The Crucible is a play written by Arthur Miller, one of the leading American playwrights of the twentieth century, in 1952. It is based on the events surrounding the 1692 witch trials of Salem. Arthur Miller wrote the play to show the similarities between the unfair witch trials in Salem and the Second Red Scare during the 1950s. Like the witches on trial in Salem, Communists were viewed as a danger to society. This then leads to the naming of names where accusations were made without the basis of proof. In the play, Miller shows people accusing each other falsely to save themselves from the high court of Salem. To him, only those who refused to help even to the point of death hold onto their honour and sense to die as a martyr.
The play’s main themes are truth, justice, hysteria and reputation, and the key characters that represent these themes are John Proctor, Elizabeth Proctor, Judge Danforth, Reverend Hale and Reverend Parris. In this essay, I will be focusing on how the different characters all have different views of truth and justice. As The Crucible is a tragedy, John Proctor is considered to be the play’s tragic hero. This gives the idea that he might have his bad side, but he is also better than the others because he stands up for the truth, making him the hero of the play. He is an honest character who is willing to speak up to give his views, which makes him dangerous, according to Judge Danforth and Reverend Parris. ”Excellency, since I came to Salem, this man is blackening my name.”(Parris, Act III). This also shows how much Parris is concerned about his reputation rather than the witch hunt as was previously believed.
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Proctor is a good man, but he has a dark secret. He has once shared an affair with Abigail Williams, who then worked for him and his wife. Suspicion concerning the matter caused Elizabeth Proctor to dismiss Abigail from the household and created jealousy that sets the whole hysteria in process. John Proctor’s character is driven by the truth even if he has committed the sin of adultery, which makes him feel like a fraud, and he finds it difficult to live with himself. That is why he is prepared to admit his sin to save others from the terrible fate that awaits. In Act 4, Proctor is confused about what the truth is. ”It is evil. Good, then – it is evil, and I do it!”. In this act, Miller shows how Proctor is battling with his inner self. But Miller also uses his character to represent the struggle of the individual against an unjust authority. Should he confess to being a witch and get his life back, or should he die to prove his innocence?
He chooses to lie and sign the piece of paper to have his life back but then realizes that his personal integrity and his name are worth more than that. He would rather die than tell a lie. He also feels like he has let down his friends. His beliefs morally strengthen him to preserve the honesty of Rebecca Nurse and put an end to the lies created by the Puritan child. ”Beguile me not! I blacken all of them when this is nailed to the church the very day they hang for silence!” He then sacrifices himself for his beliefs and the truth, and Miller uses this act of goodness to show the audience that Proctor is a good man. ”Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it,” Elizabeth says that to Proctor to show how deep her love for him is. She supported him and still believes he is a good man even after finding the truth about John’s affair.
Elizabeth Proctor is the wife of John Proctor, and they are both devoted to justice and principles. Throughout the play, she is a character that dramatically changes the audience’s perception from a cold, bitter woman to a tender loving wife. Elizabeth is a model Christian and stays by John even after knowing about his affair with Abigail. She is considered one of the most religious people in the play, but she lies in court to protect her husband’s reputation and her family. This instantly shows to the audience that she loves her husband very dearly, but she also feels that she was the one to push him to infidelity. ”I never knew how I should say, my love. It was a cold house I kept!” She feels guilty about what had happened. Her love and understanding for John are obvious in the last act when she leaves him to make his own decision over whether or not he should confess. She certainly recognizes that he will not be able to live with the decision to confess, but she allows him to come to his own realization of this.
The truth drives Elizabeth’s character because even when John decided he would not lie to save himself, she supported him even though she knew that she would lose her husband. She feels that if he must redeem himself in this way, she cannot take that away from him. ”He has his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” Thomas Danforth is the presiding Judge at the witch trials in Salem. He represents both the authority of the law and the church within the community. He is very religious and believes in having the holy duty to wipe out witches in Salem. Danforth is a stern but fair judge who is not looking for blood just for the sake of it. He seeks truth and justice and is not in the least worried about his reputation, unlike Reverend Parris. But, he would never allow the work of the court to be questioned.
Despite this, he seems very willing to work with the accused and genuinely wants them to confess and save their souls. His character does not change much during the play, but he is sometimes blinded by justice and his belief in God that he thinks he cannot go wrong. ”The pure in heart need no lawyers.” Judge Danforth is not the villain; he is just desperate for justice to be done and for the witch trials to be over. ”It is not just” suggests that he is a fair person looking for justice. ”I am not empowered to trade your life for a lie”, ” I will not deal in lies, Mister!” These tell us that Danforth lives his life by the theocracy. Miller uses these lines as dramatic irony as it is exactly what Judge Danforth is doing; punishing the innocent for a lie that the girls have told.
Reverend John Hale is a young minister who is known to be an expert on witchcraft. He is very naï¿½ve and is driven by justice, although he later regrets it and attempts to save the lives of the accused. Hale was the one to put the hysteria into motion as he arrived with his books ready to find the presence of witchcraft in Salem. Hale experiences a transformation more remarkable than any other character over the course of the play. As he listens to John Proctor and Mary Warren, he is convinced that they are telling the truth and Abigail is lying. But then he realizes that the trials are no longer in his hands but rather in those of the theocracy. He then comes to accept the horror of what he actually started and faces the consequences.
Towards the end of the play, he returns to Salem, a desperate man. He pleads with the accused, asking them to lie to save their lives as he feels guilty and responsible for their fates. ”There is blood on my head!” He has seen the truth but too late, and he has also lost faith in the law. He works tirelessly to try and put things right, but it is an impossible task. Miller uses Reverend Hale as a dramatic device to portray the tragedy. Hale does not really get the audience’s respect as he insists upon surrender rather than standing up for what you believe in. Rebecca Nurse is used in the play to influence the characters. She was the one that changed John’s decision as she stands up for what she believes in. She is one of Salem’s most noble and respected people and a true representation of the truth. Rebecca Nurse is the clear martyr in the play as she was the purest character hanged for witchery.