“The Crucible” Meanings
In the first act, Arthur Miller draws in and engages an audience, using several different techniques, such as dramatic irony, the use of language, stage direction and allegory. It is important that the audience is interested in the first act, because then they will want to watch the rest of the play. Arthur Miller establishes the different characters to enable the audience to understand the rest of the play. The name of the play, ‘the Crucible’ is important to catch the potential audience’s attention before they see the play.
People would not necessarily know what the title means and because of this would be interested to find out what it means and what relevance it has to the play. The word ‘Crucible’ has several different meanings. One of these is ‘a melting pot’. This meaning would catch the potential audience’s attention because it would make them wonder what a melting pot has to do with the play. It is relevant to the play because everyone is ‘thrown into the melting pot’ because anyone could be named a witch. Another meaning of the word is ‘a vessel in which substances are heated to high temperatures’.
This would also attract attention because it is unusual meaning for the name of a play. It is relevant to the story because the atmosphere becomes very heated as the characters all start blaming each other. The most relevant meaning of the word is ‘a severe trial or test’. This would stimulate people’s interest, because they would want to know who is being tested and why. This meaning refers to the trials to see whether or not people are witches. At the very beginning of the play the first thing the audience sees is an unconscious girl, Betty, with a praying man, Parris, kneeling beside her.
The fact that Parris is praying captures the audience’s attention, because it implies that something bad has happened because he wants God’s help. It also tells the audience that religion is important to the characters because Parris goes to God for help. It stimulates the audience’s curiosity and they want to find out what has happened and whether it was Parris’ fault that Betty is ill. Not much lighting is used, and only a narrow shaft of sunlight coming through the bedroom window and a candle flame lights the room. The fact that it is dark captures the audience’s attention because of the associations with darkness.
It often suggests fear and misery. It suggests that there is something badly wrong, not just the fact that Betty is unconscious. A candle can signify hope, and the audience would wonder what it is that the characters have got to be hopeful for. The play is set in spring 1692. Spring normally signifies new life, growth, hope and youth, but these things are being shut out in the play. When played on stage, the light through the window and the costumes that the characters wear would show that the play is set in spring. This adds interest because it is contradictory.
As the play starts people start to crowd into the one bedroom and secrets start to be unfurled. This gives the atmosphere a busy, hectic and desperate feel. This draws in the audience because it increases the sense that something bad will happen. The audience’s interest is captured by all the secrets that start coming out. They want to find out more about what the girls were doing in the wood and they want to know what will happen between Abigail and John Proctor. Parris does not seem to know what to do, even though he is a minister.
This gives the impression that something so bad has happened, that even Reverend Parris cannot do anything about it. The language is very different from the language that the audience would use because it is set so long ago. For example, they call the women ‘Goody’, which is short for Goodwife. This adds interest because it is not what the audience usually hears. The language is based on King James’ version of the Bible. This shows the importance of religion to the people of Salem. They are puritans, which means that the consequences of going against religion would be severe.
The importance of religion would also be shown in the costumes of the characters; for example, Parris is dressed as a minister. The first line the audience hears is ‘My Betty be hearty soon? ‘ which is said by Tituba. This is older language than that which the audience is used to, so it is likely to be memorable. It uses powerful and memorable phrases, like ‘They were murdered, Mr Parris’. There are 6 dramatic units in Act 1. These are very important to capture the audience’s attention. Throughout the dramatic units, the tension on the stage is rising.
There is contrast between the different scenic units to keep the audience’s attention. Throughout the scenic units secrets and background information are revealed and the characters are developed. When the scenic units change, there is suspense in the atmosphere because the audience wants to find out the resolution to the last scenic unit. The first scenic unit is between Abigail and Parris, where the reason for Betty’s illness is discovered and Abigail is questioned.
For example, Parris says ‘And what shall I say to them? That my daughter and my niece I discovered dancing like heathen in the forest? This adds tension to the atmosphere of the play. Parris also says ‘Abigail, is there any other cause than you have told me, for your being discharged from Goody Proctor’s service? ‘ By this time the audience is starting to doubt Abigail and they want to find out whether or not she is telling the truth. The second dramatic unit is a contrast to the first, and the audience sees the Putnams for the first time. The tension soon fades and the audience becomes focused on the Putnams and their effect on the characters. They add suspicion, blame and grief to the atmosphere.
Goody Putnam says ‘Tituba knows how to speak to the dead, Mr Parris’. This shows suspicion of Tituba and shows that some believe that she has made a pact with the devil. Goody Putnam also says ‘who else may surely tell us what person murdered my babies? ‘ This shows that she is looking for someone to blame for the death of her babies. She does not care how she finds out who it was, just that she has someone else to blame. When talking about Ruth, Goody Putnam says ‘Her soul is taken, surely. ‘ This shows that Goody Putnam is grieving because her only remaining child is sick and seems unable to wake. Read what ultimatum is Tituba given
The third dramatic unit is when Abigail, Mercy, Mary and Betty are alone together. The contrast between this unit and the second is even greater than between the first and second units. Abigail’s personality changes and the truth is revealed. Betty wakes up and says ‘You drank blood, Abby! ‘ and ‘You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife. ‘ This attracts the audience’s attention because the atmosphere is so different and they found out that Betty had only been pretending to be ill. Abigail threatens the others by saying ‘I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.
This changes the audience’s view of Abigail, because they can see what she is really like when she is with people who know her secrets. In the fourth dramatic unit Abigail and Proctor are alone. During this scenic unit Abigail pretends that she is not violent or threatening, but instead a grown up lady who deserves John Proctor’s love. Their affair is revealed when Abigail says ‘Give me a word, John. A soft word. ‘ The audience discovers that Abigail is not as innocent as she seemed at first. Proctor gently, but firmly says no by saying ‘No, no, Abby.
