Characterization of Morality and Values in Arthur Miller's Play "The Crucible"

John Proctor's Search for Identity and His 'Self'

Hausarbeit, 2013

18 Seiten


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Characterizations
2.1 ReverendSamuelParris
2.2 Abigail Williams
2.3 Elizabeth Proctor
2.4 DeputyGovernor Danforth

3. John Proctor as the Protagonist
3.1 John Procor's Search for His 'Self

4. Conclusion

5. Works Cited


In The Crucible (1953), a four-act play, Miller’s scene is Salem, Massachusetts in the year 1692 ad the action is based on the witchcraft trials of that time. In “A Note on the Historical Accuracy of This Play,” Miller says: “This play is not history in the sense [...] used by the academic historian,” for “dramatic purposes” prompted certain changes in the record. Nevertheless, Miller believes the “reader will discover here the essential nature” of the Salem trials (Miller, in: Murray: 1967, p. 52).

This quote describes the truth in an appropriate short way. The following analysis of the main characters has not the aim to offer the reader a n adequate historical overview, nor to work as an outline to present the details of the people who lived in Salem in 1692. The aim is in fact to characterize and interpret the protagonists, as Miller did it in his day, and through this, to expose the development of their sense of morality and their pursuit of freedom, especially of John Proctor. To reach that aim the focus will be on John Proctors internal state of mind concerning his contradictory behavior. This means his strengthening of his will and his conviction of what is wrong and right. The reader will find a development of his comprehension of his ’self1 among emotional alterations, which matters a lot in Miller’s dramas, as much as social behavior and religious crises. Those crises start a chain of events, which do most notably peak in Proctor’s quest for identity and the dramatic finding of it.

Through information given in the dialogues in Miller’s play The Crucible will the reader be told about the answers to the question, what the influences were that the main characters had on John Proctor. After the analysis of the protagonists a special analysis of John Proctor takes place which has the aim to describe his search for identity and resume and evaluate it in a conclusion in the end. Due to the mentioned focus on the finding of Proctor’s ’self! there will be no explicit study of historical backgrounds of the Salem witchcraft trials per se. And due to the lack of space in this study will there be no further analysis of further plays of Miller or his way of narrating plays in general. The the text will shortly be about characterizations of the main roles in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, with focus on John Proctor’s view of morality and his ’self’. And a conclusion. As Bigsby (2005: p. 158) said before: “The Crucible is both an intense psychological drama and a play of epic proportions.”


The following characterizations are based on Miller’s information given by his own insight and intentions. It’s mainly referring to information gathered from reading, not from being participant in a stage performance. Characters are displayed by what they say, and how they say it; by what they do in specific circumstances; and by what, and how, others say about them colored and prejudiced perhaps by particular emotions and relationships. Thus are they built up, in the round, peace-meal: on the stage or in the movies, as we see them act and re-act, we gain insights into “what makes them tick”, what makes them who and what they are, how they appear to themselves and others. All the time it is important keep an eye on their behavior and development of their self,which they have in the end, especially John Proctor, the protagonist of the play. Others are not so important to be characterized, but that is mentioned more specific in the end of this chapter by summarize the minor parts.

Reverend Samuel Parris

There is very little good to be said for him. Parris, the middle-aged Salem pastor, is unloved and surly unlovable, frightened and indecisive in temperament. A one-time merchant, and the sole slave-owner of the area, he has come late into the ministry, and ought never to have done so at all: he does not understand children and the restrictive influences of rigid Puritanism on growing adolescent minds and bodies, and he believes that adults can be held to God by threats of hell-fire and eternal damnation. At the outset his greatest concern is less for the health of his young child than that the “abominations” done in the forest may backlash upon his status and presence in the community, with which he is deeply at variance. This makes him servile to such malicious elders as he Putnams, who are a force in the town and in local politics, averse to Parris’ original election to office. He is easily outwitted in argument with the shrewd and shrewish Abigail: he is petty, as are most men trying to justify themselves in an office for which they are ill-suited, and quick to anger and bitter resentment over such matters as his salary, his contract, and his fire-wood allowance: he constantly falls back on the stock unanswerable threat of hellfire and damnation: the tolerance, goodness and charity of God and Christ are not, apparently, part of his message and habitual way of thought.

Worse, perhaps, is his vindictiveness and lack of compassion. He is prepared to begin the savage torture of Tituba, who puts in the Devil’s mouth much truth; he accepts the possibility of Abigail’s own revengeful view of Elizabeth Proctor: in the Court Scene of Act Three he fore­judges with acute prejudice witnesses such as Giles Corey and John Proctor and their testimony even before it is given, and while it is being presented in detail. The situation is, in a sense, that if he can shift the “abominations” on the to Devil and his Salem associates, and away from himself and his family, and wipe off a few old scores along the way, he will have accomplished much and reasserted what he thinks is his rightful status in the community. Any evidence that the girls had been lying is of course highly dangerous of his cause and situation: he s pathetically, almost cringing, clutching at straws to support his case, even though lives and impeccable reputations are at stake. It is not until the end of the play that some some of the truth dawns, after he has been instrumental in condemnation and death on the girls’ testimony. Once he has been robbed, and the girls Abigail and Mary Lewis have run away, the truth is really brought home to his blinkered conscience: he sees, at the least in part, the enormity of his involvement in human suffering.

