English Literature Coursework: ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller Discuss the appeal of ‘The Crucible’ to its audience ‘The Crucible’ is a 20th century play that concentrates on the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692. These occasions resulted in mass hysteria over the persecution of those who, supposedly, took part in acts of necromancy. Over-exaggeration, emotion, tautness, suspense and the obliteration of characters (due to their alleged participation in witchcraft) are the main styles of the play throughout the four volatile scenes of ‘The Crucible’.
The audience observing would be lured by the mood swings of characters and their persecution for such criminal offenses in the theocratic village, where questioned residents in the thick society were forced to name other possible witches. If they failed to produce names of others, they would be hanged ruthlessly. The occupants of Salem believed in witches and the Devil and that the Bible had actually advised them that witches must be hanged.
A feeling of injustice is picked up here. The events of the play, very first performed in England in 1954, are analogous to the McCarthy era in the USA, where anybody presumed of criticising the federal government or its direction was to be brought prior to a court to respond to the charge of ‘Un-American Activities’.
The opening scene in ‘The Crucible’ instantly offers the audience a sensation of an ominous and lifeless atmosphere: A candle still burns near the bed …
The roofing system rafters are exposed, and the wood colours are raw and unmellowed. Reverend Parris is found …, evidently in prayer. His daughter … is pushing the bed, inert. (Act One, p1) The candle light beside the bed suggests a small source of light, perhaps hope that Betty will wake. The environment around is silent. The rafters are bare, and the wood is: ‘raw’. The Reverend is in harmony in prayer and his daughter is lying, as if lifeless, on the bed.
A prayer is a silent act which stresses the mood of the space. The images shows a dark, dull and demoralising sector of the Reverend’s house. The description of the stage in the opening scene creates a false impression for the audience as the majority observing the play would now anticipate a sluggish plot, with restricted excitement and monotonous dialogue with little emotion, but really it is a play full of overdramatic behaviour and emotion.