What role does sex, and sexual repression play in The Crucible?
The Crucible is a play constructed on conflict, lies and deception, written by Arthur Miller in 1952. The key theme of this theatrical four-act drama is ‘Wheels within wheels’. Set in Salem, in the heart of puritan Massachusetts, in 1692, the plot follows a community of villagers plagued by accusations of witchcraft. Amidst the executions of their friends, the remaining villagers turn to religion, rumours and secrets to alleviate the tragedy, and gravity of the circumstances unfolding on their doorsteps. Throughout the play, we become progressively responsive to the fact that sex/sexual repression are the motives behind a significant volume of the conflict that develops as the plot continues, as well as being a vital theme throughout the story. Although not immediately detected, as pivotal characters such as Abigail Williams, John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor advance, it becomes apparent that the source of the deeply bedded antipathies are sex and being sexually repressed. Miller uses the theme of sexual repression to allow the audience to contextualise the era that the play was set in (1690’s Massachusetts, consumed by Puritanism), and how the characters conflicts/personas/reactions link to this. The main window that this can be seen is through Abigail Williams, the conniving, unscrupulous seventeen year old girl, who is the antagonist of the plot. From the very beginning of the play we are introduced to the themes of sexual repression. In act 1, we see the girls dancing around a fire with slave Tituba, asking her to cast spells on the men they love, and for them to reciprocate those feelings. Instantaneously, we are aware that sex is all of the girl’s motives for casting spells, and subconsciously we also become aware that sex is a key theme to be carried throughout the play. This scene, where sex is the source of the mischief/trouble, also acts as a...
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