Arthur Miller?S The Crucible Essay, Research Paper
I chose Arthur Miller’s The Crucible because of the plot’s dark history and suspense. Also because of the play’s reflection of McCarthyism. The so called “witch-hunts” for communist brought on by Senator Joseph.
The play is set in Salem, Massachusetts, 1692, where suspicions of witchcraft were floating around the town air. Act 1 starts out in early spring and ends in Act 4 when it is late fall. The play opens with Betty Parris sick in bed, and Reverend Parris tending to her, and wondering what made her so sick. Soon Abigail Williams saunters in, and through much probing, Reverend Parris eventually finds out that she, Tituba, Susanna Walcott and Betty were all involved together in a secret practicing of witchcraft. Abigail tells of a dance around a cauldron in the woods, and says that was all that happened. But, when Reverend Parris reveals how he was in the woods at that particular time, and saw the dances, Abigail gradually explains what went on, while leaving herself out as the main practitioner. She says she was forced into it all by the other girls and Tituba. Now the stage is set for a variety of unexpected accusations, scandals and tribulations.
The main characters are Abigial Williams, the “trouble maker” of the play, is the niece of Reverend Parris. Though only 13 years old she manages to get the whole village in an uproar. With the help of the other girls in the village, she fools the Salem council into thinking that the devil has inhabited certain citizens. Reverend Parris is the minister for Salem. He is a paranoid, power hungry man. He is more concerned about his reputation than his daughter and niece’s souls when the first rumors of witchcraft get under way. However, he quickly learns to take advantage of the witch craze for his own personal gain.
John Proctor had an affair with Abigail when she was his household servant. He hates hypocrisy, and his hidden sin causes him a great deal of moral anguish. He hesitates to expose Abigail as a fraud because he knows his own conscience is unclean. He does not try to expose her as a liar until it is too late. He is accused of witchcraft and convicted. He suffers a moral dilemma over the decision to confess or not to confess to witchcraft. He confessed his affair before Danforth and Hathorne because he refuses to allow his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, to suffer because of his wrongdoing. His dilemma regarding confession of witchcraft is the same: he does not want to save himself by sullying the good names of others.
Elizabeth Proctor is John Proctor’s wife. She fires Abigail when she discovered her husband was having a sexual affair with her. Abigail first becomes interested in witchcraft because she wants Tituba to concoct a charm to kill her. Abigail wants to take Elizabeth’s place as Proctor’s wife. Failing at that, Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft during the trials, hoping that Elizabeth will hang for the crime. Elizabeth is convicted of her crime, but her execution is delayed because she is pregnant. By the time she delivers, the craze has died down and her life is spared.
Tituba is Reverend Parris’s black slave from Barbados. She agrees to perform voodoo at the request of Abigail and Ruth’s mother. Parris catches her and the girls during a session which sparks the entire witch hunt craze.
Then at last is Marry Warren who is the servant for the Proctor household. At first, she is timid and easily ordered around by Proctor. After the trials start, she enjoys a position of power and authority and she defies Proctor’s right to order her around. But also gets caught in Abigails mind games.
I felt that a definite theme was diseption. Everyone in the village turned on each other, even own family members. Everyone had to watch their step or something so simple as cooking stew could send then straight to the gallows. Another was revenge. A lot of the people that found themselves on trial also found that the people accusing them of witchcraft, also had something against them or would profit from their execution.
In reality, the story of “The Crucible” is a recreation of certain events that went on during the early 1700’s. 19 men and women and 2 dogs were convicted and hanged for witchcraft in the small village in eastern Massachusetts. Because of dramatic purposes, some of the characters characteristics have been combined into one character. The number of people in certain scenes have been reduced. Only the main characters were kept to keep the point of the story stable. A majority of the main characters lived the same lives as told in the story, and unfortunately some died with the same label on their names.
For the set I wanted to make everything really simple and plain the represent how the villagers lives were before the trials. Also because the play was set in 1692, nothing was really modern or fancy, especially Puritans. Most of the furniture is wooden and I wanted to give the audience the feel of the time period. The colors I chose for the sets were mostly dark mahogany, rust reds, and faded grays.