His own life, too, has been threatened: the hunt has gone too far, particularly as he is now one of the hunted; too many obviously good and pious people have been condemned, and he has blood on his hands. And yet, after all he has done, he has the servile callous effrontery to offer a drink to the tortured Proctor, whom he fervently hopes will sign a confession of involvement with the Devil-at least, perhaps, one respected life will not be on his conscience. Proctor does not give him even that consolation. His last words in the play are a cry to Proctor to save himself, and Parris. It does not come. This mean man, who has alienated himself from his flock by his hell-fire and his greed, his elevated ideas of status and trappings of outward show, is the basis and center of all the hysteria and eventual persecution.

Because of him, scapegoats have to be found and punished. He has no true Christian conscience; there is no sense of salvation about him in his self-seeking and vainglory. By the end of the play he has displayed more evil in himself then he originally set out to condemn in others, and is more of a victim than a persecutor.

Abigail Williams

Abigail is, at the age of seventeen, in common with her young friends, frustrated and over­restricted in her motherless adolescence among the stern Puritan moralists of the small gossip- ridden Salem community. Unlike the others, however, she has considerable beauty-and knows it- and she has been orphaned in the direst cruelest circumstances; she has a dominant even violent personality, especially when roused and on the defensive (Miller: 1981, p 26 f.); and, especially, has known the love (or lust) of the forceful, direct, respected (and married) John Proctor. It is difficult to judge, nor is t necessary to surmise, who is the more to be blamed: the passionate girl or the erring husband : each possibly led the other towards the cardinal sin, proscribed in the Ten Commandments, of adultery. But two things are clear: firstly, that it was a single, not a repeated act: and secondly, that Abigail wishes to have John Proctor for herself, by any means. Indeed, he reaction to Betty’s revelation that she (Abigail) had drunk a charm to kill Goody Proctor (Miller: 1981, p. 26) is characteristic. She well knows that they must all expect a thorough whipping for their pranks: she knows too that John Proctor has seen through their silly dabbling with Tituba’s voodoo incantations and “mumbo-jambo”: but she also knows hat she is no child, but responsive woman. She uses Tituba as a scapegoat when Hale gets perilously near the real truth of the matter, and when Tituba - illiterate, superstitious slave as she is - is overpowered by Hale’s inquisition, Abigail quickly, shrewdly and skillfully assumes her deadly role. She rises “staring as though inspired”: there is a cruel ambiguity here. Inspired she is, but not through external sources. This will be her design, her escape route.

As for her uncle Parris, this diversion will provide scapegoat-victims enough for their own shortcomings and follies to be forgotten. The Puritan atmosphere, the whole climate of opinion of the time and place, favors the ruse. It is she who first mentions “the rumor of witchcraft” and at crucial point (Miller: p. 49) seizes the opportunity and advantage. Her speech “1 want the light of God [...] with the Devil!” combines the Puritan fervor of true religion, and the common folklore traditional forbidden heresy of witchcraft.

Abigail plays her chosen role with hideous perfection. We are given no insights into the initial reaction of the girls to their new-found importance and celebrity as the dreaded center from which such perverse wickedness radiates. As one expects, Elizabeth Proctor is soon, revengefully, caught up in the condemnation. Elizabeth reads Abigail’s character alright: “She thinks to take my place, John (Miller: p. 60)”. And she will kill to do it. It is interesting to note that the two woman never confront one another directly in the play, a discreet and subtle touch , this: when Elizabeth is called in Act Three to testify (Miller: p. 99) everyone, and Abigail is made to turn around, lest a a mere glance reveal Proctor’s dilemma, in having publicly committed hi wife to direct confrontation: and when Elizabeth leaves, and even Hale is convinced of the good wife’s sincerity, Abigail again turns to inspiration from the spirit world: she involves Mary Warren, who then indicts her master with Devil-worship. She has no more part in the play except to escape: what else is left?

To save her own skin, she has deliberately sacrificed he man, now subject to the death penalty, his case having been disproved solely by her lies. She makes off while the going is good and attention is diverted, while Salem is rotting physically and spiritually to its foundations, robbing her uncle of his final security, and doubtless, as Echoes Down the Corridor suggests, comes to a loveless haunted end. There is indeed something perverted about Abigail Williams: only the most blinkered and bigoted could possibly have seen in her a “holy maid” and there is something pathetic in he assumption of holiness and sanctity, if it were not certain that she knew them to be false and hypocritical.

Cruel, spiteful, self-seeking, rebellious, vindictive, she is eventually betrayed by the very atmosphere she has vigorously promoted out of sheer malice and revenge and she hurts everyone whom she touches. She could not have done worse had she truly trafficked with and sold herself to the Devil himself.

Elizabeth Proctor

John Proctor’s wife is among the few characters Arthur Miller does not comment upon outside the script: unusually, even her age is not quoted. She appears , technically, late in the play, fourteenth out of a cast of twenty-one: but she has been mentioned within the first hundred lines. Before her quiet entry, coming down from singing lullabies to her three small sons, we have had Abigail’s vicious view of her, and something of Elizabeth’s view of Abigail: she has even declined to attend church because of the girl’s presence there knowing from her husband’s confession of his illicit liaison.


Ende der Leseprobe aus 18 Seiten


Characterization of Morality and Values in Arthur Miller's Play "The Crucible"
John Proctor's Search for Identity and His 'Self'
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Characterization, Morality, Values, Arthur Miller, The Crucible, John Proctor, Identity, Self, Play
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Bachelor of Arts Ramon Klein (Autor:in), 2013, Characterization of Morality and Values in Arthur Miller's Play "The Crucible", München, GRIN Verlag,


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