The Crucible - Rivalries Exposed in Act Three

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Explain How Arthur Miller Uses Act Three As A Dramatic Device To Expose The Rivalries Which Exist In Salem.

In 1952, Arthur Miller wrote a play entitled, ‘The Crucible’. The play is centred on the witch trials that actually took place in Salem, Massachusetts during 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote about the event as an allegory for McCarthyism which occurred in the United States in the 1950s. McCarthyism was a time of great anti-communist suspicion in the late 1940s and 1950s. The key connections in the two occurrences were that many people were accused on little or no evidence and all of it was inconclusive. Also, characteristic was the hysteria in all the places where the problems struck. ‘The Crucible’, is structured around four main themes which are, hatred, feuding, revenge and conflict of authority. All these add equal twists in the play. Hatred is a strong theme throughout the Salem Witch Trials. The strictness of Puritan laws meant people were bound to break them, whether on purpose or by accident, and the strong religious views shared in Salem aroused suspicion for the most trivial of matters. As a result of this, feuding was inescapable. Petty rivalries caused many arguments in varying situations, and the resulting tense atmosphere in Salem resembled a rumbling volcano just waiting to erupt. The subsequent controversial court hearings would bring out the worst in some people and possibly the best in others. Before the play began many rivalries were already in existence. Adultery had been committed and aggressive disputes over land had occurred. Personality clashes and ancestral feuds had set families at loggerheads with one another. Consequently, when opportunities arose to make accusations, which could result in hangings, many villagers jumped at the chance with glee; thus setting up the third main theme of the play - revenge. The final main theme of ‘The Crucible’ is conflict of authority. In Salem, Massachusetts, the people had no official, outright ruler of their lands; so trials were bound to spark a dispute about authority. Salem’s folk had a reclusive leader of their Puritan church, the Reverend Parris. He called in the learned Reverend Hale to investigate the witchcraft accusations. There were many officials of the court as well, including Cheever and the overall judges of the court, Danforth and Hathorne. All these characters had their own reasons to think themselves the deserved rulers of Salem. With many wise people living in the village, you could be sure that lots of heated discussions about who should be leader would occur. In the play, many characters are revealed to the audience, but one character we are familiar with from the start, is the village’s church leader, Reverend Parris. The whole chain of events could have easily been avoided had he been prepared to take a bit of criticism from the villagers, but Reverend Parris was too paranoid to allow that. This is ironic because the more he tried to stop trouble from arising, the more it actually happened. His main fear was that people were trying to uproot him and make him lose his place in their society. He was insecure. This is shown throughout the play, for example, in Act Three he says: Parris {in a sweat}: “Excellency, you surely cannot think to let so vile a lie be spread in open court!” This is an example of many different devices. The staging says he was ‘in a sweat’ because he was worried and this shows he was not a strong character. Also this comment is the first example of dramatic irony in Act Three. It was ironic because he was talking about Proctor lying, and Proctor wasn’t lying, however Parris was. This was also an exclamatory line. It was meant to persuade Danforth to believe Parris and not Proctor. This was the first of many dramatic techniques used to highlight Proctor’s and Parris’ rivalry. Its demonstration of Parris’ insecurity remains a key feature for the duration...
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