Discuss about the Dramatic Monologue for American Playwright Arthur Miller.
The Crucible is popular drama by American playwright Arthur Miller and deals with the infamous Salem witch trials which took place in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during the period 1962-93. The play is a tragedy with its central action revolving around the character John Proctor and how he is shown to prefer hanging to confess his role in the ongoing witchcraft in the village. The plot of the story revolves around the erstwhile illicit affair of the protagonist with his former maid, Abigail Williams. Proctor has moved forward from the love affair though Abigail was still enamored by his former master. After learning of the love affair, Proctor’s wife, Elizabeth sends Abigail away and this incident gives rise to the central action of the drama. Abigail and some other girls go for dancing in the woods and when people accuse them of witchcraft, Abigail names other villagers including Elizabeth of inducing them to deal with the Devil. Proctor tries to save his wife by confessing his love affair to disclose Abigail’s evil intention and hence is sentenced to hang. When he learnt that confession would tarnish the image of his family, he stands as guilty and is hanged with the other convicted witches.
The play itself is an allegory and symbolic of the anti-Communist “witch-hunts” of the 1950s. The term “McCarthyism” was termed during this era to mock the anti-Communist pursuits of the Republican U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. The dramatist, Arthur Miller, was also interrogated for his supposed “Un-American” activities.
Parris: “Lord my God, if I have done this and there is guilt on my hands- if I have repaid my ally with evil or without cause have robbed my foe- then let my enemy pursue and overtake me; let him trample my life to the ground and make me sleep in the dust”….oh Betty my Betty.. You had given me such a fright! I knew I could not trust that slave from Barbados. Her very dark color recalls to my mind Satan incarnate himself. Devil under my very own roof! Abigail was at the root of all these evils. I should have taken by the hair and brought her to senses when I saw her at the woods. Only the Devil runs amok at such a deadly hour of the night. When I asked Abigail about the dancing, how she told me it was just dancing. Dancing at midnight! I knew she did something to my Betty. Oh my Betty! My dear child! Never did she harm a little insect in her life and she dares mess with her innocent babe mind! (shaking and crying) I saw her with my own eyes. She lay like the dead children of Goody Putman (Bless their souls!) and the more Abigail shook her, the more frightened my heart grew.
Hence I called Reverend John Hale for he is the only one who can hold the beacon in this night full of darkness. He is the only person who can help me get my child back from the clasp of Devil. How dare he challenge me in my house! I cannot tolerate such impure thoughts and creatures cross the threshold of my sacred house. Abigail should be punished but to what effect? My own folks engaged in the witchcraft! All the villagers look upon me with such rage in their eyes as if they would be glad to get rid of me. They looked hard even when I went to ask for the deed of the house. Cannot they allow a poor follower of the Lord stay under a roof and ask for its assurance? But I have a duty to my people, to my church. Greatness thrusts itself on me and I have to answer it. I went down to sing to my Lord the Psalms and I sang for the purification of all of Salem. “Today the storm clouds gather all around us. Sin and sorrow meet on every hand, but I’m thinking of that day when He says, “Child, come away”, and He reaches His hand down for me. I’m going up, up, up to be with Jesus…” And then we heard that shrill sound which pierced the hearts of those who gathered around the Shepherd to ask for forgiveness. It blew the wind out of our lungs and broke the blue stillness of the sky to pieces! My Betty! I rushed up to reach out to my child. Thomas and Goody Putman and so many others rushed up with me but how they wrangled and wrangled for the land deeds.
I realized at that moment how I hated Proctor from the depth of my heart. That “strong-willed beast of a man” had had enough run of the village instigating people against me. Who is he but a farmer with a book in his hand and I am a Harvard graduate! I have left my business which gave me more than I wanted just to serve my Lord and he dared to question my intention? My lord, were you taking a trial of mine to test my love and my dedication for you? I knew he ran campaigns in the village to uproot me and to place him in this pious alter. He had gathered enough followers to get me out of the village where I have dedicated my whole life to serve my people. But I was so shocked when I saw that Giles refused to be with Proctor and we all knew why. He and Proctor had been involved in the court proceedings. However, Proctor did go against me and he spoke of the “smell” of my authority”! he did not even baptize his second son and he told me that I was the reason why he did not come to the Church!
Mr. Hale had done his best to uncover the mystery that shrouded our peaceful Salem and my poor Betty. He asked Tituba and Abigail about the dancing. Everything hangs on that dancing that I saw in the woods. Tituba and Abigail just kept blaming each other and what do they say? Abigail drank blood? They behaved like Devil had bewitched them and they were dancing to the tune of Satan. Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good were called witches by Tituba and Abigail. They also named Bridget Bishop and my Betty named George Jacobs. I could not then imagine when the turmoil would end in our village!
But Proctor was changed by the grace of the Lord and for the sake of Elizabeth. She was pregnant and Proctor did not know that. I could not believe him at first. There was pandemonium everywhere. What has come over the villagers these days! And then Proctor claims that my niece was a whore and she wanted to murder goody Proctor! I could not believe my ears when Proctor made that claim. The man changed a lot over the past few months and I was so relieved when the trials were finally coming to an end. I could no longer afford to see my Betty in that condition any more. I told him give me a list of names who had dared to trade with the devil. But he refused! No wonder I hated him so much. I was so near ridding this village of the wizardry and witchcrafts and I would not let Proctor stand in my way.
I cannot understand- what is the man made of? Why didn’t Proctor call the witches to the dock? Why is he selling his soul to the Devil himself? He had done a great job by giving himself up. God had finally bestowed upon us bountiful grace. I wanted to put up the notice stating that Proctor had confessed his crime. But he left the world without doing so. And my niece Abigail robbed me of all of my money. She betrayed me. She betrayed all of us. And the villagers voted me out. And so the judgment was passed and I am sent away from everything that I held dear in my life- my love for Lord and my wish to remain at the service of the people.
People said we made a mistake in the trials. We have condemned the innocent and let the wicked run free. If that is the case then I must raise my hands and sing “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.”
The play ends on a tragic note with the death of the protagonist and the realization of the judges that the decision taken by them was wrong. Parris was voted out of the office and Abigail was said to have turned up as a prostitute in Boston. Innocent people were hanged and the wicked escaped the hands of justice. The government acknowledged the error in judgment and compensated the victims who suffered as a result of the trials. The judges themselves asked for forgiveness. The issue regarding the ownership of lands also apparently ended. Elizabeth Proctor had married again a few years later. As the playwright himself states- “the power of theocracy in Massachusetts was broken.”
In the terms of Arthur Miller, the Crucible is taken from history. A few adjustments were made in the play for the sake of making sense of certain incidents in the play. The age of Abigail was increased whereas the age of Proctor was decreased. This was done to justify the illicit love affair going on between the two. In real life, Parris had left Salem in the year1697 after finding life terrible in Salem. In all probability, he returned to business in Boston in the year 1967. He had preached in several places like Stow and Dunstable before dying in Sudbury on February 27, 1720.
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