The Crucible – Rivalries Exposed in Act Three

The play is centred on the witch trials that actually took place in Salem, Massachusetts during 1692 and 1693. Miller wrote about the event as an allegory for McCarthyism which occurred in the United States in the 1950s.

McCarthyism was a time of great anti-communist suspicion in the late 1940s and 1950s. The key connections in the two occurrences were that many people were accused on little or no evidence and all of it was inconclusive.Also, characteristic was the hysteria in all the places where the problems struck. ‘The Crucible’, is structured around four main themes which are, hatred, feuding, revenge and conflict of authority. All these add equal twists in the play. Hatred is a strong theme throughout the Salem Witch Trials. The strictness of Puritan laws meant people were bound to break them, whether on purpose or by accident, and the strong religious views shared in Salem aroused suspicion for the most trivial of matters.

As a result of this, feuding was inescapable.Petty rivalries caused many arguments in varying situations, and the resulting tense atmosphere in Salem resembled a rumbling volcano just waiting to erupt. The subsequent controversial court hearings would bring out the worst in some people and possibly the best in others. Before the play began many rivalries were already in existence. Adultery had been committed and aggressive disputes over land had occurred. Personality clashes and ancestral feuds had set families at loggerheads with one another.Consequently, when opportunities arose to make accusations, which could result in hangings, many villagers jumped at the chance with glee; thus setting up the third main theme of the play – revenge.

The final main theme of ‘The Crucible’ is conflict of authority. In Salem, Massachusetts, the people had no official, outright ruler of their lands; so trials were bound to spark a dispute about authority. Salem’s folk had a reclusive leader of their Puritan church, the Reverend Parris. He called in the learned Reverend Hale to investigate the witchcraft accusations.There were many officials of the court as well, including Cheever and the overall judges of the court, Danforth and Hathorne. All these characters had their own reasons to think themselves the deserved rulers of Salem. With many wise people living in the village, you could be sure that lots of heated discussions about who should be leader would occur.

In the play, many characters are revealed to the audience, but one character we are familiar with from the start, is the village’s church leader, Reverend Parris.The whole chain of events could have easily been avoided had he been prepared to take a bit of criticism from the villagers, but Reverend Parris was too paranoid to allow that. This is ironic because the more he tried to stop trouble from arising, the more it actually happened. His main fear was that people were trying to uproot him and make him lose his place in their society. He was insecure. This is shown throughout the play, for example, in Act Three he says: Parris {in a sweat}: “Excellency, you surely cannot think to let so vile a lie be spread in open court! This is an example of many different devices. The staging says he was ‘in a sweat’ because he was worried and this shows he was not a strong character.

Also this comment is the first example of dramatic irony in Act Three. It was ironic because he was talking about Proctor lying, and Proctor wasn’t lying, however Parris was. This was also an exclamatory line. It was meant to persuade Danforth to believe Parris and not Proctor. This was the first of many dramatic techniques used to highlight Proctor’s and Parris’ rivalry. Its demonstration of Parris’ insecurity remains a key feature for the duration of the play.An insecure leader would not exhibit strength, allowing bolder characters to be able to affect his decisions concerning the community.

It also means he was swayed by others opinions. He didn’t have a definite mind of his own because of his paranoia of being uprooted. Before the start of the play, a strong dispute between Reverend Parris and John Proctor already existed. Although the rivalry was a key part of the entire play, it was highlighted in Act Three, as I have already shown. It’s the first rivalry to be exposed in this act.The rivalry reached its peak when John Proctor was falsely accused of compacting with the devil and Reverend Parris was trying to condemn him. This caused consternation throughout the village since John Proctor was portrayed as, and regarded as, a very intelligent man throughout ‘The Crucible’.

He realised that the people accusing citizens of Salem of witchcraft were the guiltiest of all. This was one device Miller often used in this play – dramatic irony. When John Proctor was forced to defend himself he was quick to turn the accusations upon Abigail Williams and Reverend Parris.As Parris was so bothered about the family’s good name, he could not let anything stand that might affect his reputation, and as Abigail was part of his family, he had to start defending her too. At this point in the play, both characters were trying to make the other look bad. A lot of facts were revealed to the court about both Proctor and Parris. As Proctor was being questioned about compacting with the devil, he was quick to point out that Parris had not mentioned the fact that he caught the girls dancing naked in the forest at the start of the play.

