Is the Crucible a Tragedy?

Topics: Salem witch trials, The Crucible, Witchcraft Pages: 4 (1198 words) Published: January 24, 2010
The Crucible as a Tragedy

Today, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is commonly believed to be a tragedy, but the standards for different types of literature have changed over time, and the tragedy in not a type of literature that has only been around since yesterday. So let’s ask the inventors of theaters and dramas and see what their opinion would be, if they would approve with our definition of tragedy.

According to Aristotle, a tragedy is defined as follows:

“Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its catharsis of such emotions” -(Poetics, Aristotle, translated by S.H. Butcher)

So in order to prove or refute that The Crucible is a tragedy according to this definition, one has to do so with each part of the definition.

The first requirement to the play is that it imitates a serious, complete action of a certain magnitude. In the case of The Crucible, the imitated actions are the witchcraft trials of Salem and later the efforts of John Proctor to stop them. This matter certainly is a serious one of great magnitude because of the number of innocent lives that are on stake.

However, one could argue that the action is not complete, because the play itself does not give the answer whether or not the witch trials are stopped in the end. But for the group of people that the play focuses on, the action is complete. Elizabeth lives, John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse hang, Giles Cory is pressed to death, Abigail flees and reverend Hale has made a final decision in his role in the witchcraft trials.

The second requirement is much less complicated: It has to be an imitation of action in the form of action, not narrative. This means that a...
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