The Crucible – Sample Essay on Playing Elizabeth Proctor

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GCSE Drama Mock Examination – The Crucible – sample essay on playing Elizabeth Proctor

I am using the Heinemann edition of the text and I will be discussing how I would play the part of Elizabeth Proctor in the given scene.

This scene is taken from Act Four, the final act of the play and the tragic plot is drawing to an end. Both Elizabeth and John Proctor have been imprisoned on false charges of witchcraft. Elizabeth's pregnancy is, at present, sparing her from the possibility of hanging but her husband, John Proctor, in his vain attempts to protect his wife has inadvertently caused his own downfall and he faces the noose if he will not confess to the charges of witchcraft. His only possible life saving choice is to ‘confess' to the false charges, have his land and farm confiscated, lose his good name and sense of honour and remain in jail. In this scene the figures of authority, fronted by Danforth, have pleaded with Elizabeth to try to convince John to ‘confess' in order to spare his life for reasons that are generated by their own selfish fears with regard to the safety of the convictions. John and Elizabeth's past has been a troubled one as a result of his brief, adulterous affair with his maidservant Abigail Williams. This affair has become public knowledge and the strict religious morality of seventeenth century ‘new world' Puritanism means that he will never be regarded with the esteem that he once was: adultery breaking one of the Ten Commandments which had to be strictly adhered to. The Proctors have not seen each other for three months as this scene opens and, although their past difficulties remain somewhere in both their minds, they are insignificant in relation to the tragedy of the situation that they are now faced with.

Elizabeth is already on stage as her husband enters. I would stand motionless as he appears at the doorway, my downstage hand gently rested across my slightly pregnant stomach, a position that I would return to frequently as a means of protection for my unborn child, my maternal instinct clear and unquestionable. As he walks towards me I would swallow hard, as if my throat has become dry and unhelpful in preparation for speaking to him, something that I have been yearning to do for so long. I would want the audience to be able to notice my horror at his appearance by the slight furrowing of my brow and slightly narrowed eyes but I would do my best to hide this from John because I would not want to increase his pain or anxiety. Hence, I would collect myself and as he ‘reaches out his hand' just out of my reach, I would move towards him, offer him my hand willingly and without mirroring his hesitation, to encourage his gesture of warmth and affection, I would then, as the text says, cover his hand with mine to maintain the tactile contact. As the ‘strange, soft sound comes from his throat' I would look into his eyes and smile a very gentle, closed mouth smile, reassuring him of my joy at seeing him again. As he sits down in his weakened state I would move as if to physically assist him, placing my arm under his elbow as he lowers himself tentatively onto the chair/stool a look of real concern and anxiety on my face. I would retrieve a stool from nearby and place it opposite him, the proxemics close and quite intimate and I would then noiselessly lower myself onto this stool, leaning slightly towards him.

When Proctor enquires about the unborn child, I would instinctively move my hand to my stomach and caress it gently, as before, and I would reply to his question quietly yet as positively as I can manage – I want him to pick up on the fact that the child represents hope, that despite all the horrors and trauma of events there remains this miracle of life – it is, literally, the one thing that keeps her going. Interestingly, it is John who leads all of the questions at the beginning of their conversation. I realise that he is desperate for news of his children first and foremost and...
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