The Puritan Ethics Oppose The Ethics Of Contemporary Beliefs
The Crucible revolves around the New World Puritan society and the practice of McCarthyism, with Christianity being the base of their ethics and morals. However, many readers are unable to grasp the way of life in the Salem, finding difficulty to relate to and understand the characters or rule of the court. This is the result of the evolution of ethics and morals since the Puritan times in 1692. John Proctor is the one of the few characters that readers can relate to, as he embodies the contemporary ideal in the Puritan setting. Many contemporary beliefs oppose the Puritan ethics that guided Salemites during the Salem Witch Trials, leading to hysteria and disagreement between the morally ‘Good’ characters and ‘Evil’ characters from the readers’ perspectives.
The New World Puritanism had beliefs that all human were evil by nature and a person’s actions or deeds were never indicative of the truth of the heart (Claudia and Vernon, 27). The Puritan theology divided the population into two main parts: the church leaders and the rest of the community. Church leaders had the highest authority, and thought that they knew what was best for everyone and insisted that their orders were to be followed without question (Claudia and Vernon, 33).
Deputy Governor Danforth has the most authority in The Crucible, representing justice in the Salem Witch Trials. In Act IV, Danforth finalises his that “there would no postponement” of the hangings. Despite the plea of both Reverend Parris and Hale, as well as the uprise of the Salem society, Danforth does not compromise and make the decision of the hangings all by himself. Church leaders should make the ‘best decisions’, but readers will definitely feel unsatisfied and outraged at his decision, because his statement had no concrete evidence to support it.
To the modern audience, Danforth is taking away innocent lives, which contradicts his role of a Deputy Governor. However, his decision was made because he spoke “God’s law” he will not “crack its voice with whimpering” (Miller 117). [Puritans believed that] tolerating someone with wrong ideas would bring down God’s wrath on the whole community (Claudia and Vernon, 40). Danforth did his duty to avoid the potential chaos that God would befall upon Salem, and to him, that was protecting the people. Nonetheless, these “wrong thinkers” were the people who embodied the contemporary ideal.
Anyone who criticizes or cross leaders in authority had the same intention of defying God (Claudia and Vernon, 33). According to the Puritans, the agents of the release of evil were the witches, acting on instructions from Satan, creating havoc within the community. (Claudia and Vernon, 38) The fear of chaos within the community intertwines with vengeance at times. In The Crucible, many people with higher authority tend to look at Proctor in spite, for he is a person with a stronger conscience and morals that differs from theirs, and therefore viewed as a rebellion.
Proctor’s strong conscience and straightforwardness causes him to feud with Parris who already bore a long standing grudge against him. Proctor is immediately suspected by Hale for witchcraft because of his absence in church on Sabbath Day and his refusal to baptize his third son (Miller, 61). Later on, he is jailed by Danforth after trying to save his wife and friends, who are not guilty. Proctor’s ability to stand up for his perception of justice causes him to be viewed unfavourable upon by the church leaders, who hold a different view of justice. Proctor possesses a set of moral values that is similar to contemporary ethics, but his placement in a Puritan setting causes him to be an outcast, which in turn brings him more harm than good.
The two main moral theories of modern virtue ethics are Kant’s deontological ethics and utilitarianism (John-Stewart). Utilitarianism focuses on achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number, avoiding pain or harm inflicted upon people. Kant’s ethics is deontological in the sense that one has to obey the duties and obligations derived from his supreme principle of morality (John-Stewart).By layman terms, moral qualities include benevolence, altruism and selflessness, and self-sacrifice towards a greater cause – all derived from a sense of empathy. In contrast, people who lack in morals are the ones who are selfish, narcissistic, greedy and unempathetic.
Proctor is the protagonist of the story, and although he has flaws, he is capable of feeling guilt when he defies his own moral integrity, which many of the church leaders lack in. He acknowledges his mistakes, the most prominent example seen when he cheats on Elizabeth with Abigail Williams. In Act IV, Proctor’s self inflicted guilt is evident. He tells Elizabeth that he will confess because he ‘cannot mount the gibbet like a saint’ for he ‘is a fraud’ and his ‘honesty is broke’, thus he is ‘no good man’ (Miller 123). Proctor takes this single error in his life and beats himself up for it, to the point where he does not even believe that he is a good Christian, unworthy of keeping his name.
Proctor demonstrates utilitarianism and selflessness when he confesses that he has been in league with the devil but does not tell the church leaders that others were involved. He refuses to ‘spoil their names’ and claims that only he is involved with the Devil (Miller 127). Nonetheless, this refusal is mistaken as a “love for hell” in the eyes of the church leaders. Proctor sacrifices his own name and chooses to save the others from having their names soiled. From this, readers are able to tell that he truly is a tragic hero, and view him as a good person, despite the community that labeled him as a source of evil.
