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'The Crucible' is a play based on the 17th century Salemwitch hunts.
It is also a parable for the events in McCarthy's era in the U.S.A
which was a high profile topic at the time it was written. The play is
about people who are wrongly accused of helping the devil. 'The
Crucible' was written by Arthur Miller and was first performed in
1953, New York. It is set in a puritanical society where the people
believe in hard work and little luxury. Their life is based around
God, the Bible and the 'Ten commandments'. They're joyless and
God-fearing. Pride and integrity are extremely important to them.
They're obsessed and fearful of sin, damnation and the devil.
Fear is an abstract emotion, it causes people to worry, become nervous
and sometimes act in an irrational manner. People can be 'fearful' of
many different things. It could be that you or someone you care about
is in danger or that you are scared of someone or something. It makes
people conscious and aware of what is happening around them or what
could happen. It is induced by something frightening, whether it be
justified or not (it could be about nothing, paranoia). Fear is often
provoked by the unknown, for example the devil in 'The Crucible'.
People are very cautious of phenomenon that they are ignorant of or
that cannot be explained. A fear that is particularly relevant to the
play is, fear of losing their good reputation. Fear can have a major
effect on society, especially one as puritanical as Salem. It fuels
existing tensions and turns people against each other. People become
suspicious of everyone and trust no-one. They accuse their enemies and
even their friends. Fear causes people to protect themselves and their
pride even at the expense of other of other people's lives! One lie
can lead to a dozen as an allegation spirals out of control.
People pride themselves on their moral integrity in the town of Salem.
'Moral integrity' is where people live by God's rules and their own
principles. They try to keep a good reputation and do the 'right
thing'. It is a sort of 'standard' amongst the locals. However, once
"the devil entered Salem", the moral integrity of people was at risk,
as many people lost the integrity they had as it was all undermined by
fear of the Devil, and of being accused.
Mary Warren loses all moral integrity she once possessed at the end of
'The Crucible'. Mary is one of the only girls who does not join in
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She contested Abigail's claims but when she was faced with the
possibility of hanging she turned on John Proctor, saving herself but
sending him to eventual death. After Abigail accuses Mary of helping
the devil, eventually Mary claims that she did do it but only because
John Proctor made her. "He (John Proctor) come at me by night and
every day to sign, to sign" and she screams "You're the devils man!"
at Proctor as he stands their in disbelief as he has been betrayed.
This shows that when they are faced with blame all moral integrity is
forgotten, as along as they themselves are safe they will use an
innocent person as a 'scapegoat' even though it will send them to
Abigail is the 'villain' of this play and starts this whole fiasco.
Moral integrity does not appear to even be an issue with her as she
tells lie after lie. Abigail grew up an orphan with virtually no
rights or power. However, once these witch hunts begin, suddenly she
has the power to destroy people's lives. After one lie, she somewhat
abuses this power that she could never have hoped to posses. Also,
Abigail desperately wants to have John Proctor and will do anything to
get him, including accuse his wife. Ironically, it is in fact John
Proctor that ends up being a victim of her lies. She lives in fear
that she will be exposed for committing adultery with John Proctor.
All her lies begin because of her fear that she will be accused of
being a witch. She is willing to send people to their deaths just to
protect herself. All of the latter are amongst the reasons why
Abigail's integrity was undermined by fear. "Why Abigail Williams
charge her." "Oh please Mary! Don't come down" as Abigail claims Mary
is attacking her in the form of a bird. This shows that Abigail will
do anything to save herself, and could be regarded as a coward.
Danforth is extremely stubborn man whose moral integrity was
undermined once he was faced with fear. He sentenced people to hang
for crimes that he suspected they did not commit, just to save his
'good reputation' as a judge. Finding people not guilty of helping the
devil would've suggested that he was wrong about people he sentenced
earlier. However, rather than spare these people's lives and admit his
decisions were wrong, he let them be humiliated and ultimately hanged,
and kept his 'reputation'. When Giles Corey contested his decision he
sent him to a jail cell, "I have no choice to arrest you for contempt
of court." He allows sentenced people to live on one condition; they
sign their good name over, by confessing. This puts the onus on them.
"You will confess Mary or you will hang!" This all shows that Danforth
will put his reputation as a judge before people's lives, the truth
John Proctor is the 'hero' of 'The Crucible'. He maintains his moral
integrity despite admitting to breaking one of the 'Ten commandments'
by committing adultery. This is extremely frowned upon in their
puritanical society. However, he has not confessed to his sin, in
court, because of fear of death, but fear of gaining respect from
death which he believes he doesn't deserve. "It is a fraud. I am not
that man. My honest is broke" Also Proctor at anytime could have
shifted the blame off himself by accusing someone else of helping the
devil, but that would be undermining his moral integrity so he
refrained from it. In the end of the play, Proctor may have died
having committed a sin, but he died an honest, 'clean' man, knowing
that he could have saved himself, but he chose not to.
Giles Corey is another person who maintained his moral integrity.
While Danforth stands by his decision to sentence many people to their
deaths just to protect his pride, Giles Corey contests his decision,
so much so that he risks his own life. Even when he knows that he,
himself, will be jailed if he continues to fight for them, he does not
give in. "You know well why not! He'll lay in jail if I give his
name!" This shows that Giles put other people before himself, as he
will go to jail if he does not name him. In the end Giles dies with
dignity and integrity. As weights are laid on his body to force him to
confess, his final brave words are, "More weight please."
Elizabeth Proctor also fully maintains her moral integrity, despite
being pushed to the limit by John and Abigail's affair. She found it
in her heart to forgive John and stood by him. "My husband is a good
and righteous man." There is only once in the play where Elizabeth
goes against her personal principles. That is when she lied in court
by stating that John did not commit adultery. When asked by Danforth
if her husband committed lechery, she replied, "No, sir." However,
this is quite understandable and could even be respected as it shows
her loyalty towards her husband. In the final act Elizabeth is not
selfish by persuading John to confess, but respects his decision and
supports it. "Do as you will. Do as you will." She is an extremely
strong minded woman, which is shown by the fact that she never once
loses her temper with Abigail, despite the pain she has inflicted on
In conclusion, 'The Crucible' shows how easily people's principles and
moral integrity are undermined by fear. Even in a puritanical town
where their lives are practically based on their pride, when the
"devil enters Salem" people seem to forget that. The character I most
sympathise with is Elizabeth Proctor, and to a certain extent, John
Proctor. John Proctor is effectively sentenced to death by Abigail,
because she wants to be with him! He may have committed adultery, but
in no way does he deserve to have his life taken from him for
something he obviously did not commit. Some could argue that Elizabeth
Proctor is the character who deserves the most sympathy. She has done
absolutely nothing wrong, yet her marriage is torn apart by Abigail
and Danforth and her husband is executed. I think that 'The Crucible'
is a good parable of how fear affects people and shows how ultimately,
many people only care about saving themselves, whether it affects
other people or not.