on moral values and heartbreaking decisions than imaginative or mental views. However, the reader interprets a very good idea by reading this play of how the moral issue involved in the Salem witch trial affected Miller personally and how it came about to be on paper.
It is a critical common place that the commitments of Mr. Miller’s plays are ideological rather that personal that he does not create a world somuch in its simple humanity, or its perceptible reality, as in its intellectual alarms and excurtions. The Crucible reinforces this tradition. (Hayes 33)
The criticism above suggests that Miller didn’t write easy plays with a solid message he wrote ideological plays. The Crucible has brought back this tradition. In agreement with this statement it has also been mentioned that a moralistic reader would enjoy Miller’s work over a visualistic reader. The Crucible is set in a real place and has a solid message throughout the play then finishes up with a feeling of honor by Proctor tearing up his confession, that’s where a reader can see the moral value of the play. (Hayes 33)
Countless reviews have pointed out the devils work in The Crucible. It is plain to see that the reviews are correct. One notices a real sense of the devil at work in the colonies where so many people died. The lies, traitorism, accusations against loved ones and little snotty girls who what to get their way. If one were to read this play, take a step back and look at the big picture, evil definitely played a part in that period of time. Fact or fiction this play showed exactly what would happen during the time of the Salem witch trials. The devil’s presence was definitely accounted for as far as corruption goes. “Good is positive. Evil is merely primitive, not absolute: it is like cold which is the privation of heart.” (Welland 56) Welland also suggests that good always has a cure for evil. when it’s cold one will go someplace warm. when it’s evil outside one might think of going to church. Only one flaw comes out of the statement above, in The Crucible evil overtook everyone. A similar story found in American Literature shows a packed with the devil that involves a despicable married couple. They made the packed so they could be rich in their lives. Only they end up suffering for a lifetime and an eternity. The characters of the play suffered just the same except they made no packed with the devil and hung just the same. Perhaps the accuser should point the finger in the opposite direction and realize where the evil is coming from.
In the opinion of many readers The Crucible was a definitive point in the playwright career of Arthur Miller. He devised a way to show his own moral thoughts and opinions in a play that delt with one of the most memorable and tragic periods of time. His interpretation of the devil in Salem was on key and described the attitude and trial processes of that time. One got a sense of a constant gloomy day because of the surroundings and general attitude of the play. The pain and suffering the families went through was reborn in this work.
The form in which the language was set was identical to the form used in “medieval” Salem. The force of evil tag teamed with the form of language in showing how ignorant and ludicrous the accusations were. If one was seen walking about late at night they were accused of witchcraft, no matter what their personal status was. With the addition of the titles that were given to characters such as Goody Nurse and Goody Proctor helped to enhance the mood and setting of the play.
Finally, the hysteria and ideology in the play displayed the outrageous effects of theological beliefs during that period of time. Hysteria is displayed when mass confusion is mixed with the accusations that were the cause of so many unjust deaths. For example towards the end of the play when Salem was described as a ghost town because so many people were dead or in jail for witchcraft. Miller’s use of ideology in the play is shown through the extensive detail used in describing his characters individually. Characters like Rev. Parris and Abigail played the role to match their description. One as a controlling, materialistic priest and the other a spoiled teenager who ruins the lives of many people. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was full of controversy and superstition as well as many other elements of great playwriting.
Barron’s ed. Services. Baron’s Book Notes, Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible”. New York: Barron’s ed. Services Inc., 1984.
Burns, Margo. Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” Fact and Fiction. 2 pp. Online. Internet.
Burns, Margo. The Witch Index. 4 pp. Online. Internet.
Miller, Arthur. The Assault on Privacy. New York: University of Michigan Press, 1994.
Miller, Arthur. Electric Library. Encyclopedia.com. 1 pp. Online. Internet.
Miller’s, Arthur. Collected Plays. 2 vols. The Viking Press, 1981.
Sparknotes.com. The Crucible. 8 pp. Online. Internet.