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The Crucible - act 2 scene 1 significance

Choose a scene that you think is paticulary dramatic and intresting, show how this scene contributes to the dramatic effectivness of the Act it occurs in and the play as a whole

Choose a scene that you think is paticulary dramatic and interesting, show how this scene contributes to the dramatic effectiveness of the act it occurs in and the play as a whole.

The Scene that I chose to look at is act 2 scene 1 between John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth.
Arthur Miller wrote ?The Crucible? in 1953 after witnessing the period of McCarthyism, which will probably long endure in American Politics as a Synonym for "witch - hunt", making serious but unsubstantiated claims against people in public life. This is a frightening example of the effectiveness of fear tactics making people give false witness. Miller himself was summoned and then put in a situation almost exactly like the one John Proctor was put in during the witch hunts of 1692. Miller was told to give the names of people that he had seen at a meeting of communist writers ten years earlier. Just as Proctor did, Miller refused to answer the question, and then wrote ?The Crucible? to remind us that fears of the unknown, mass hysteria and perversions of justice infect modern life just as much as they did in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
Salem was founded in 1628 by John Endecott a Fanatic in religious matter and a very strict puritan. The religious ideas that the inhabitants of Salem had in 1692 were probably no different to the views that Endecott had and their lives were influenced greatly by his ideas.
The title ?The Crucible? is a very good name for this play, a crucible is a container in which different metals are heated violently to extract the impurities from the pure element. In the play John Proctor is tested in a life threatening situation and with his death at the end of act 4 he shows that he has come through the fire and been purified. An alternative explanation might be that Salem was the crucible from which emerged a purified American democracy. There is also a type of grim irony in the title, a witch normally has a cauldron in which many things were brewed together, in Act 1 we establish that the girls in the forest had a kettle/cauldron with them for the purpose of mixing ingredients together and making charms. Millers title may then imply that out of attempted evil good may eventually come, this would be consistent in keeping with the themes of the play.
The language in the play adds to the seriousness of the situation that the characters are in and also gives the play an old fashioned air which distances it from the modern time. I think that Miller uses authentic language in order to help the audience believe in the characters and the action which is taking place. He achieves this by adding occasional peculiarities of speech like the substitution of one form of verb for another using ?it were? instead of ?it was? ?she give? instead of ?she gave?, the use of ?let you?? gives an emphasis to a verb, ?let you take hold here? Putnam says to Reverend Parris which means ?you have to take a firm control of this situation?, the use of ?do? has also been omitted from the text. Married Women are addressed as Goody rather than today?s Mrs, Goody is an abridgement of the term Goodwife. When the play is acted there is a significant problem in finding an accent for the actors to use, although the distinctive speech patterns used in the play almost enforce an accent. Even though the play is set in America, the distinctive American accent which was influenced by the Irish immigrants of the 19th century, has not yet developed. It was only 70 years since the founders of Salem had arrived so they would still have an accent similar to the British ones of that time.
The historical accuracy of the play has been changed (dramatic licence allowing this to take place), for instance Abigail?s age has been raised from 12 to mid teens possibly because Miller found that if she was younger the audience might have had more sympathy towards her than Miller would have liked it might, also have been hard for the audience to understand how a girl so young could have been so evil and manipulative. It would be hard to understand that Proctor could have had an affair with so young a girl.
The number of girls involved in ?crying out? has been reduced and the numbers of judges were lowered and were all symbolised in Hathorne and Danforth.
The inhabitants of Salem believed there was an outbreak of witch craft in their small narrow minded community in the May of 1692. Many people were tried and this led to 19 people being hung and many more innocent victims being imprisoned. This may have been the outcome of several things: The atmosphere in Salem at the time was disagreeable and altogether unpleasant. Life was hard and they followed a strictly Puritan lifestyle that frowned on fun and thrived on the fear of the Devil, sin and damnation it also encouraged the prying into the sins of your neighbours. Levels of trust in the community were also low which did not help when the accusing of witch craft began.
