The Crucible is a play by Arthur Miller, written in 1953 and it explains the Salem witches of 1692. Reverend Paris comes across some girls dancing in a forest who suggest that they have been bewitched. An extraordinary court does investigations on these claims. Hundreds of people residing in Salem are blamed for witchcraft. The crucible is very relevant and necessary in the current times, as it is a reflection of the society to its citizens (Mason, 660). This reflection is regardless of the nation or community in which the play is staged. There are some matters in the play that we still face in today’s world. The play is based on historical happenings that are manifested in Salem. The purpose of this essay is to display and educate my readers on the irony and hysteria that can arise from people who think presume that as “normal” for a society based on Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible.
Hysteria is an uncontrollable excitement or emotion in a group of people. In this play, the author applies hysteria from the start to indicate that it results in lies, ruined reputations, and hurt. “Proctor, you mistake me, I am not empowered to trade your life for a lie.” The person in charge of the town assumes everyone is guilty because he thinks Proctor is lying. The power of communal hysteria is overwhelming as it increases the effect of the small voiced opinions in that village. In Act 1, Abigail is blamed for witchcraft but points an accusing finger to Tituba to avert the punishment (Judith, 56). The citizens are willing to accept that they are slaves and beggars; nobody suspects that the complainants are lying -mainly because they are viewed innocently. Eventually, the court harshly persecutes those who have been presented before them as suspects. Hysteria makes the citizens’ reasoning shallow because they are convinced that there is a big satanic plot in the community and they must condemn everyone who is suspected to be involved. In Act 2, there are approximately forty individuals who are accused. The majority of the citizens confess if threatened and this only makes everyone more paranoid. The authorities neglect any unusual objections to the trials, as they are engrossed in the madness. The atmosphere is filled with hysteria and drama, which leads people to increase their fear of witchcraft. Every improper confession is regarded as evidence and as the confessions increase, the hysteria increases. Additionally, the finding of the poppet with a needle placed in it is also enough proof. The court disregards Elizabeth’s side of the story, as the story of Abigail is much more dramatic. “She sat to dinner, within Reverend Parris’s house, and with no warning, she fell to the door”. Reverend says that Abigail screamed so loud that a bull could hear. The notion that a family spirit, belonging to the witch can stab people was too terrifying to anyone superstitious. Therefore, the people of Salem instantly believed Abigail. Not one single person gave Mary a listening ear on how she stuck that needle all by herself. In this situation, the most credible person is the one who can yell the loudest.
In Act 3, hysteria is evident when John eventually decides to confront the court officials. Danforth shocks everyone with his comments about the conduction of the trials. He insists that the only sufficient evidence is the testimonies given by the victims. He is very aware that the victims might be telling lies (Henry, 140). The people of Salem fear a lot about doubting and challenging the court that they would rather assume any defenses offered. Throughout the play, nobody thinks of an ulterior motive. Hysteria reaches its peak when Mary cannot faint in a court environment. She believes that she has seen spirits before and that she is too caught up in the misconceptions of her surroundings. Abigail averts the judges’ attention and this only proves more fear.
Arthur Miller uses dramatic and situational irony to illustrate corruption, flaws, and differences between leaders and followers. “Proctor, the village must have proof.” This is when Proctor confesses adultery but when the court tells him to sign, he refuses. In this play, the irony is evident as characters who think that they are battling Satan’s work are performing these acts themselves. The witches have been handled harshly yet the results are completely different. Instead, there is more fear, paranoia, and chaos, which is the exact opposite of the reasons behind the accusations. The court tries to maintain morality through arrests and executions of the blamed witches. Ironically, these executions only lead to the elimination of the virtuous people in the town. The accused are mostly people who refuse to give false accusations as they end up being accused instead. For instance, the fate of Rebecca –nurse. As a result, most of the individuals who remain in town are cowards, selfish, or have a hunger for power. In Act 1, there are many ironies (William J, 260). While Abigail is having a conversation with John, she claims that John assisted her release everything that people in the town had been lying about. The irony is that given John’s denial, the girls come up with her lies. Abigail acts fake to have what she desires. Hale also purposely makes ironic remarks when he states the investigations. He says that people should not just assume things because of superstition. He is sure that an inquiry that is based on reality and factual statements can be held to detect witches. This is ironic as the main cause of a disease is mainly superstitious. In Act, three Hale keeps making ironic remarks on the existence of witchcraft. He advocates that no one should take the life of a witch without immaculate proof. This immaculate proof is the one that caused him to approve many death warrants of people looking for revenge. When Abigail is called in for questioning, she claims that Mary is envious of her. She is so jealous of Elizabeth that she attempts to murder her through words and accusations.
I can link the motifs of irony and hysteria to the United States in the 1950s, but in the place of witchcraft, it was socialism and communism (Henry, 142). Anyone who adhered to the communist laws and applied the first amendment law to deliver their ideas was discriminated against, and this led to hysteria among the citizens. Even if it was a lie that they were communists, they could be punished similarly to the Salem witches.
Popkin, Henry. “Arthur Miller’s” The Crucible”.” College English 26.2 (1964): 139-146.
McGill, William J. “The Crucible of History: Arthur Miller’s John Proctor.” The New England Quarterly 54.2 (1981): 258-264.
Mason, Jeffrey D. “Arthur Miller’s Ironic Resurrection.” Theatre Journal (2003): 657-677.
Cerjak, Judith A. “Beware the Loss of Conscience:” The Crucible” as Warning for Today.” The English Journal 76.5 (1987): 55-57.