Proctor is the main figure of a contemporary ideal, holding a set of moral values which modern readers possess, thus being protagonist of the play. [Unfortunately, due to the fact that Puritan ethics and modern ethics oppose, Proctor faces his end as a tragic hero], when the evil that was in the guise of justice and fair play overpowered the Salem society (Sumita, 2) .
The Crucible: a time of trouble and despair, the Salem trials, characters suffer internal conflicts
The Crucible written by Arthur Miller is a play that takes place in the 1690s during the famous but tragic Salem witch trials. The entire community is in pandemonium yet certain characters are also fighting internal conflicts of their own. Miller uses three characters that manifest this internal battle ever so clearly. Such as Mary Warren, whose whole personality turns upside down, John Proctor, who contemplates between the importance of his family and his own name, and Reverend Hale, who battles with himself whether to carry out his job requirements or do what he knows is right.
Mary Warren is a shy girl who is forced with this inner turmoil throughout this play. At the outset of the play, she is perceived to be a very shy girl who will never speak her mind as shown when Proctor sends her home and she responds with, Im just going home. (21). As the play continues ands as she is influenced by Abigail, Mary begins to break this self-induced mold and does what she wants. Mary, along with many other girls get caught up in the hype of getting all the attention and exercising power via initiating and adamantly continuing these witch trials. Finally, Proctor, the rationalist, shows that when people like Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor, who are the saintliest of people are accused of being witches, something must be wrong. Mary Warren has a difficult decision to make. She has realized that her whole way of life has been based on injustice. However, how can she extricate herself from Abigail and her friends not to mention her new feelings of c!
onfidence. Mary decides to speak out against Abigail and the others for their false accusations and said that she tried to kill me numerous times.(57). Yet, as she does this heroic act of overcoming her old reality, Abigail pretends that Mary is a witch using the poppets against her. Mary is faced with yet another grueling internal conflict: to do what she knows is right and probably die for it, or to return to her old ways. Mary succumbs to Abigails hypnosis and accuses John Proctor of forcing her to lie. Clearly the battle, which Mary faced from the very beginning, was enormous.
John Proctor, a farmer and village commoner, similarly is faced with an inner turmoil. He has committed lechery and has absolutely no intentions of joining in the witch trials unless his pregnant wife was to get involved also. John feels that he couldnt accept this. Proctor is a good and noble man and because of this he believes at first he cant be hanged and die a martyr when he has this sin blooming over him every waking moment. John later says to Elizabeth that, My honesty is broke, Elizabeth; I am no good man. Nothings spoiled by giving them this lie that were not rotten long before (136) and rather confess than die for something he flat out didnt do. However, as John confesses, he cannot allow Danforth to make it officially documented. As Danforth asks him why, John answers with a cry, Because it is my name. Because I cannot have another in my lifehow may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name (143). John feels strongly abou!
t a good name and not dying with a bad one. Proctor weights both sides of his internal conflict and realizes that he must not make another mistake. He therefore prescribes himself to death, not for his own sake, but rather for the sake of the others. As John dies, Elizabeth weeps saying, He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it away (145).
Another internal conflict is evident in Reverend Hale who initiates these problems. At first, Hale is sure about his belief that there are witches and feels that he is carrying out the desires of God himself. Yet as the play moves on and Hale sees all these honest and good people being sentenced and executed, he too sees an inner conflict. He contemplates whether to do what he is sent to do, listen to Danforth, or listen to his own conscience and denounce these proceedings as unjust and wrong. Hale decides to help out all the wrongfully accused people by encouraging them to confess and save themselves from these false proceedings. Hale attempts to repent his own sins by trying to make people confess by saying I have come to do the devils work. I have come to counsel Christians they should believe in themselvescan you not see the blood on my head (131). Hale overcomes his turmoil by following the truth he knew in his heart of hearts. Yet he is counseling people to !
prevail upon your husband and confess and says God dams a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride (133) and convinces people to lie, which is against his religion, and considered a moral sin. But he decides that earthly life is a greater gift than eternal life.
Everybody throughout their lives are faced with inner conflicts. One must make a decision based on what they think is right and true. These three characters probably just faced the most important decision of their lives. Whether right or wrong, they went with what they thought was the right decision within their hearts. For instance, Mary Warren made the decision that felt right to her in her heart, as did Reverend Hale and John Proctor. But one thing is sure in anyones heart and that is that earthly life is a far greater gift than eternal life.
Death and Destruction In The Crucible
Throughout everyone’s lives, people will make mistakes, but they will use them as a tool in their future to correct and move beyond their past, yet in some cases people chose to continue down a path, and resume to their unchanged habits. In the play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, a young girl by the name of Abigail Williams proceeds down a road that causes death and destruction. The reason for her motive is unknown, yet it is clear that her selfish, deceitful and manipulative ways are major factors.
