The Crucible


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The Crucible

  1. 1. Key Stage 4 Literature “The Crucible” © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  2. 2. “The Crucible” - Introduction The Salem Witch-hunts “The Crucible” is set at the time of the Salem witch-hunts. These witch-hunts took place in America in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. In his play, Miller uses the events of the time, and many of the people originally involved. The story started with some dabbling in witchcraft by a small group of girls. The people believed that these girls were possessed by the devil, although nowadays we would probably describe their ailments as psychosomatic. Things then ran out of control until the jails were filled with people accused of witchcraft, and twenty people were hanged. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  3. 3. “The Crucible” - Introduction Puritan SocietyIn order to understand the events of “The Crucible”, it isimportant to look at exactly what the Puritans of Salem werelike. The town of Salem was originally founded by thePilgrim fathers, Puritans who had left England in order topractise their religion.The Puritans had very strict moral codes, and it is likely thatthese contributed to the girls’ experimentation in the forest.On the next slide you will find examples of some of the rulesthat the Puritans followed. Think carefully about how theserules might have affected young girls like those found in“The Crucible”. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  4. 4. “The Crucible” - Introduction The Puritan Moral Code • Plain clothes must be worn. • Wigs, decoration and make up are not allowed. • Swearing, gambling and drinking are forbidden, and will be punished. • Sundays are a day of rest, with no sport or work allowed. • Theatres and other types of entertainment are banned. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  5. 5. “The Crucible” - Introduction The Title At first glance, the title appears to have little connection with the play. It is only when you read the definition of the word crucible, that you see exactly why Miller chose to name his play in this way. Crucible: Vessel in which metals can be heated. With heating, any impurities are burnt away from the pure element. In Miller’s play, the character of John Proctor is tested. Eventually he decides to sacrifice his life, rather than betray his beliefs. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  6. 6. “The Crucible” - Introduction Studying a Play Studying a play is very different from looking at a novel or a poem. Before you start to analyse “The Crucible” in detail, here are some points that you should remember: • A play is written to be performed. When you read any play, you should remember this, and try to visualise the actors and the stage in your head. If possible, go to see a live performance of the play. • The playwright will usually include stage directions, often written in italics, to give the director information about how to stage the play. • The stage directions will also give the actors guidance about how to play their characters. • In this case, Miller also includes a great deal of background information about his characters and their roles in the history of Salem. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  7. 7. “The Crucible” - Act One Setting the SceneRe-read the stage directions given before the play starts(p.1). Miller takes great care to ‘set the scene’ before theplay opens. He gives detailed information about thestage furniture, and also about the ‘look’ of the roomwhere the action takes place. He also tells the reader /director about the lighting that should be used.On the next slide you will find a picture taken from aproduction of “The Crucible”. Try to identify all thedifferent things that Miller describes. Is there anythingmissing from the stage? What lighting is being used? © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  8. 8. “The Crucible” - Act One Setting the Scene © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  9. 9. “The Crucible” - Act One Puritan CostumeThe Puritans wore very plain clothes, a fact that reflectstheir society very clearly. As we have already seen, thePuritans followed a very strict moral code, and thisextended to the way that they dressed.On the next slide you will find a picture of Abigail, takenfrom a production of the play. She is wearing clothes that aPuritan woman might typically have worn.Notice how the director of this production has used a verysharply contrasting black and white costume, whereas inreality the clothes would have become quite dirty and worn. Why do you think the director might have done this? Whatmight the black and white colours symbolise? © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  10. 10. “The Crucible” - Act One Puritan CostumeWhite bonnet,shawl and apron Demure posture, hair tied neatly back The black and white could symbolise the Plain black dress sharply defined moral code of the Puritans, and their rigid definition of good and evil. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  11. 11. “The Crucible” - Act One ParrisFull Name: Reverend Samuel ParrisAge: Mid fortiesOccupation: Reverend (minister) for the town of SalemRelatives: Daughter, Betty Parris, age tenPersonality:• Very defensive of his position in Salem.• Fearful and paranoid that his enemies want to overthrowhim.• Deferential to those people he views as ‘important’, suchas Thomas Putnam. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  12. 12. “The Crucible” - Act One HaleFull Name: Reverend John HaleAge: Nearly fortyOccupation: Reverend (minister) in BeverlyRelatives: UnknownPersonality:• He sees himself as an authority on the work of the devil.• Has a love of intellectual pursuit and books.• Essentially an outsider here, but one whose knowledgeon religious matters is greatly respected by the people inSalem. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  13. 13. “The Crucible” - Act TwoProctorFull Name: John ProctorAge: Mid thirtiesOccupation: FarmerRelatives: Wife, Elizabeth; three sonsPersonality:• Quick to anger, but kind and eager to please his wife.• Judgemental, especially of himself and his adultery.• Prone to lapses of judgement, but keen to do the right thing.• Strong sense of right and wrong, he develops a great dealduring the play. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  14. 14. “The Crucible” - Act TwoElizabethFull Name: Elizabeth ProctorAge: Unknown, probably early thirtiesOccupation: Mother, Farmer’s wifeRelatives: Husband, John Proctor; three sonsPersonality:• Calm and gentle, but with a fierce inner strength.