Aristotle states that "The change in a hero's fortunes be not from misery to happiness, but...from happiness to misery, and the cause...must not lie in any depravity but in some great error on his part.” The unity of setting; fate (or determinism); a noble character, with the inevitability of human flaw - these factors are archetypal of the classical tragedies, first made popular by notable Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. Arthur Miller adopts this structure in his play, The Crucible: a tragedy, in which John Proctor is the epitome of an Aristotelian tragic hero.
The Crucible is presented in a superstitious village, located in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. The time frame is compressed, and the action a fast pace. There is thus an unifying element that weaves the overall play together extremely well. John Proctor is an honest, proud man who falls to desolation, initiated by his human flaw - his affair with Abigail Williams. This and Abigail’s jealousy of John’s wife are the forces that push the village into a frenzy of witchcraft. As John Proctor is a well-respected farmer, determinism plays its role in the form of economy in which “one’s social class erects insuperable barriers to advancement or fulfillment”. With such status, John places great emphasis on his reputation. However, he eventually succumbs to his flaw, confessing his sin to stop Abigail’s machinations. Wanting to protect her husband’s name, Elizabeth Proctor states that no such affair ever occurred. With the evident role of fate, John’s social standing had been determined by uncontrollable . If he were not ‘determined’ in such a way, his wife would not have protected him thus. To this end, John Proctor reaches the anagnorisis of his situation as he is aware of his fate (i.e. to be hanged) and his role in allowing this madness to grow unchecked. A true tragic hero, rather than sign a false confession, John sacrifices himself. His conscious decision to choose self-sacrifice allows him to...
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