Abby is truly a self absorbed and self-centered person. In order to be with the man she loves, she attacks all innocent people that stand in her way. When a little girl speaks out, and states what she believed happened while they were in the woods, she slaps the girl and as the rest of the girls, crowd around the bed it is obvious Abby is not afraid to induce the same abuse on them. She says “Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” (Miller 20). Her intention of speaking this to the girls is to implement fear and terror on them. Abby is so caught up in her own story that she will do anything to keep herself safe. Interestingly enough, her main focus is to be with a married man. A man by the name of John Proctor, whom she previously had an affair with. Although he apologized to his wife profusely, and ended the rendezvous with Abby, she relentlessly persisted on him and tauntingly mentioned to him “Give me a word, John. A soft word. John I am waitin’ for you every night” (Miller 23). Even though John does not want to be in a relationship with Abby anymore, she is persistent and selfish, so she ignores his request and tries again for his love. If going for him again isn’t enough, she then targets his sweet wife. In hopes of once again being with John, she puts Elizabeth down, exclaiming “She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman and you bend to her!” (Miller 24). Abby is determined to be with John and will do anything, she will even make lies about his wife “who makes lies”, she only cares about herself, so being dishonest towards others is not difficult for her, in fact it is easy because she is so accustomed to getting what she wants. As egotistical as Abby is, she does not get her way and she will soon learn of her consequences.
Another one of her dominant character traits is her manipulation, and she exhibits this trait in most conversations with John. Abby has tried to tempt John, she threw his wife under the bus, and now she attempts to manipulate him so he will express his love for her. By doing so she claims “I have a sense for heat, John, and yours has drawn me to my window, and I have seen you looking up, burning in your loneliness. Do you tell me that you’ve never looked up at my window?” (Miller 24). By saying this, John must admit that he is conflicted. He is still in love with her, or at least that he has the same feelings as before, even though he is trying to fix his marriage, and run away from Abby. She continues to manipulate him through telling him of her affection and passion for him, although it sounds like lust, she will not back down. Begging for him, Abby states “I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was and now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! (Miller 25). Her goal in mentioning this to John is because she believes if she insists on his participation in their relationship, then he will give it to her in return. The way that Abby crafts her words and gestures towards John has no excuse and, she knows exactly what she is doing, and she will do whatever it takes to achieve it.
Last but not least, is Abbeys deceitfulness displayed all throughout the play, particularly events involving witchcraft. When John approaches Abby and questions her place in the woods that night, she deceives him and lies to his face. Abby lies to John, “Oh posh! We were dancin’ in the woods last night, and my uncle leaped in on us. She took fright, is all” (Miller 22). Completely lying to John, her true character shines through and Abby continues defying others without them knowing a thing. Her untruthfulness proceeds, and when in court with the whole town on watch, she is distrustful once again. She looks towards the balcony as if a creature was preparing for flight and screams “Oh, please, Mary! Don’t come down. Mary please don’t hurt me!” (Miller 121). Now turning on Mary Warren, Abby makes the court think Mary has compacted with the devil and she is a bird about to jump and attack, lying again to the townspeople and putting someone innocent in danger. No matter how small or big the lie, justice will always be served and although not now, Abby will discover that lying hurts her more than anyone.
In the end Abby accomplished nothing, her dream to be with the man she loves failed. Her goal to frame the other girls was unsuccessful, and she has learned nothing from this experience. As a result of her untruthfulness her beloved died, and her manipulative attitude did not work on him, neither did her selfishness. Abby hurt so many people in the process and those people were innocent and kind. Because of her actions she is an antagonist who is a static or unchanging character throughout the play. Abigail Williams never learned from her mistakes and never truly will understand because she is determined, and adamant about what she wants, and disregards anyone who could get in her way.
The Role Of Irony In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
What is irony, first of all? Irony is saying the opposite of what one actually means by using words. Miller has a sarcastic tone in The Crucible. This sound has to do with humor when we refer to each other. Sarcasm means reproach or sarcastic criticism. The reason Miller writes in such simple humor is because he needs the reader to see it and know it. The explanation Miller writes in such simple cases of humor is because he needs the listener to see it and know something. Most of the humor situations are because it reveals that the characters in the novel are almost always dishonest and have no real proof.
There are many examples of irony in the Crucible. The definition of irony is- Events that are or seem deliberately opposite of what someone expects or wants and is usually funny as a result of it. A few examples are when everyone was lying about other people being witches or practicing witchcraft when everyone knew that those people weren’t witches or involved with witchcraft. Late in the third act, Elizibeth lies about John’s adultery just to protect his reputation. Both Elizbeth and John were highly respected in the Salem community. They were caught lying and committing adultery. So as a result, Elizbeth lied to protect John.
