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Revision Pointers for THE CRUCIBLE by Miller

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1 Revision Pointers for THE CRUCIBLE by Miller
One way to prepare for the exam is to ask yourself the question, “Which character is most to blame for the deaths in the play?”

2 The Characters The Putnams, Thomas and Ann
The Reverends, Hale and Parris The Proctors, John and Elizabeth Abigail Mary Tituba Giles Corey Judge(s) Danforth (and Hathorne)

3 How will you judge guilt?
Can you identify malice in a character’s actions/words? Is personal pride or another failing to blame? Is any violent action excusable for some reason? Can you link the play’s plot to the USA at the time of McCarthism & thus see Miller’s dramatic purpose i.e. to draw parallels ?

4 Elizabeth Proctor Elizabeth after 3 months of reflection admits that she was a cold wife: “It needs a cold wife to prompt lechery.” When John hopes that she will admit she knows of his adultery with Abigail she denies it and condemns John, but this was done unknowingly and John says, “She only thought to save my name.” Can we forgive her? “I counted myself so plain…no honest love could come to me. Suspicion kissed you when I did…” She has self-image issues, but John dies having made his peace with her.

5 John Proctor (the real one was an inn-keeper not a farmer.)
His lust leads him to adultery, and he condemns himself severely. ”God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat.” He is brutally honest about himself: “I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint……. I am no good man.” When he refuses to name others and Danforth sees that John’s confession is not real, merely a device to save his life, he will not lie. He goes to his death bravely saying, “….for now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor.”

6 Reverend Hale Hale himself says, ”Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own. I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved….and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up.” He was over-zealous and this allowed him to be swept up in the maelstrom of hate that gripped the village. Once Danforth arrives, it’s too late for Hale to stop what he helped to start. He said in court,”I have signed 72 death warrants. I am a minister of the Lord, & I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.” Judged by his OWN standard, he fails the test.

7 Rev. Parris Constantly talking about factions, the minister of the town, who should be a peace maker, is in fact a divider of people. His greed and desire not to be challenged lead him to see the trials as a means of removing those who oppose him. “You cannot hang this sort. There is danger for me. I dare not step out at night.” By the time of Proctor’s execution, many in the town have turned against Parris, who is voted from office at the end of the play and leaves, never to be heard of again. Miller punishes a greedy man by having Abigail rob him of all his savings!

8 Abigail She is an orphan whose parents were murdered by Native Americans. Has she been damaged by this? Is her life marked by a lack of love? (Look at her violent treatment of Betty.) She turns against Tituba, knowing her uncle will blame the black slave woman rather than his (white) niece. She controls Mary Warren and the others. In the “yellow bird” scene she forces Mary to return to her conspiracy and abandon Proctor: “I go your way no more!” She thus seeks to avoid all blame for drinking blood in the woods. John says, “And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir…..she thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave.” Finally she runs away, robbing her uncle, and, it is said, becomes a prostitute in Boston

9 The Putnams Ann, in particular, seems to need to blame someone for the death of her children. She is thus avoiding any blame herself, but we must ask if she was a good mother. Thomas is constantly at odds with neighbours about land. Corey claims that Thomas told his daughter to “…cry witchery upon George Jacobs that is now in jail,” & also, “This man is killing his neighbours for that land.” Miller tells us that many of the accusations were in the handwriting of Putnam. Does his greed make us judge him more harshly?

10 Danforth Determined to exercise power over the province, but his methods are causing violent reaction in Andover. Is he using the trials for his own political ends? Will not release Proctor even when Hale directly tells him the witchery charge is a lie! He says, ”I cannot pardon these when 12 are already hanged for the same crime. It is not just.” His idea of justice is odd, to say the least! He uses the idea that witchcraft is an invisible crime to remove the need for concrete evidence from the court. This innocent people are condemned on the “evidence” of the girls, controlled by Abigail. Hathorne seems to be very much his underling – agree?

11 Mary, Tituba & Giles Mary is a weak girl who fears social exclusion by Abigail’s group, “I cannot, they’ll turn on me!” Tituba seems to have been teaching the girls something of her Barbados culture in secret & so unwittingly opens up the whole fear of witchcraft. She is black and alien, so for the Pilgrims it’s easy to see her as an agent of the devil. After months of fear & imprisonment she seems to have lost her wits: “Take me home, Devil. Take me home!” Giles was cantankerous and surly, not an easy man to be around, and he foolishly causes the death of his wife by complaining about her books. His death, however, is heroic and, as always with him, the act of a unique personality. “ ‘More weight,’ he says. And died. Aye. It were a fearsome man, Giles Corey.”

12 So….who is more to blame? Miller is showing us that mass hysteria can be easily whipped up and used by unscupulous politicians for their own ends. Senator Joe McCarthy is the Danforth of his day, and Miller was one of those called to testify before him. The witchcraft of the 1950s was Communism. Ultimately, like Danforth, McCarthy was seen to be wrong, but not before many innocent people suffered. Tituba and Mary were weak and not in positions of power. Does that excuse them? John was a stubborn and proud man. Did that add to his troubles? Did he redeem himself by the end of the play? Elizabeth was a cold woman. Did she push John into Abigail’s embrace?

13 Who is more to blame? Hale was proud of his learning and over-confident in his abilities. At the end of the trials he quits the court, and when he returns to ask Goody Nurse, Rebecca Corey & John to confess it is to save their lives. They refuse to lie and he is faced with the wonder of people whose commitment is stronger than his own. Both ministers of God in this play are weak men, but Hale repents. Did Parris ever do so? Abigail is vicious to Mary, and wants her revenge on John for rejecting her. Perhaps she too is caught up in something bigger than she ever imagined it could become. She is afraid to tell the truth and runs away.

14 Society ? Any society which considers itself perfect is going to have problems dealing with its failings. It will either pretend they don’t exist, or else savagely seek to destroy them. There is no middle way. Miller is an American shining a critical light on his own country. That is the role of the artist down through the ages & criticism is part of the price. Although the Pilgrims’ “society” may be to blame, the individuals concerned still have to answer for their personal choices and actions. In the exam essay, YOU must decide you personal response.

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