The Crucible: Dramatic Tension
Uploaded by QUEENSENGLISHGAL on Jul 16, 2001
The play, ‘The Crucible’, illustrates how people react to mass hysteria created by a person or group of people, as people did during the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s and the Salem witch hunts of 1962. Many Americans were wrongly accused of being Communist sympathizers. The activities of the House of Un-American Activities Committee began to be linked with the witchcraft trials that had taken place in the town of Salem. This provided Miller with the catalyst to write ‘The Crucible’. Without the knowledge of the McCarthy hearings and the Salem witch hunts, ‘The Crucible’ may be seen as a melodrama and the events in the play, sensationalised. It is not a melodrama because it is not overly dramatic; the McCarthy hearings and the witch hunts inject realism in the play. The play deals with historical events and with characters that have a historical context.
Through the use of dialogue, stage directions which enable us to envisage the scene on stage and characterisation we can see how dramatic tension is created by Miller. These aspects are to be explored for each act.
Act One begins with Reverend Parris praying fervently over his daughter, Betty Parris, who lies unconscious on her bed. The stage directions indicate that the room is quite dark with only a candle burning and sunlight through the window lighting the room. Parris is frightened, confused and angered by Betty’s illness, perhaps wondering what he has done wrong to be inflicted with such misery. This shown by the way he prays, then weeps and then starts praying again as if he unsure even of his emotions. He is very tense and is quickly angered without provocation, for example when Tituba inquires about Betty he turns on her in fury and shouts at her to get out. He then starts to sob and in his fear he starts to mumble to Betty to wake up, his feeling of inadequacy is expressed through his fragmented, disjointed sentences.
‘Oh, my God! God help me! Betty. Child. Dear Child. Will you wake, will you open your eyes! Betty, little one…’
He turns on Abigail and confronts her and through the conversation between Reverend Parris and his niece Abigail, the audience learns that the town’s girls, including Abigail and Betty, had engaged in activities in the forest led by Tituba; Parris’ slave from Barbados. At this moment they are only provided with conflicting accounts of the truth...