Miller uses irony to create tension in important scenes in The Crucible. The use of irony is to develop tension for the readers. Elizbeth is known for being honest and holds honesty to a high standard. It was unexpected that she would lie. When Elizbeth lies to protect John, she didn’t know he already admitted to committing adultery. When Hale forced John to recite the ten commandments. John couldn’t name adultery. It’s ironic in the end because he had an affair with Abigail and Elizbeth lied to protect him. Adultery was handled very harshly back then. The most simple form or irony in the Crucible is when John was asked to recite the ten commandments to prove that he was a true Christan. He is able to get nine of them. He cannot, for whatever reason, recite adultery. Whether that was because he forgot or whatever. He, not much later, commits the same sin or law, however you want to look at it.
In conclusion, Miller added irony into The Crucible for many reasons. If you look hard enough you can find many examples of it. He wrote it in a way to show that appearances can be deceiving. Using verbal irony to create confusion and situational to add tension between characters. Maybe he wanted the readers to understand that to see through people and what they say, you must face reality head on.
Comparison Of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
In The Crucible by Arthur Miller and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, the value of bystanders’ lives is well beneath all personal achievements and gain, resulting in greedy and jealous motivations for inequity while the downfall of others inflict and strengthen undeserved power, leading to their own destruction.
Arthur Miller uncovers Abigail Williams’ motivations throughout this era as selfish and purely for self-gain. Accusing innocent people and encouraging the rest of the girls to accuse others when they were the only ones involved with any sort of witchcraft, they sent hundreds to their death sentence without any remorse or a second thought. This shows that she ignores the value of anyone’s life that may stand in her way of protecting her own life and replacing Elizabeth Proctor’s place as John’s wife. Abigail has no empathy for the accused, tried, tortured, and hung, because of her greed and jealous-filled motivations. While Abigail, once the accused now becomes the accuser, her position is strengthened to the point of total control in the court. The people are left completely powerless and brought to their knees begging and pleading to stop the madness in Salem, Massachusetts. Abby’s manipulative and devious ways also put her in control over John and Elizabeth Proctor. After separating them mentally after Abby and John commit lechery, Abby continues to threaten their marriage by finally going to the extremes and accuses Elizabeth and sends her to jail and to be tried in court, which separates them physically.
Victor Frankenstein is another main character, from the novel Frankenstein, who shows motivations and want of power for pure self-gain and personal achievement. His greed leads him to take for granted his entire family. When others mention anything of their pain and suffering, Victor is not shy when he expresses his disbelief because he believes that he has it worse than anyone shows that even when his family is hurting, worrying, and being killed by the monster he created, Frankenstein remains a self-centered man. Only focusing on his misfortunes and poor fate. By bringing others to a downfall, Frankenstein gains undeserved over the monster and the ones who love him. Victor has control over his creation’s moods. Instead of caring for the monster, and giving him his simple wants and needs, like a companion of similar features, Victor ignores him. This causes the monster to feel lonely in the world he has been brought into and unaccepted by his own creator. The monster is restricted from both mental and physical growth, unable to move up on the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, making him vulnerable and powerless over his own life.
Abigail Williams and Victor Frankenstein were both normal civilians, weak with no power, who gained undeserved power by devaluing the life of innocent bystanders who they once were admired by and let their greed and jealous motivations for injustice get the better of them, which in the end lead them to their own destruction. These characters rose and they fell. They became imperial and took control, however, after many deaths and time that has passed since, the people realize the destruction of their self-centered actions and Abigail and Victor are looked down upon.
The Character Of Abigail Williams In The Crucible By Arthur Miller
In the Allegory, The Crucible, Arthur Miller sets up significant moments to show the characters’ growth. Abigail Williams is a person who is known in the town because in the very beginning of the play she is accused of witchcraft. Abigail is shown as a person who is a liar and a manipulator. In this play Abigail ruins herself by lying to the town, accusing other people of witchcraft just to save herself, and trying to manipulate everyone by even lying in court.
Abigail is a manipulative person, because of this she uses that power to make the whole town pity her. “Child. I did not mistrust you…”. In the play Abigail basically wants everything to go her own way. The Salem Witch Trials were about finding witches within the town and making them “pay” for the black magic they created. Abigail always seemed to be the one to get everyone into trouble. All she wanted to do was get love and revenge. Abigail and John Proctor had an affair with his wife Elizabeth Proctor. After all of this Abigail wanted more and she was going to get what she wanted no matter what it took. Abigail had created a plan. She tried to help John Proctor by proclaiming Elizabeth’s innocents, saying she made the poppet for herself. Abigail had tried to say that the poppet was made for voodoo. Quickly the poppet was used in court to show how Elizabeth practiced witchcraft. Mary Warren had left a needle in the stomach to show that she was trying to hurt Abby from a distance. This was enough to make the court believe that Elizabeth was doing these horrible things. Later Proctor had rebuked the information and made it seem ridiculous.
