The Crucible

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Evaluation of a live performance draft – The Crucible by Arthur Miller York Theatre Royal – 10th May 2011

The Crucible, a 1953 play written by American playwright, Arthur Miller, was influenced by the Salem witch trials which occurred in colonial Massachusetts between 1692 and 1693. It is a dramatization of these trials where more than 200 people were accused of conjuring spirits and practising witchcraft and some were executed. Eventually, the colony admitted the trials were a mistake and compensated the families of those convicted; since then the trials have become synonymous with paranoia and injustice. Arthur Miller used this story to emphasise the morals and themes that lie within the Crucible which is about how a group of girls dancing in a forest can be lead to lie and accuse by a vindictive character, the ‘ring leader’ Abigail Williams. Abigail is so blinded by jealousy and hatred towards her lovers wife, Elizabeth Proctor, that she attempts to curse Elizabeth so that one day she and John can be together. However, they were caught and because of the theocracy lifestyle of Puritan families, many people believed that they had been overpowered by the devil and so Abigail persuaded the other girls to lie and accuse innocent people of working for the devil, which is a deadly sin in their eyes. One accusation led to another and mass hysteria broke out throughout Salem, innocent people were sentenced to hang. Religion was law, if you told the truth then you would die, if you lied then you would live. Proctor, after initially admitting witchcraft, eventually told the truth and was sentenced to hang with the others. Abigail, the cause of these tragic events, fled the country. Although the evidence that she had lied was overpowering, the high court still decided to carry on the executions. Arthur Miller was also influenced by McCarthyism which is the practise of making accusations of disloyalty or treason without proper regard for evidence. He wrote the Crucible as a way of documenting the kind of widespread chaos and fear that engulfed the entire population at the time and so the kinds of injustice displayed in the play are near identical to what Miller and many other Americans experienced during the McCarthy era. The influential themes running through Arthur Millers production consist of Intolerance, hysteria, reputation, accusations, confessions and legal proceedings which were all witnessed in the real Salem witch trails and McCarthyism.

Religion played an important role in Puritan life as they felt that they were chosen by god for a special purpose and they must live every moment in a God-fearing manner. Every person was expected to attend meetings on the Sabbath without question and they were required to read the Bible which showed their religious discipline; if they didn’t read the Bible, it was though that they were worshipping the devil. Theocracy is a key theme, it is a form of government in which God is recognized as the supreme civil ruler, and basically religion was law. It contrasts with modern day audiences as in our day, religion is not as important as it used to be, a lot more people have free choice and a lot less people are religious, so it emphasises the change in time in which theocracy was once ruled upon. The Crucible relates to our lives today as it related to how people get caught up with emotion and let mass hysteria rule instead of common sense and the truth, such as the death of Princess Diana, half of the UK was engulfed in mass hysteria and wept over a women they had never even met. Maybe the increase of these incidents is due to a shift in our society, in the Crucible, religion overpowered law; in modern day, law and class overpower religion. The staging in the play created the historical context using wooden floors and neutral bleak colours linked to Puritan ideals whilst it also links to nature and the farming communities.

I knew the stage would be in a round, however I did not...
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