For lighting I had wanted a soft light so shine on the set throughout the play. I didn’t want the light to be very bright, but slightly dim. In the ending scene of Act 1, I wanted to light to grow darker as the names of the “witches” were revealed. In Act 2 we are now in John Proctor’s home. There is a fire center right stage cooking stew. The fireplace would be setting off a warm orange glow across the room and various candles would be lit (Not actually. Candles with light bulbs is more like it, just for safety.).
The only lighting that would be in Act 3 is the hanging lantern upstage right. I felt that the less light we had in the scene the more people were trying to figure out what was going on, just like the people on trial. Finally Act 4, the Salem jail cell. The window of the cell is barred and I wanted a light blue light to peak through the window to represent the moon and night fall.
Act One opens up in the home of Reverend Parris. The only furniture in the scene is Betty’s bed, and bed side table, the table located upstage, and a large wooden chest. The only thing that would have any bright color would be Betty’s quilt, which is made up of patchwork of a variety of light blue to dark blue.
I made most of my set pieces different colors in the layout so that the whole drawing wasn’t the same shade of brown. On stage they will be the original color planned.
Act 2 is the home of the Proctors. A fire is burning and Elizabeth is heard upstairs singing to the children.
To make things easier I had most of the furniture in rollers to they could easily be moved during scene changes. Other things like chairs would be carried off by cast member after the act.
Act 3 is located in the Salem Meeting house where the selected members of Salem are put on trial. During the scenes of questioning I wanted the accused to face the audience as if they were being cast away from society.
Act 4 opens in the Salem jail. Sarah Good and Tituba are held in the cell. The only furniture in the cell are two wooden benches.
My costumes were very simple patterns with some small patterns. Each character would have the same costume throughout the whole play, and as the play proceeds the costumes of the accused would be worn and tattered to show how society had “ripped” them to shreds. The costume time periods ranged from 1660-1710 and also mirrored certain colonial eras.
The costume below is the main pattern for Reverand Parris. I was him as a man that was
trying to be sophisticated but not quite fitting in, so I clothed him in the 1660’s while everyone else is clothed in the up-to-date fashions. I wanted him to stay in the basic puritan color: black. The shirt would be white cotton because I couldn’t really see the Puritans getting exotic fabrics, so I costumed most of my characters in cottons.
John Proctor would have the same costume pattern but wouldn’t be as accessories. Instead of a cape he would have a long heavy wool coat, and I spared him of the hat. Again, John is in blacks and whites.
The next picture is to be Elizabeth Proctor’s dress. She seemed very delicate so I put her in whites and light blues and small patterns.
Then for Abigail, Marry Warren and Tituba, I stayed with a plain dress, under shirt, and over shirt. Abigail’s costume has some of the same color’s as Elizabeth’s to show their connection with John.
Marry Warren is in a forest green and pumpkin orange pattern. Tituba on the other hand is clothed in a black dress with a dark blue woven over shirt. I wanted to show that she was a servant and wasn’t clothed in the same clothes as her masters.
Last is sound. This play didn’t have any chances for back ground music except for the end of each act. The ending song for Act 1 is called “Pulse” which is performed by The Kroumata Percussion Ensamble located on the C.D. “The 2nd Construction”. It contains light xylophone, snare drum, timpani and bells. Act 2 opens with the living room and Elizabeth singing in the back ground. It also had a fire place so I wanted the sound of the fire crackling randomly through the scene. Then we hear the neighing of a horse and John proctor arrives.
Act 3 ends with the uproar from John proctor and I chose another piece from The Kroumata Percussion Ensamble entitled “Soldier’s Song” which is a series of drum rolls, base drum crashes and timpani rolls. Act 4 leads us to the jail cell where the fall moon is shining through the window and the sounds of frogs and crickets can be heard. The scene ends with John being taken away to the hallows. For this scene I wanted a constant percussion ensemble of sounds and to get increasingly louder as the curtain falls.
In my theater class I was given the assignment of having to write a critical review of the play “Steel Magnolias,” by Robert Harling. So on the Wednesday before the holiday weekend (Rosh-Ha-Shana) I decided to make the trip over to the Hand Chapel on the Mount Vernon Campus, to see this play that I had already convinced myself was going to be dreadful, or at least that was what I wanted myself to believe. It was for this reason that in the beginning I wanted to be over critical and to pick apart every little detail. There was only one problem, the fact I thought the play was absolutely terrific. The caliber of this play was far superior to that which I had expected. Although, there were a few minor complaints I did have they hardly took away from the overall production.