We can guess from the quickly evolution events culminating in Elizabeth’s arrest that Abigail deliberately uses Mary Warren and also the valve as a part of her demonic attempt to frame Elizabeth. Mary remarks that Abigail saw her create the valvein court. We are able to infer from this that Abigail hatched her setup then and there to induce Elizabeth condemned, later stabbing herself within the body, even as Mary Warren’s needle remains within the valve that lands up in Elizabeth’s house. What we tend to can’t be positive of is whether or not Mary was a celebration to any of this theme. It appears seemingly that she wasn’t, however, as she seems as a really naive woman compared to the slick, conniving Abigail. However, she additionally seems to be in awe of Abigail.
Breaking Down the Value of ‘subtext’ in The Crucible by A. Miller and Much Ado About Nothing by W. Shakespeare
Subtext is the underlying idea or meaning, conveyed by a playwright without being explicitly state in order to a more thorough understanding of the themes of the play and the characters’ motivations. In Arthur Miller’s dramatic play The Crucible and William Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, subtext aids the audience in understanding the characters’ motifs and the social quo of the fictionalized Puritan society and the idyllic setting of the Italian port Messina in the 16th century respectively. Despite both Miller and Shakespeare being explicit about their characters’ motivation in their dialogues, the consideration of underlying meaning is of dramatic importance, as it helps the audience enjoy a profound understanding of the plays.
In the Crucible, the characters are not always explicit about their true motivations in their dialogue, as at times the perceived surface motivation goes against their genuine incentive. Miller’s utilization of subtext is important in understanding the interlocked relationships between the characters, generating the impetus in the play. The subtext is specifically relevant during the witch trial episodes, as it conveys the underlying problems within the Puritan Salem community, also employed by Miller to criticize the process of trials and accusations during the 1950s Red Scare trials in the United States and McCarthyism.
The character of Judge Danforth, is portrayed as following the court’s procedure and imposing God’s commandments upon the Puritans. He appears to believe in the righteousness of the court, declaring that “no uncorrupted man may fear this court” (Act 3). “Uncorrupted” denotes honest and innocent; explicitly, Danforth suggests that the court is functioning under God’s conduct and only those who are guilty should fear. However, there is verbal irony present in Danforth’s statement, since through subtext it can be inferred that Miller suggest that according to Danforth, any person who questions the court’s verdict or accuses the judge of false conviction is possessed by the devil. Furthermore, Danforth is trying to appear credible and through making such an assertion he establishes his absolute authority as a judge and attempts to preserve his reputation. Thus, the explicit meaning and the subtext are ironically contrasting; the implicit meaning foreshadows the unwarranted outcome of the trails, as by end of the court’s session 19 innocent individuals, including Giles and Martha Corey, Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor, were accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death. Danforth was selective in believing Abigail Williams and her followers’ testimony, which came with a corrupted motif of vengeance towards John Proctor for not continuing his affair with her and towards Elizabeth Proctor was supposedly in the way of their relationship, while ignoring warnings from Proctor about her motifs. He also ignored warnings about Thomas Putnam’s greed for land. Danforth’s moral corruption is also evident through subtext when he states that he “cannot pardon these when twelve are already hanged for the same crime” (Act 4) after Reverend Hale asks him to pardon the convicted, including John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, who are about to be hanged, knowing that they are innocent. Explicitly, Danforth is stating that it cannot be just to pardon people for a crime that others have been punished for. However, sub-textually, he is most likely less concerned with justice than with his own safety and reputation. Ironically, he is suspected his own guiltiness in putting innocent people to death. Therefore, Miller’s subtext conveys that the “uncorrupted” men may fear the court and that reputation takes a priority above justice in the judge’s motivation.
Though Shakespeare is typically explicit in his characters’ dialogue, acting on the lines to make his production more entertaining, language as subtext is a driving force in his comedy Much Ado About Nothing. The playwright stresses the importance of taking subtext into an account in the title of his play. In Shakespearean times, “nothing” was often pronounced as noting, meaning to take notice of. Misinterpretation, which becomes revealed through the comprehension of subtext, works as an impetus in the play, as eavesdropping, mishearing and misreports are common, and at times intentional, throughout the course of the play.
Subtext having the dramatic importance of being a driving force in Much Ado About Nothing is especially evident upon viewing the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice. The two engage in a battle of wits through their use of puns, jokes and sarcasm. Both characters are adamant; even though through their dialogue one can imply that the two cannot coexist and each one of them is destined to be alone in life, implicitly Shakespeare suggests that they are destined to be together. In their first dialogue, Benedick and Beatrice’s insulting language, ironically, foreshadows their love. The animal imagery employed by both furthers their eventual romance through suggesting the wildness of their love. Beatrice says that she would “rather hear [her] dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves [her]” (Act 1, Scene 1). Her preference of hearing barking over words of love is a hyperbole, through which the playwright emphasizes her negative opinion about love and marriage at this point in the play. Benedick retaliates Beatrice’s insults and her derogatory view on love by calling her a “parrot teacher” (Act 1, Scene 1), thus metaphorically implying that she is pointlessly chattering to the extent where she could be teaching a parrot, a bird known for blathering pointless words. Though Benedick and Beatrice are initially ceaselessly insulting each other, their ability to maintain such cleaver and interconnected dialogue illustrates the existence of a strong bond between them. The subtext creates the connection between them, foreshadowing their love, while ironically, explicitly it is evident that they cannot coexist due to constantly attempting to insult and discredit one another.
