Compare the social standing of the two main female characters :
• Elizabeth – farmer’s wife, mother of three, covenanted Christian, respected upright member of the community
• Abigail – orphan, lower social status, dismissed from the Proctor’s, soiled reputation
LINKED BY ONE MAN – JOHN PROCTORRoles in the play – essentially good vs evil.
Miller explores human behaviour in The Crucible and how dark desires and hidden agendas are played out.
Abigail seizes the opportunity to try to take Elizabeth’s place, her husband and social status.
She lies, manipulates and even goes as far as self-mutilation and murder (by falsely accusing people) to achieve her goals.
• poppet/needle• false accusations “I saw Sarah Good with the Devil…”
• liar – “an endless capacity for dissembling”
• she claims to go to God, “I want the light of God” yet is the root of evil in Salem
Elizabeth is a good Christian woman who wants to protect her family. She goes as far as telling lies (commiting a sin) to protect her husband
DANFORTH “Is your husband a lecher ? “
ELIZABETH(faintly) No Sir.”
She finds it hard to forgive John for his adultery but at the end finds forgiveness in her heart and even blames herself, “it were a cold house I kept”.
She stands by her husband’s decision to tear up his confession at the end and go to the gallows because she knows he cannot lose his name and honour, in the eyes of God, his family and the community
“He have his goodnessnow. God forbid I take it from him.”
Abigail represents the dark side of human nature and the Proctors represent the individual integrity which Miller shows is needed to fight against such evil. The fact that Elizabeth is pregnant represents hope for the future at the end. This mirrors certain prominent Americans who dared to stand firm in spite of the pressure being exerted during theMcCarthy trials.
How are “the little crazy children jangling the keys of the kingdom” ?
The crazy little children refers to the girls, controlled by Abigail.
The keys to the kingdom represent the power they wield over Salem, the kingdom.
The jangling implies that this is an ostentatious, abusive and blatant misuse of power.
In a theocracy such as Salem, power lies first and foremost in thehands of the Church, parish officials. State institutions such as the legal courts and judges also have power.
Abigail and the girls, on the other hand, have absolutely no power. They are young and from low social situations for the majority – servant girls.
Abigail even has a soiled reputation, although she denies it.
“There be no blush about my name.”
Abigail takes control, manipulating thegirls, her uncle and even the Court in order to take Elizabeth’s place.
Although she tells Parris, “It were only sport Uncle!” and Proctor about Betty, “She took fright is all”, she seizes the opportunity created bt Tituba’s fear-induced confession to cry witchcraft and give herself the leading role.
“I want to open myself!”
Abigail manipulates the girls and maintains control through fear,threats, false accusations, the power of mass hysteria and even self-mutilation.
Quotes and examples :
She threatens Danforth, “Let you beware Mr Danforth” in Act III
the yellow bird she pretends to see
“I saw Sarah Good with the Devil !”
When it becomes clear that she will not achieve her aims, she throws down the keys and flees the kingdom, accompanied by Mercy Lewis andher uncle’s savings.
In The Crucible, Miller shows us how a climate of fear, distrust and hysteria can be used by certain people to fulfil their own darker desires and aims, similar to the atmosphere in the USA during the McCarthy trials where certain people exerted similar power. We could also refer to certain child abuse cases over the last few years in Europe.
The madness ends when...