The trouble stemmed from one group of Girls that were caught dancing in the forest one night and Fortune telling with Tituba, Reverend Parris?s Negro slave from Barbados. Both the Putnum?s Daughter and Parris?s daughter were so frightened of the consequences that there actions might have, that they pretended to be ill. Matters of witch craft were not helped by the fact that Bitter Mrs Putnam believed that her seven children who had died during birth were murdered and asked Tituba to bring their spirits out of the grave so that her daughter, Ruth, could talk to them and find out who exactly had murdered them. Afraid of being whipped if she did not confess, Tituba confessed to the act of witch craft and was ?saved? soon the other girls (led by Abigail Williams) began to ?confess? and to name other people who they had seen with the Devil. Enjoying their new found power and getting malicious satisfaction from it they continued to hit out with unprecedented power at their elders. To add to the weight of there stories the Girls began to faint or to scream hysterically and then claim that the witch had ?sent their spirit out upon them? the adults soon became in awe of the children and treated them with great respect.
The play begins vigorously with the action being set before we find out what actually has happened. As the curtains open it revels Reverend Parris praying over his daughter, Betty who is in what appears to be a trance. When Abigail Williams arrives (Parris?s niece) Parris goes downstairs leaving Betty with Abby. Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren arrive and Mary tells Abby that they ought to confesses to witchcraft and be whipped rather than hang because ?witchery?s a hangin? error?. Abigail tries to bully them into being quite (her true character beginning to show). When John Proctor arrives the girls go, leaving Abigail with Proctor alone, as they talk it becomes clear that there has been some form of relationship between them. When the lord's name is heard being said Betty sits up and screams this, everyone says, is a sure sign of Witchcraft so Reverend Hale of Beverly is sent for. The Curtain falls as the girls begin to cry out the names of women they have seen with devil.
John Proctor is the central character in the play, he is a farmer in his middle thirties, A natural leader, even tempered and not easily led, as we see in Act 4 when he goes to his death instead of giving a false confession as the most of the others who were accused did. Proctor?s guilt about his affair with Abigail Williams prevents him from telling the truth and putting an end to the witch hunt hysteria. Proctor sees himself as a sinner and he thinks that he is unworthy to follow in the footsteps of blameless martyrs like Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey, it is not until his ?confession? to Danforth in Act 4 that he feels he can go to his death with his conscience clear and his reputation intact.
Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of John Proctor has an unshakeable religious belief, loves and feels strong loyalty to her husband, this is why she undergoes a moral dilemma too: is she to lie and save her husband? Or tell the truth like a good Christian and send her husband to his death, ironically though, each of these two choices actually work in the reverse.
A scene that I found paticulary interesting was the scene between Proctor and Elizabeth at the beginning of Act 2. After the noise and bustle of Act 1, Act 2 opens on a rather quiet note eight days after the happenings of Act 1 in the main room of the Proctors house, the enclosed atmosphere of the previous scene still continues. We are immediately made aware of the strained relationship between Proctor and Elizabeth. When the curtain opens we can hear Elizabeth singing softly to her children this shows that she is a loving mother, a strong contrast to what Abby had earlier called her ?a cold and snivelling Woman?. Proctor enters and goes over to the pot simmering on the fireplace, he tastes it and then finding that it is not to his liking he seasons it and then goes to wash his hands at a basin as Elizabeth enters. When Elizabeth serves Proctor the Stew he compliments her on the seasoning of it even though he has done it himself, she wants to please him and is glad that he likes it she tells him that she took care over the seasoning ?I took great care?, Proctor is also glad that he has been able to compliment Elizabeth on her cooking they each want to please each other but they still have a very strained relationship. Proctor tells Elizabeth that he loves her and she finds it hard to say back, when proctor kisses her she does not return his kiss and Proctor is disappointed (this is part of the hope and disappointment pattern that is running continually throughout the play). ?A sense of their separation arises?, this stage direction shows the audience that the relationship Proctor had with Abby has put a strain on things and a lack of honesty has arisen between Proctor and Elizabeth. Their relationship and the lack of honesty in it, illustrates the lack of honesty in all of Salem and it?s inhabitants lives. Tension starts to rise in this scene when Elizabeth asks him why he is not going into Salem he replies ?I thought better of it since? he is not going because Abby is there and he does not want to talk to her, when Elizabeth tells Proctor that Mary Warren (their servant girl) has gone to Salem today, Proctor starts to get angry with Elizabeth but holds back a full condemnation of her as he does not want to hurt her. Elizabeth tells John that Mary is an official of the