Proctor [Taking it right up]: “Abigail leads the girls to the woods, Your Honour, and they have danced there naked -” Parris: “Your Honour, this -” Proctor [at once]: “Mr Parris discovered them himself in the dead of night! There’s the ‘child’ she is! ” At this point in the play, Reverend Parris was forced to be very defensive. The fact that Proctor interrupted Parris showed how desperate each character was to get their point across first. With the staging saying ‘[at once]’ it conveyed the fact that Proctor did not want Parris to be given the chance to speak.Also, Proctor was very impolite in saying ‘child’ in the way he did since this would certainly offend Abigail. In the same act, Proctor also admitted the strength of his hatred for Parris. Parris once again questioned him on his attendance and Proctor was very truthful in his reply. The language Arthur Miller used at this point in the play revealed the degree of the mutual loathing and the putting of child in inverted commas showed Proctor’s disgust at the trust being invested in Abigail whom Parris regarded as ‘young’ and ‘innocent’.

Parris: “Such a Christian that will not come to church but once in a month! ” Danforth [restrained – he is curious]: “Not come to church? ” Proctor: “I-I have no love for Mr. Parris. It is no secret. But God I surely love. ” Parris was the first person to come out with an exclamatory line. He accused Proctor of not being a true Christian because of his poor attendance at church, but this only provoked Proctor to come back with an honest yet harsh reply, and he couldn’t be clearer in what he was saying.Even though throughout the play, their hatred for each other was made clear, this line was still key because it showed that Proctor was not afraid to admit, in court, that he did not like the clerical leader of Salem.

I think this provides evidence that their rivalry was based on hatred. Proctor may have felt that Parris should rightfully be Salem’s church leader, but he did not agree with his policies and he did not believe he would be a good leader. Whilst their rivalry reached its peak in Act Three, their argument had, as noted, been ongoing throughout the play.For instance, in Act Two, as soon as Reverend Hale arrived, he was told to investigate the accused people’s household and it was clear that Parris was extremely quick to inform him that John Proctor attended church rarely compared to most. Proctor once again expressed his opinion in full and did not water it down. He was very truthful. Hale: “Good, then.

[He makes himself a bit more comfortable. ] In the book of record that Mr. Parris keeps, I note that you are rarely in the church on Sabbath Day. ” Proctor: “No, sir, you are mistaken. ” Hale: “Twenty-six time in seventeen month, sir.I must call that rare. Will you tell me why you are absent? ….

. ” This instantly showed that Parris had asked Hale to enquire about Proctor’s lack of attendance at church. Later in the conversation Proctor gave his foremost reason. Hale: “Mr. Proctor, your house is not a church; surely your theology must tell you that. ” Proctor: “It does, sir, it does; and it tells me that a Minister may pray to God without he have golden candlesticks upon the altar. ” This made it clear why Proctor disagreed with Parris’ power, as he did not believe he was focussed on God.

It was ironic that Proctor just wanted to simply praise the Puritan way, whereas, the Puritan Minister had controversial ideas that went against a key part of his faith of keeping things simplistic. This was again a use of dramatic irony – a technique continued throughout the play. It was not spoken dramatic irony but its effect was nonetheless profound. Not only did Proctor and Parris have a rivalry, but so to did Proctor and Parris’ niece, Abigail. This rivalry was also set-up before the play began. Before the beginning of the play Abigail and John Proctor had had an affair. This all happened whilst Proctor had a wife.

We discover in the play that only Abigail, John Proctor and Elizabeth knew of the affair and Elizabeth had found it in her heart to forgive John for his wrong-doing. Although, John Proctor sincerely regretted the affair, there remained a complication in that Abigail still loved him. Abigail was blind to Proctor’s feelings; so she kept trying to rekindle their relationship, with no regard for Elizabeth. She wanted John for herself. Her desperation became so great that she stabbed herself in the stomach with a needle and tried to frame Elizabeth Proctor for witchcraft. She says: Abigail: “Goody Proctor always kept Poppets! ”In reality, Abigail had planted the poppet on Elizabeth Proctor to try and get her arrested and hanged. This exclamatory line was aimed at the court, and said thus because it had a greater dramatic effect.