The subtext in Shakespeare’s comedy displays the dramatic characteristics of tragedy in it, addressing the concept of death, while treating it in a facetious manner. The subtext also aids in understanding the Shakespearean society’s gender expectation, as when Claudio publically shames Hero at the altar, falsely believing she has already lost her purity because of Don John’s manipulations, her father Leonato asserts that “death is the fairest cover for her shame” (Act 4, Scene 1). Dramatic irony is present in the scene, as the audience is aware that Don John made Borachio woo lady Margaret, while Claudio believed that she was Hero. Leonato suggests that Hero dying would be the best way to cover up her perceived shame, as it is better for her to die than to live after being shamed and after having supposedly committed disloyalty. This kind of conflict and the morbid events in this scene are not commonplace in a comedy.
In conclusion, subtext plays an important role in drama by helping the audience have a more thorough understanding of the themes and the characters’ motivations, which each playwright conveys in his own manner. Both Miller and Shakespeare use subtext to depict their characters’ personalities and generate an extensive understanding of the genre and of the setting for each of their respective plays.
The Crucible By Arthur Miller: Why Abigail Williams Is To Blame For The Witch Trials
In the play The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, a group of teenage girls begin accusing people of witchcraft. Abigail Williams, the girl who is in charge, likes the popularity that she gains from her accusing and she is willing to do anything in order to make sure she keeps it. Everyone accused by the girls becomes a victim of society because their friends and neighbors turn against them. Therefore, Abigail Williams, a character in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, is to blame for the witch trials because of past and present experiences. She cannot be excused from her actions since she is not a victim of society.
Abigail Williams is to blame for the witch trials as a result of accusing others. Abigail constantly lies throughout The Crucible to make sure she does not get caught. When one of the girls, Mary Warren, testifies against the others, they turn on her. The girls act as if Mary has sent an evil spirit onto them and Abigail exclaims, “But God made my face; you cannot want to tear my face. Envy is a deadly sin, Mary”. Abigail knows that if she accuses someone, the court and adults will believe her. She feels in charge when accusing since people truly believe her. However, Abigail blames others due to the fact that she is selfish and self-centered. Judge Danforth takes Abigail and the other girls’ side by stating, “Mary Warren! – Draw back your spirit out of them!’. This suggests that the girls, especially Abigail, are to blame since they always accuse others and made the accused victims. Abigail is not a victim of society because she initiated everything. She blatantly knew that it was wrong but did it anyway since it benefited her. Towards the end of The Crucible, Abigail’s uncle, Reverend Parris’s “strongbox is broken into”. The group of girls stole from Parris and fled Salem considering they knew their secret was going to be discovered eventually. Abigail’s past and present experiences fueled her actions and allowed her to gain power from those actions.
Abigail’s past affects her as a result of witnessing her parents’ deaths. In act 1 after Betty, Abigail’s cousin, is calling out for her dead mother, Abigail yells, “I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!”. Abigail witnessing her parents’ deaths makes her change in a negative way. She constantly threatens others to make sure they listen to her and trust her. Even though her past affected her tremendously, current experiences affect her too. Abigail and a man named John Proctor have an affair, which makes Abigail feel more powerful and convinces herself that he is equally as in love. Abigail continually tries to get rid of those who are in her way by accusing them. When Elizabeth, John Proctor’s wife, gets accused, Abigail tells John that he is “singing secret Hallelujahs that your wife will hang!”. Abigail Williams cannot be excused for the purpose of her actions since she caused chaos and affected hundreds of lives. She is at fault for the witch trials that occurred since she began the accusing. As a result of her actions, many people were murdered, hundreds were accused and almost everyone’s lives were negatively changed. An abundance of people lost property and their reputation because of Abigail and her group. Nonetheless, Abigail’s past and present experiences caused the witch trials and consequently, she is to blame for it.
The Crucible’s Abigail Williams is to blame for the circumstances that occurred. She had past and present incidents that generated her actions. However, she cannot be excused and is not a victim of society. Abigail saw her parents’ deaths, had an affair with John Proctor, and threatened those who stood in her way. In spite of Abigail’s hard beginning, she should not resort to accusing people of being witches. Abigail Williams, overall, is a manipulative, self-centered person. Even though she is only seventeen, she still was able to make right, good decisions yet chose negative actions. Overall, Abigail’s life experiences affect her in a negative way, which prompted her to make terrible decisions.
