Thursday, April 21, 2011

how does miller create dramatic tension in the crucible?

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The Crucible is a tragedy based on real-life events that happened in 17th century America.

The Salem Witch Trials of 16 were one of the strangest and most awful chapters in human history. They were caused by a group of adolescent girls attempting to dabble in the supernatural. Because of them, the jails in Salem, Massachusetts were eventually filled with men and women accused of witchcraft and twenty people were hanged.

Most, if not all of those hanged, were innocent.

The beginning Act of this play is mainly about Abby and Betty. Betty is lying inert on the bed and Parris has sent for a witch-hunter. The girls were caught dancing in the woods. Parris thinks Betty has been bewitched. When Mr Hale (witch-hunter) arrives people are already suspecting others of witchcraft.

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Although this scene begins calmly, the end is far from that. This scene draws to a close with Abby and Betty and all the other girls screaming the names of men and women they apparently saw with the devil.

The second Act is set mainly in the Proctor’s house. John and Elizabeth have a formal and cold chat. They are being civil to each other. When Mary Warren enters, she tells them of what has happened in the Court. Mary gives Elizabeth a poppet. Then, Cheevers enters, with a warrant for the arrest of Elizabeth. The reason for this is Abby fell to the floor earlier that day with a needle stuck in her belly. They found the poppet with a needle stuck in it. Elizabeth is then taken to jail and John orders Mary to go to Court with him the next day and confess that she and the girls are deceiving everyone.

The third Act begins in the vestry room of the Salem meeting house. Mary Warren confesses to the deception and John admits to having an affair with Abby. Danforth orders for Elizabeth to be sent for. When Elizabeth is asked if this is true, she denies it. Then Abby and the other girls pretend to see Mary’s spirit attacking them. They bully her into saying that John is an evil man that commutes with the Devil. When asked to confess this, in a rage he does so. He and Giles are arrested.

This end Act revolves mainly around John. He is placed in jail and Giles is pressed to death with stones. Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey are condemned. When John is asked to sign a confession proving he commuted with the Devil, he rips it up- and is condemned to death.

This play has a similar pattern of tension in each act. They start calmly, then end with a dramatic climax. This helps to keep the audience captivated.

There is a lot of suspense at the end of this play. The audience is left unsure if John Proctor will hang. They are left unsure if Elizabeth will hang. They are left unsure about what happens to Abby. These are just a few uncertainties in this play.

Miller builds dramatic tension by having a dramatic ending to each Act. His generous stage directions make it easy to see how the play should be acted. Dramatic tension is also helped by the sinister yet unforgivable motives of the characters. The reasons for most of the accusations leading up to hanging is possession. Everyone wants something of someone else’s. Also, it is easier to blame things on the poor and the old, which is what we see here.

The most harrowing thing about this play is that this story is based on real-life events. People actually accused neighbours, friends, even family of commuting with the Devil. People didn’t think twice about condemning someone to death. They actually enjoyed watching it.

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