No other information was given to lend focus to that single point. The court took this very seriously as Abigail, ironically, had become the most trusted person in all Salem and effectively directed the court proceedings. Returning to the important exclamatory line spoken, in Act Three, by Proctor regarding Parris and Abigail, his two biggest rivals: Proctor [at once]: “Mr. Parris discovered them himself in the dead of night!There’s the ‘child’ she is! ” Proctor’s exclamation aimed an attack at Abigail by referring to her as a ‘child’. This language exposed Proctor and Abigail’s rivalry. He said this because children were seen as innocent and reliable and knew Abigail was regarded as such by most of Salem. The exclamatory line was intended to put in bad light Abigail’s pretence of child-like innocence as a mask for her manipulative behaviour.

It also reflected badly upon Reverend Parris since he was part of the same family. ‘Child’ is put in inverted commas in the script to emphasize its pejorative use as the main point of his exclamation.Throughout the play, Proctor wanted Abigail to be exposed for the ‘whore’ she truly was. In doing this he was even willing to ruin the excellent reputation that he had in Salem. When he admits to having an affair with Abigail, he loses the people’s respect, because he is considered to have sinned within a Puritan community. But, as we see during the entire play, John is not afraid to address unpalatable truths. John Proctor also physically attacks Abigail in the court, unable to keep a level head when he sees the trouble her lies are causing.

The staging says, [Without warning or hesitation, Proctor leaps at Abigail and, grabbing her by the hair, pulls her to her feet. She screams in pain]. . . . [and out of it all comes Proctors roaring voice. ] Proctor: “How do you call Heaven! Whore! Whore! ” As we witness throughout the whole play, Proctor kept his temper well and for him to physically attack someone comes as a shock to the audience.

It really shows how much he hated Abigail and how enraged she has managed to make him. His roaring voice shouts ‘Whore! Whore! ’ He is saying this because of their affair. It is in fact an accusation.Abigail actions seem to be motivated by a desire to seek revenge on John Proctor because he doesn’t love her. This is pathetic, for in doing this, she makes John Proctor’s feelings of loathing for her only the stronger. In the same act Proctor exclaims: “…She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! …” He knows Abigail’s wish but does not agree with it and this exclamatory line lets everyone know he is against her. Abigail effectively takes the lead in making accusations although it is an unofficial role.

She can accuse whoever she wants and the blind people of Salem are hooked on her every word.They never question her judgments or decisions until Proctor provokes Danforth to do so. Even then she avoids the question by quickly faking the sensing of a spirit, a device she frequently employs to get out of awkward situations; especially when Mary Warren finally stands up to her. But Mary is not at all confident in her accusations against Abigail. She has a really strong case, but as she doesn’t really want to accuse Abigail: aware of her strong character, she weakens and Proctor does more talking than Mary. Mary and Abigail’s is the shortest-lived rivalry. It actually only appears in Act Three and no other.

Mary is acting as Proctor’s puppet and in the end the rivalry affects nobody except John Proctor who eventually is accused of compacting with the devil: Mary Warren [terrified, pleading]: “Abby! ” Mary at this point is pleading. The staging shows she is terrified of Abigail. She is screaming Abigail’s name. It is not only the staging that shows Mary Warren’s fear but also the use of the exclamation mark. This reveals it is an exclamatory line and so adds to the tension because it is screamed. Act Three is a point in the play where Abigail has to be defensive.She does as she usually does and accuses Mary Warren of sending her spirit on the girls.

You can see by the staging how fearful Mary is, not just of the court, but also of Abby. She screams Abby’s name, begging her not to accuse her and to stop lying, but Abigail’s character is too uncaring, too cruel, too persistent, too determined and too deeply committed to back out at this stage. She, Abigail, is such an amoral person, that she will see people hang rather than be told off for the dancing that occurs at the beginning of Act One. Another rivalry that centres on Act Three is that between Reverend Hale and Danforth.Throughout the Act, there is a clear conflict of authority. Reverend Hale, being a learned Church leader, knows Abigail is lying, and that the court is corrupt. We see Hale introduced in the first Act because Parris feels that such a clever man will put his village to rest.