That’s done with. This gives a good impression of Proctor because the audience can tell that he is sorry for his sin and wants to forget about it. It draws in the audience because they start to feel for Proctor and start to dislike Abigail. Abigail says ‘I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart. ‘ Abigail still loves him and wants to be with him. This adds interest for the audience because they want to know whether or not Proctor gives in to her. Betty’s screaming brings everyone back into the bedroom during the fifth dramatic unit.
In this unit, many people start crowding into the bedroom again and the atmosphere becomes frantic and the characters seem unable to calm it. Goody Putnam says ‘She cannot bear to hear the Lord’s name! ‘ This shows that she likes jumping to conclusions and it makes the audience wonder whether or not this is true. Rebecca comes in and calms the atmosphere slightly by saying ‘I am twenty-six times a grandma, and I have seen them all through their silly seasons… I think she’ll wake when she tires of it. ‘ This captures the audience’s attention because it makes them wonder about how much Rebecca knows.
The sixth and last dramatic unit is when Reverend Hale enters with his books. There is a drastic change in the atmosphere when he walks in and the characters become tense. It seems like the time for the final judgement has at last come and that what Reverend Hale says could change everything. Tituba, Abigail and Betty start naming names of people who compacted with the devil. This draws in the audience because they do not know whether to believe them or not. The audience has worked out that Abigail lies a lot, but it is hard to work out what the truth is.
Tituba, Abigail and Betty try to put the blame onto other people to save themselves. They have been found doing something wrong and think that blaming others is the way out. Abigail says ‘I want to open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! ‘ She is trying to stop everyone putting the blame on her, since witchcraft is a hanging offence. The hysteria starts when Tituba, Abigail and Betty start naming names. The atmosphere draws in the audience because they want to know what happens to all the people that they have named.
The fact that Betty has woken up is important because it shows that she was just looking for a way out of trouble and she saw this way when Tituba and Abigail started naming names. There is dramatic irony in the play, which draws in the audience by revealing the truth behind the changing situations in the play. For example the audience finds out that Betty is not really ill and they find out that Abigail was lying when Betty says ‘You drank blood, Abby! You didn’t tell him that! ‘ Abigail had told Parris that she was not concealing anything from him, but the audience knows that she was.
The audience also finds out what Abigail is really like and that she is violent and threatens the others by saying ‘I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down. ‘ The audience also finds out about Abigail’s affair with John Proctor. It is important that the audience knows this because it gives them a better view of Abigail’s character. The characters play an important part in engaging the audience’s attention. Abigail acts differently around different people. This attracts the audience’s attention because they are constantly reassessing their judgement of her.
She is a good liar and says ‘There’s nothin’ more. I swear it, uncle. ‘ The audience later finds out that this is not true. Abigail controls the other characters well. She says to Betty ‘(smashing her across the face) Shut it! Now shut it! ‘ She says this because she does not want her secrets exposed by Betty. She also still loves and wants John Proctor. She says ‘Give me a word, John. A soft word. ‘ Abigail’s personality draws in the audience because they learn that she is an unpleasant character and they come to dislike her, so they try and pick out the bad points in her.
Parris is another character that draws in the audience. He is often with Abigail and there is a strong contrast between the two characters. Where Abigail has control over others and can make them believe her, Parris is struggling to persuade Abigail to tell him the truth and he does not know what to do about Betty. The fact that he is suspicious of Abigail makes the audience warm to him because they know the truth about her. At the same time they come to dislike him because he seems more worried about his name in the village than about his daughter’s illness.
He says ‘And I pray you feel the weight of the truth upon you, for now my ministry’s at stake,’ He is not liked by the people to whom he preaches, which the audience finds out when he says ‘There is a faction that is sworn to drive me from my pulpit. ‘ He does not seem to know what to do about Betty’s illness. He is very strongly against witchcraft, which is normal for people at that time. His personality is important to draw in and engage the audience because their feelings about him are mixed and they want to find out whether he really is as bad as the other characters say.
Betty is also very important to draw in the audience, even though for most of the first Act she does not say anything. Her reaction to being caught is very different to the reaction of Abigail, as Betty thinks the way out is to fake being ill, whereas Abigail just lies instead. The audience finds out that she is faking being ill when the girls are left alone. She is scared of Abigail and scared of being in trouble, which makes her fake being ill. She draws in the audience because they want to know why she is faking and what will happen to her. Tituba is a slave that Parris brought over from Barbados.
She is very different to both Abigail and Betty and decides to blame people that are not present quite quickly. She is blamed for everything because she is a slave and no one cares about her. At the beginning of her questioning she won’t lie and say that she compacted with the Devil by saying ‘No, no, sir, I don’t truck with no Devil! ‘ Then she changes and says ‘I tell him I don’t desire to work for him, sir. ‘ She only says this because they are saying that she will be hanged, so the only way to save herself is to say that she worked for the Devil and wants to go back to God.
She is important to draw in the audience because they feel sorry for her and don’t want her to be hurt. The surface meaning of the play is about the witchcraft and the trials that people were put through. It also has an allegorical meaning that is connected with the time in which the play was written. Arthur Miller was living in a time when people were put on trial and unfairly treated because they were blamed for being a Communist. Many people were not Communists, but were tortured and unfairly treated because others thought that they were.
By writing ‘The Crucible’, Arthur Miller was trying to make his audiences understand that it was not only during the time of the witch trials that people were treated unfairly, but also in the time that they were living and times to come. He was trying to persuade people to think before they accuse someone and not always to believe people who blame other people Overall Arthur Miller is effective in drawing in and engaging an audience because he uses many different techniques and makes the audience have many different emotions throughout the first Act. This makes the audience want to know what happens in the rest of the play.