In my opinion, the most successful aspect in this play was the actresses, not just because they were good, but rather because they were incredibly believable. I did not feel that I was watching actors on the stage, rather that I was watching the lives of the six individuals unfold. They became their characters. A perfect example of this can be seen when Sabrina Hyman, who was playing the part of Truvy, was decorating the salon for Christmas and had to improv. While placing tinsel on the couch she was unable to keep it on the desired spot, because it kept falling off of the arm. Initially when she realized that the tinsel was not staying in its place she did not panic, as one would have thought. Instead she simply tried again, and then even a third time without showing any signs of a problem, she had to finally walk away without properly placing the tinsel where it should have been. This quick change in events did not throw her off in the least; she played it off like nothing was wrong. She played it off, as Truvy Jones would have in real life. Although I did feel that the acting in the play was truly amazing I did have two problems, and a couple of instances where I was given a reality check and reminded that it was just a play. My first complaint was that although Patricia Jenson and Jenny Towns did a terrific job, they were not able to play the part of elder women simply because of their age. Patricia Jenson who played, the oldest woman, Claree Blecher did an incredible job with her role. However, in my opinion, just did not have some of the same mannerisms that a woman of her age would have. Jenny Towns also did an absolutely terrific job, however there was one incident in particular that I had a problem with. During Shelby’s diabetic attack she did not show the concern that I felt a mother would have. Mothers and daughters have a special connection something that in my opinion cannot be duplicated by anyone else. This however only seemed to be a problem in this scene and I think it is because it was basically the only scene where they are together when feelings like are needed to be shown. It also could have been because it occurred early on in the production before her situation became serious. Although there were minor flaws in the performances of the actresses they did an incredible job bringing this production to life.
No matter how incredible an actor or actress is it is nearly impossible for a production to be brought to life if the visual aspect prevents it. This was not the case in this production. The Hand Chapel would be considered found space, in the aspect that it was never designed for this purpose. Aside from the fact that, the seating was uncomfortable, being an understatement they were able to create the look that I would picture when thinking of a southern salon. I was more than skeptical at first, I didn’t want to be there, was terribly uncomfortable after 2 minutes, and was just trying to figure out why the set looked like the outside of a house. The only solution that I was able to come up with was that they cheeped out, or just didn’t have the money in the first place. It wasn’t long before I found out why the set was like this; the salon was originally an outdoor garage, which was converted into the salon. Shortly after this I was proven wrong once again when I started to learn how much time was taken into set design. Everything down to the running water fit together perfectly, which enabled one to suspend their beliefs even further.
On the other hand, the running water could also be looked at as a distraction. Personally I did not feel that way however, my friend sitting next to me did not stop speaking about it for about five minutes, which in turn was a distraction to me. The only problem that I did have with the set was the dog barking and gunshots. In my opinion these sound effects were so artificial that I found this to be a tremendous distraction. During this part of the play I found myself paying attention to these terrible sounds only trying to find out why they were so bad and unrealistic rather than what was occurring at the time. This was my biggest problem with the play; I am not sure exactly why but it just really bothered me.
Another important aspect in producing a successful play is the costume design. In this production the clothes that they wore is what one would suspect, or at least what is pictured in my mind when I think of southerners. Coming from the New York area, the clothes that they wore seemed to suspend reality that extra step. On the other hand, when I think of the word southerner, simple is the first thing that comes to mind. Their makeup however, was not simple at all. I did not think that this harmed the production, it was just something that I had noticed.
I thought that this performance as a whole was absolutely incredible and I think that part of this can be attributed to the atmosphere that was created. I felt that I had become a part of their lives, and because of this I was able to relate with the message that they were trying to get across. In my opinion this was caused by the close quarters that the hand chapel lended itself to. I felt like I was forced to pay attention because if I didn’t the actresses would have known, and because I paid attention in the beginning, which allowed me to get into the play. Although the Hand Chapel was not chosen to be the location of the production, I feel a better place could not have been selected. In fact, I was shocked with what was accomplished. I went in thinking I was going to hate it, expecting a poorly designed set, costumes and acting. After all, before this the phrase a school production meant a waste of time, just because what I was forced to see in High School. All in all, I was overly taken in by the production, and thought it was amazing to see what college kids can do, despite the small number of complaints that I had.