• Loyal to her husband, but finds it hard to forgive hisadultery.• Apprehensive about discussing Salem’s problems withJohn, but has the strength of character to do so. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  15. 15. “The Crucible” - Act Two MaryFull Name: Mary WarrenAge: SeventeenOccupation: The Proctors’ Serving GirlRelatives: UnknownPersonality:• Naïve and lacking in self confidence.• Frightened of Abigail, but her character grows throughoutthe play. Eventually she tries to challenge her, but fails.• Highly emotional and easily led by others. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  16. 16. “The Crucible” - Act Two Sub Text• Sub text describes the technique whereby a playwrightgives characters (usually in a play) a hidden agenda, onethat is not immediately apparent from what they say.• Sub text means literally what is ‘below’ the text, theunspoken things that may be communicated through bodylanguage, or tone of voice, or facial expression.• Sub text will affect the way a character behaves,especially if he or she wants their secret to remain hidden.• Sub text may be hidden from the other characters andfrom the audience. If the audience knows the sub text, thisis called dramatic irony. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  17. 17. “The Crucible” - Act Two Dramatic Irony• Dramatic irony describes the technique whereby theaudience knows something that the characters (or most ofthem) do not.• Dramatic irony increases the tension for the audience,because we are waiting to find out what will happen. Ourforeknowledge involves us intensely in the story.• In Act Two of “The Crucible”, dramatic irony is created.We (the audience) know that John has seen Abigail alone.We therefore feel tense, waiting for Elizabeth to find out.• In addition, the audience has seen Abigail and the girlsdiscussing what has happened. Only we have seen this. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  18. 18. “The Crucible” - Act Three Power In this early American society, the ownership of land was of huge importance. The power struggles over land play a central part in the plot against Proctor and Giles. This is apparent early on in the play, when Giles and Thomas Putnam nearly come to blows. Danforth and Hathorne are both powerful men, whose reputations are enhanced by their involvement in the trials. Women in this society have relatively little power. Look at the way even Elizabeth defers to her husband. By leading the accusations of witchcraft, Abigail gains attention and consequently power because her claims are believed. In addition, she hopes to gain greater power over John, by ‘disposing’ of Elizabeth. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  19. 19. “The Crucible” - Act Three Status Status means the amount of power a person or character has within a society or within a certain situation. Status can be earned or gained in various ways. Some people naturally have a high status, perhaps because of their role in life. For instance, the majority of people would defer to the Queen or the Prime Minister and view them as being of very high status. Similarly, in our society we think of famous people as being of high status and would treat them deferentially if we met them. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  20. 20. “The Crucible” - Act Three Status • Gender: In this society, men are have a great deal more status than women. • Wealth: The more money a man has, the more status he gains. Look at what John Proctor says about Parris’s “golden candlesticks”. • Occupation: Being a minister in this deeply religious society confers a great deal of status. Look at the way Hale is treated when he first arrives. Similarly, the judges, Danforth and Hathorne, are high status characters, whose authority would not normally be questioned. • Age: The young girls have a very low status in this society, and by becoming accusers, they increase their status and consequently their power. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  21. 21. “The Crucible” - Act Four Themes in “The Crucible”In Act Four, the themes of “The Crucible” are developedand brought to their logical conclusions.• Witchcraft: Despite Abigail’s disappearance, it is too latefor the court to turn back. In “Echoes Down the Corridor”,Miller explains the events that took place afterwards.• Revenge: Ironically, Abigail’s desire to get rid ofElizabeth, results in John’s death.• Love: John, Elizabeth, Giles, Francis and Rebecca allremain consistent in their love throughout the play.• Power: By the end of the play, Parris is a broken,powerless man, while John has proved his true power. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  22. 22. “The Crucible” - Act Four Courage : The WomenElizabeth Proctor and Rebecca Nurse demonstratecourage throughout the story, remaining constant in theirstrength of character. From the very start, Elizabeth showscourage in her interactions with the men around her.Rebecca has no fears about standing up for what she seesas right.Mary Warren eventually finds the courage to stand up forwhat is right, and denounce Abigail as a liar. However, shelacks strength of character, and eventually wilts under theforce of Abigail’s attack on her. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  23. 23. “The Crucible” - Act Four Courage : The Men In the final act, we learn that Giles has paid a heavy price for his courage. His death seems almost an act of redemption for the words that he spoke against his wife earlier in the play. He dies in the most horrible circumstances, pressed to death with great stones. By remaining silent, he allows his sons to inherit his land. John only finds his courage right at the end of the play. He is a deeply flawed man, and all the more believable for it. Elizabeth knows that he will be unable to live with himself if his conscience is not clear. It is only when John realises that he must denounce others to save himself that he finds the courage of his convictions and dies for them. © Boardworks Ltd 2001
  24. 24. “The Crucible” - Act Four The Structure of the PlayThe play is very carefully structured, both as a whole, andwithin each act.• Act One: The hysteria takes hold, as the girls panic aboutwhat they have done.• Act Two: The accusations spread, finding their way to theProctors’ house.• Act Three: The results of the hysteria are felt within thesociety. At this point, there is no turning back.• Act Four: The aftermath of the accusations becomesapparent and the outcome seems inevitable. © Boardworks Ltd 2001