However, being a member of the church, Hale believes strongly in witchcraft and so it takes him a while to work out what is actually going on. When he eventually discovers the truth, the town has gone into hysteria, and with no official standing, he is powerless to stop it. In Act Three, he is treated by the court as a superfluous character.No-one wishes to listen to his point of view, and he holds no authority. Danforth is prominent in the court proceedings. He is only introduced in person in Act Three for the trials. His character is a very officious one.

He is seemingly unconcerned by the fact that he is killing innocent people. He is just interested in following official court proceedings. He hates his trials being interrupted and so, he seeks to dismiss any inconvenient information likely to disrupt his foregone conclusions and therefore, ends up executing unfair trials. Hale notices this and is bitterly annoyed.The two of them have many arguments. In the arguments, they are always interrupting each other and shouting each other down. Each one of them always wants to get their point across first and though Hale has the more valid arguments, the fact that he has no power shows.

Hale: “But this child claims the girls are not truthful, and if they are not – ” Danforth: “That is precisely what I am about to consider, sir. What more may you ask of me? Unless you doubt my probity? ” Hale [defeated]: “I surely do not. Sir. …” There are many examples of dramatic techniques that are used in this section.One can see how Danforth interrupts Hale. He also asks Hale rhetorical questions. He knows Hale cannot express his doubts about him in court without the likelihood that Danforth would try him for contempt.

Hale knows that ultimately Danforth is in power. Additionally, Hale makes his final remark in a ‘[defeated]’ way realising there is no point in his arguing any further. Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams have a very indirect rivalry. They don’t have any face-to-face arguments, but they talk about each other, or carry out actions to hurt the other.As already noted, Elizabeth’s husband previously had an affair with Abigail. Naturally she is bitter and possibly jealous of the girl. But that is not shown in the play.

Abigail’s hatred for Elizabeth is a lot clearer. She accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, and of harming her. When she sees Mary Warren, Elizabeth Proctor’s maid, putting a needle in a poppet she is going to give Elizabeth, Abigail stabs herself in the stomach just to get Elizabeth into trouble. This reveals her determination to be rid of Elizabeth. Giles Corey and Putnam have an enduring rivalry between.Their hatred for each other has been passed down through generations. Their disputes are always concerned with ownership of land.

Giles: [over Proctor’s shoulder at Putnam]: “I’ll cut your throat, Putnam, I’ll kill you yet! ” This quote shows Corey’s hatred for Putnam. The staging shows Corey was about to hit Putnam but Proctor restrains him. His exclamatory line says that Corey wants to kill Putnam. There is resentment between these characters because they can’t settle who owns what land. The dispute carries on into court and Corey is eventually tried for contempt of court.At the time in which ‘The Crucible’ was set if a man was condemned to death by law his family had no rights to his possessions. As Giles was a learned man, who had been to court many times, he knew that if he was pressed to death without pleading innocent or guilty, the trial would not have been complete.

This would prevent his land from being taken from his family by Putnam. So, when he is having stones laid upon him to try and force him to plead innocent or guilty, he says nothing but ‘more weight’ and consequently dies.So, although Giles Corey loses his life, he keeps his land in within his family and thus succeeds in his aim to prevent it falling into Putnam’s grasp. In conclusion, Arthur Miller’s play ‘The Crucible’ has many dramatic devices used throughout its duration, but these become particularly prominent in Act Three. They are very effective in conveying the sense of hatred and tension between many of the characters. There are clear parallels to the society in which Arthur Miller found himself and through the vehicle f the play he expresses his disagreement with the court procedures, adopted by McCarthyism, which were in many ways similar to the ‘Salem Witch Trials’. There was a huge amount of paranoia within 1950s American Government, causing members to believe that innumerable communist people were trying to undermine their political ideas and destroy the American way of life by introducing communism.

This paranoia and obsession grew, leading Senator Joe McCarthy to pass laws to restrict the activities of communists. This led to trials which resembled in many aspects the witch hunts which proceeded in Salem.Indeed the McCarthy era trials came to be known as ‘witch hunts’. Highly visible investigations were conducted with much publicity, supposedly to uncover subversive political activity and disloyalty, however, they were really to harass and weaken the entire political opposition. The witch hunts in ‘The Crucible’ were similar in that they were also corrupt and weren’t really used to search for witches, but to accuse innocent people within Salem for ulterior motives, e. g. long-standing rivalries and feuds.

Although set in the past, Arthur Miller’s play is a poignant reflection on the times in which he lived.

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