Society In The Crucible vs Death of a Salesman
Two plays by Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, both contend that society is the indifferent, sometimes brutal, force that crushes an individual. Although the plays take place in different time periods, they each convey the force of society through setting and conflict. They particularly show this theme through the formation of masses or of opposing sides, as with the girls and townsfolk of The Crucible and the company values in Death of a Salesman. The use of scapegoats like Tituba and Willy further develop the theme. Finally, the sacrifices of Proctor and Willy show the pressure that society places on men to be honorable. Society contributes a great amount to the plight of a protagonist, and Miller portrays this theme through his characters and their interaction with one another.
The two plays exhibit the theme of society’s power by showing a development of opposing sides, or enemies. For example, in The Crucible, the townspeople and the young girls take sides against the older women of the town. The Putnams are the primary adult offenders in the town. They fear what they do not understand, so they fear the supernatural connection between witchcraft and the deaths of their newborn children. Their position in society causes them to fear, so they oppose the sages of the group who do not have fear. Likewise, the children form sides against the older women of the group, but for different reasons. The children are completely restricted in their actions, particularly by the elderly, who represent their authorities. Thus, they react by unleashing their imaginations on the older townspeople.
Similarly, Death of a Salesman is plagued with the formation of sides. This time, however, the conflict arises between Willy and the ethics of the new salesman. According to Richard J. Foster, “The values that seem to be represented in Willy, the ‘good’ values that function in the play as implicit criticisms of society’s ‘bad’ values, are the familiar romantic ones: nature, freedom, and the body; free self-expression and self-realization; individualism and the simple life…” (Foster 3). Willy’s nostalgic, almost quixotic ethics contrast with those of society, Howard, and modern business. It is evident in Willy’s scene with Howard, in which he is fired, that the sides are clearly defined, and Willy’s morals are no longer valuable to the company. As Miller writes,
WILLY. In those days there was personality in it, Howard. There was respect, and comradeship, and gratitude in it. Today, it’s all cut and dried, and there’s no chance of bringing friendship to bear—or personality. You see what I mean? They don’t know me anymore.
HOWARD. That’s just the thing, Willy.
Thus, the forces of society crush Willy as an individual by making everything he has ever known obsolete.
Furthermore, both The Crucible and Death of a Salesman portray the enormous power of society through the use of scapegoats. The difference, however, is that Death of a Salesman has a single person as a scapegoat, whereas the people of Salem blame an idea before individuals. The people of Salem blame witchcraft for all of their problems, whether Sarah Good and the death of a neighbor’s pig, or Rebecca Nurse and the Putnam babies. Because the people fear what they do not understand, anything out of the ordinary is automatically supernatural in their eyes. Thus, Tituba, the slave from Barbados, is blamed for her “conjuring” and is hanged, along with many others. The people of Salem blame their problems on the “witches”.
Scapegoats are used quite differently in Death of a Salesman. Biff blames his father, Willy, for not leading him correctly and trying to shield him from the real world. Willy’s overprotectiveness only puts off Biff’s coming of age, which occurs during his discovery of his father’s licentiousness with the anonymous woman. According to P.P. Sharma, “In the traumatic experience in the hotel room, however, [Biff] achieves an insight. With the realization that his father is a fraud comes his deliverance…By trying to make a hero out of [Willy] Biff realizes Willy was only obscuring his identity and to that extent not exactly helping. He lays the blame squarely on Willy for filling his mind with exaggerated self-conceit…” (Sharma 370). Thus, through the masses and their use of scapegoats, society has the brutal power to crush the individual.
Finally, the societal pressure placed on honor is strong enough to break a man, as shown by John Proctor and Willy Loman. Using the definition of tragedy of Richard J. Foster, both men were tragic heroes, because both were willing to give their life up for their honor. John Proctor, the hero of The Crucible, is forced to sacrifice his honor by admitting to lechery in order to save his wife, who, ironically, lies to save him, destroying them both. His puritan beliefs hold honor to oneself in very high esteem, and this causes the his death. He chooses death over the stain of the family name by not signing the document, as portrayed in the following lines:
PROCTOR. I have three children- how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends?… Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence.
DANFORTH. Then explain to me, Mr. Proctor, why you will not let [allow me to post your confession]-
PROCTOR. …How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name!
Thus, Proctor rejects the societal pressure and does not give in. Willy, however, succumbs to honor and hides his cowardice behind suicide, which gives his family insurance money. He commits suicide, but by Foster’s definition, which states that the tragic hero must be willing to give up his life, he is still a tragic hero.
Thus, the plays Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, each exhibit the theme of society as the indifferent, sometimes brutal, force that crushes an individual through the formation of sides, the assignment of scapegoats, and the value of honor. In each case the individuals were crushed, either physically or mentally. Society contributes a great amount to the plight of a protagonist, and Miller portrays this theme through his characters and their interaction with one another.
