The Crucible by Arthur Miller

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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The Crucible

To what extent is John and Elizabeth’s relationship the main focus of
the play?

In this essay I am going to discus to what extent John and Elizabeth’s
relationship is the focus of the Crucible. The play was set in 1962,
in a small, American village called Salem. As Salem was governed by a
Theocracy, the whole village was extremely religious.

After reading the Crucible I think that John and Elizabeth’s
relationship is the main focus of the play, we can see in each act how
their feelings and emotions towards their relation ship changes and
progresses throughout the play. In Act 1 we are introduced to John
Proctor. We find out that he is a farmer in his middle thirties and
that he is known, and respected throughout the village as a good,
honest man. We also learn that John has committed adultery with his
former servant – Abigail Williams, niece of Reverend Paris. John
deeply regrets this, and, as we learn from act one he wishes to no
longer peruse his relation ship with Abigail any further; “I will cut
off my hand before I ever reach for you again!” Abigail responds to
this remark in anger, not being able to bear the fact that John no
longer wants her. She calls Elizabeth a “cold, snivelling woman” and
accuses her of spreading lies “She is blackening my name in the
village, she is spreading lies about me!” Immediately John responds in
defence of his wife “You’ll speak nothin’ of Elizabeth!” We can see
from this Act how John can’t bear the fact that he committed such a
terrible sin against his wife who he loves and cares for.

In At 2, we learn more about John and Elizabeth’s feelings towards
each other. It begins with them having a civilised conversation,
perhaps too civilised for a married couple, Elizabeth is keeping her
answers short and blunt, for example; “ That’s well” and “It must
be.” John picks up on this, and asks Elizabeth if she is sad again. As
we read further we find out that Elizabeth thought John had gone into
Salem, as he was home so late. What she really means when she says
“You come so late I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon”, is
that she thought John had been to see Abigail. Elizabeth knows that
John had an affair with Abby, and she still holds this against him.
The fact that Elizabeth bought this subject up angers John and
therefore, results in an argument. John hates it that Elizabeth cannot
seem to forgive him “Spare me! You forgive nothin’ and forget nothin’

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learn charity woman!”. The argument progresses with John trying to
convince Elizabeth that he has no feelings for Abigail anymore, when
reverend Hale enters the scene. John and Elizabeth find out that
Elizabeth’s name was mentioned at the witch trials in Salem and Hale
has come to “Put some questions as the Christian Character” of John
and Elizabeth’s household. Hale asks John to recite the 10
Commandments, John just about remembers them all except for one. The
very one that he has committed. “Adultery, John” he is reminded by
Elizabeth which adds a lot of tension to the scene, and a certain
power to Elizabeth’s character as she knows that this is the sin John
has committed and yet she is not afraid to say it. As if she is
admitting to her husband’s weakness.

In Act 3, it is at the court scene where John is trying to make the
court see that Abigail and the girls have been lying. It gets to the
point where John is so determined to prove Abigail is a fraud; he
admits to have “Known” her. He tells the court that this is the reason
his good wife threw Abby out, because she knew her as a harlot. He
tells the court that his wife is a good woman and would never lie “In
her life, sir, she have never lied” However, when the court asks
Elizabeth to join, Danforth asks her “To your own knowledge has John
Proctor ever committed the crime of lechery!” At this one point in her
life, ElIbeth tells a lie “No sir” she answers. She tells this lie to
defend and protect John it shows that she loves him and that maybe she
loves him more than God. John tells the court that Elizabeth only
thought to save his name, and Hale agrees with him that it is a
natural lie to tell. Elizabeth is not sentenced for lying to the
court, but John is taken to jail.

In Act 4 Elizabeth finds out that John is going to be hanged, the only
way he can save his life is if he signs a confession to witchcraft.
Elizabeth goes to John to see whether or not he will sign this
confession. At first John confesses to Danforth but refuses to sign
the confession in fear of blackening his name, in the end John says “I
lie and sign myself to lies!” He decides against signing the
confession and to die an honest man. Elizabeth greatly respects his
decision, and even when Hale tells her to persuade John otherwise she
holds her ground “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from
him” Elizabeth doesn’t want John to die, but she knows this is what he
has to do.

As well as John and Elizabeth’s relationship being the main focus of
the play, I think that Abigail plays an important role too. She is the
main instigator of the witchcraft accusations and she is the reason
for John and Elizabeth’s relationship to falter. Up until the end
Abigail’s character is extremely powerful, she has control over so
many people’s lives and she knows it. Abigail tries hard to split John
and Elizabeth up, she accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft so that she will
hang, and Abby then means to take Elizabeth’s place next to John.
However this does not happen, John is the only one who knows Abigail’s
evil ways and even thought he is being hanged because of her, he is
still standing his ground and not confessing to witchcraft, which
would only be a lie to get out of his punishment which he feels he
deserves. Abigail’s plan backfired on her, as she did not mean for
John to die.

Religion plays a very important part in this play as the whole
community of Salem is based upon the Ten Commandments (a theocracy) If
Salem wasn’t so religious the trials would have never gotten so out of
hand and would probably never of even started in the first place.

We can see that Arthur Miller had linked McCarthyism to his play, this
was an organisation called the House Un- American Activities Committee
who were constantly trying to seek out people who threatened the
safety of the state. The committee became so paranoid about communist
sympathisers that any person who made any sort of criticism towards
the government was seen as a communist and they would then ask them to
name the names of any other communists they knew. This is how
McCarthyism is linked to the play – there is a resemblance between the
way that the committee would ask for other communist names, and the
way that during the Salem trials any one found to be a witch would be
asked to name any other witches they knew of.

My conclusion is that I definitely think John and Elizabeth’s relation
ship was the main focus of the play, we can see how their relation
ship changes from Act 2 when they are arguing with each other, to Act
3 when Elizabeth tells the only lie she has ever told in her life to
defend John in court, to Act 4 when eventually they forgive each
other. We see how first of all Elizabeth holds the fact that John
committed adultery against him, and then, throughout the play, she
manages to see the good in him and defends him, and eventually
forgives him. We see how John is ashamed to admit his sin but then he
admits it, and is man enough to take the punishment and die an honest
man. I think Abigail’s role is equally as important as John’s and
Elizabeth’s as she is the villain of the play and I think that Arthur
Miller has linked his play to McCarthyism to show that even though two
hundred years have passed, not very much in the political side of
things, has changed.
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