court and whenever the accused are brought into the court room ?if they scream and howl and fall to the floor - the person?s clapped in jail for bewitchin? them? Fourteen people have been jailed already. Elizabeth tells John that he must go to Salem and tell them that Abby told him it was all pretence, but John then says to her that he was alone with Abby when she had told him. Immediately Elizabeth loses all the faith she had in him and inquires ?if it were not Abigail that you must go to hurt, would you falter now??, in fact John?s indecision to go to Salem is the fact that if he tells people what Abby said to him, he would have to confess to adultery and his reputation, honour and good name would be blackened. Proctor obviously cares a lot about his good name as in Act 4 when Danforth try?s to get him to sign a false confession and inquires why he will not sign it Proctor cry?s ? Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies! Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!?. Elizabeth now gets suspicious of Proctor being alone with Abby (withholding of information and exposition). There is Conflict between the Proctors and Abby. It is ironic that the whole town thinks that Abby is a saint when in fact she?s the cause of all the witch craft troubles. When Elizabeth tells Proctor that she had forgotten about Abby, Proctor tells her that she forgives nothing and forgets nothing and he has never moved from one place to another without thinking to please her ?and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart? this is an example of the use of imagery that Miller uses throughout the play. Proctor remarks to Elizabeth that it is ?as though I come into a court when I come into this house!?, later he is pulled before a court about what happened in his house. Proctor then tells her that he wished he never confessed to her about his affair and she should stop judging him her reply to this is ?I do not judge you. The magistrate that sits in your heart judges you? John Proctor answers this with yet more imagery ?Oh, Elizabeth, your justice would freeze beer!?. There is then an interruption and the scene between Proctor and Elizabeth ends when Mary Warren Returns from Salem.
During the rest of Act 2 Mary Warren gives Elizabeth a poppet that she made in court that day. Reverend Hale then comes in and asks the proctors about there faith in god, he asks Proctor to recite the ten commandments, John ironically forgets the one about adultery. Cheever arrives with a warrant for the arrest of Elizabeth. Abigail has said that Elizabeth sent her spirit out upon her and pushed a needle into her stomach Abigail wants Elizabeth to be charged as a witch so that she can marry John), Cheever then finds the poppet Mary gave Elizabeth with a needle stuck into It?s stomach. Cheever arrests Elizabeth and takes her to jail.
In Act 3 there is a lot of confusion taking place and as the curtain opens we here that an argument is already under way in the court room. Francis Nurse tries to explain to the court that they are being deceived by Abigail but, the judges are sure that they are not. John Proctor then turns up with Mary Warren who has a sworn statement that she never saw any spirits. Giles Corey says that when he said that his wife read books he was not implying that she was a witch and then proceeds to accuse Putnum of naming people as witches to get their land. Abigail enters with the other girls and Mary repeats the story that she never saw any spirits. Abigail suddenly enters a trance claiming that Mary is witching her the pitch of the hysteria begins to rise. Proctor then calls Abby a Whore and confesses to adultery, sacrificing both his honour and his integrity. Elizabeth is then questioned about John?s adultery, and lies to save him (contrast as Proctor said Elizabeth would never lie) but by lying to defend him it actually condemns him.
Act 4 is set three months after the happenings of Act 3. Hale and Cheever report that there is breakdown in the community through the imprisonment of so many people ?there be so many Cows wanderin? the highroads, now their masters are in the jail, and much disagreement to who they belong to now? ?excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house?. Abby and Mary have stolen ?30 and run away. Hale asks Judge Danforth to pardon the condemned but this is refused. Elizabeth begs with John to confess and save his life, Proctor almost does but the sight of Rebecca Nurse who has refused to give in stops him. John realises that he has to make a last stand for truth and honour and He and Rebecca are led to their deaths.
By the end of October special court was dissolved and those that were imprisoned were pardoned; eventually indemnities were paid to the families of those killed; of the three presiding judges only one admitted an error in a public statement. Parris was voted from office, walked out of Salem and was never heard of again, Abigail later turned up in Boston as a Prostitute. Elizabeth married again four years after Proctor?s death. Farms that had belonged to the victims were left to ruin, and for more than a century no one would bye them or live on them. To all intents and purposes, the power of theocracy in Massachussets was broken.
I think that this a very good play as you can imagine that you are actually in Salem and it can make you feel happy/sad/angry e.t.c as you are reading it. The play also raises some Moral questions and makes you think ?is the society that we live actually any different from the one that the characters in the play lived in years ago??.

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