Abigail Williams: Villain Or Victim In Arthur Miller’s The Crucible
In the play, ‘The Crucible’ Miller’s writing steers us, the audience, in a way that initially inclines us to believe she is presented as a villain. From the beginning of the play, Miller unquestionably presents Abigail as the villain. She is exhibited as a skillful liar, manipulative, dishonest; someone who is willing to go to great lengths to protect herself. Miller continues to sway us to view Abigail as a villainous character throughout the play. She is responsible for many deaths throughout the play, in fact she could have stopped the hysteria and ensuing madness many times if she just admitted the truth but she doesn’t, hence, cementing her place as the ultimate villain Any attempt to see her as a victim at the beginning of the play after the first innocent person is hanged but is absurd. While Miller cleverly hints that she may be in fact be a victim of a Puritan Society at times, there is never enough to see her as a real victim Through his use of stage directions, dialogues and his characterization of Abigail he manages to evoke sympathy for her, perhaps showing that she was not always the complete villain we see her as.
The context in which the play is set is important to understand Abigail’s intentions and motivations. They were in the time where the ‘Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God.’ Puritans; where everything was strictly controlled and religious. Defining that there was no margin for mistakes, anyone suspicious of witchcraft would be hanged. How Abigail acts, can be seen as a result of the environment she grew up in where everyone around her was toxic, self-absorbent and only cared about their reputation. This could be the main factor in her manipulative nature.
Initially in the play in Abigail is accused by Betty of witchcraft ‘You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor.’ Her terrible nature and of nefarious behavior becomes immediately evident as she threatens the other girls, ‘Let either of you breathe a word, or edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you… I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you!… I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down.’ Abigail’s actions and various threats not only intimidate the girls and force them to cooperate with her but they also lead to the deaths of nineteen innocent civilians later in the play.
Further, in the play, Abigail once again shows her dark and distrusting side as she claims to Paris, ‘There be no blush about my name…. It’s a bitter woman, lying cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!’ Here we can she believes that because of Elizabeth, she and John cannot be together as Abigail claims ‘she hates me, she must for I would not be her slave’. It could be that since she is still young and Proctor took advantage of her giving her mixed feelings and leading her into curiosity hence making her lust towards him to make such decisions that lead to various consequences. She believes that John Proctor loves her and that he wants to be with her ‘I look for John Proctor the took. Me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!’ She is deluded in her lust to see that he doesn’t want to be with her as she clings onto him where he only used her for the excitement of himself. Abigail could have intentionally said the word ‘sin’ to emphasize how bad of a thing Proctor did by ending their affair, making him appear as a villain.
Abigail hints that she is the victim as she confronts Proctor ‘It’s she put me out, you cannot pretend it was you. I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you do now!’ Proctor continues to deny her claims as she continues to rant her delusional version of his love for her; ‘And you must. You are no wintry man. I know you, John. I know you. She is weeping. I cannot sleep for dreamin’ Miller uses stage direction to show that she is using herself and their affair as a leverage to trap him and make him feel guilty as ‘She clutches him desperately.’ The repetition of the phrase ‘I know you’ heightens the effect of her words, in which she is pleading him to change his mind. This suggests that she was taken advantage of by an older and married man, as he feels that what the townsfolk think of him is more important than the feeling of a 17-year-old orphan. This supports the idea that she is also a victim. But her use of their past affair reinforces the fact that she uses countless attempts of blackmail and play of emotions to make herself looked victimised where actually is a villain.
Abigail is looked down upon by the community as she was adopted child and has an affair with an older man; her uncle sees that ‘it has troubled me that you are now seven months out of their house, and in all this time no other family has ever called for your service’ this only resulted in her hatred towards the townsfolk and especially Elizabth Proctor.
Miller presents Abigailas a vile girl as she manipulates the people around her in order to get out of the trouble she’s in. She instantly turns from telling the truth about ‘just dancing’ in the woods to very manipulatively convincing everyone that it was Tituba that bewitched everyone there. Shifting all the blame to Tituba at the same time calling out names that were put into her mouth just like how Mccarthyism is used as a leverage to keep her out of trouble and bring anyone down. This makes her seem like a terrible person as she does not stop the hangings after the first person was hanged.
Leading from the death of her parents and being abused by an older man; this has a major impact resulted in her terrible choices. Anyone would want to save themselves instead of admitting that they’re wrong when anyone is willing to believe that they’re innocent. This is what was most likely lead her from being looked down to rising in power by acting and using a fraud to accuse the rest of the townsfolk as witches.
In conclusion, Miller gives us sympathy towards her as well as warning the audience at the same time. Revealing that she was presented as a non-complex character at the start of the play as she breaks a few rules by going around dancing and later as the play builds up we see glimpses of her other nature evoking the truth that she is not as simple as she seems. Defining that she is a misguided youth with the nature of deceptions and lies with her history of being abused and left alone guiding her towards the path she walks.