The Crucible provides us with an example of a masterpiece of dramatic writing. In this play Arthur Miller displays a variety of theatrical techniques all of which are compacted into each act. The play is a parallel to what Miller was experiencing under General McCarthy’s command, as the search for communist is similar to a modern witch-hunt. The Crucible begins with a group of girls caught dancing in the forest, where the community jumped straight to witchcraft due to their strict religious beliefs. At this very moment, hysteria filled to whole community, resulting in false accusations and mass hangings. Truth was powerless against the hysteria as evil infiltrates all reasons. Miller’s effective use of stage directions, dialogues and…helps to achieve the development of dramatic tension felt throughout the play, especially at the climax of Proctors inner conflict in Act 4. However, there are specific moments of heightened tension within scenes from previous acts that contribute to the ultimate climax, thus making it very powerful. As a result, by the end of each scene we not only understand Miller’s message but we also find ourselves convinced by his arguments.
Miller’s talent as a dramatic writer is clearly shown by the development of tension throughout Act I, especially towards the end. Abigail is responsible for the hysteria/tension as her thirst for vengeance. When Abigail “enraptured” shouts of “I want the light of God,” it completely broke the previous slowness of Tituba’s confessions. Miller expertly makes Tituba’s confessions slow and broken by her poor English and suddenly quickens the pace in hysteria that follows. The change in pace form an already tense situation to one even more tense engages the audience to feel the dramatic tension brewing between the characters. The accusations continues with cries of “I saw…with the Devil” which becomes faster as all the girls join in and the act ends “[on their ecstatic cries]”. The audience feels like shouting out at Hale that it’s obvious the girls are frauds and Tituba has made a false confession so she can save her skin. As the tension develops the mass accusations turns into hysteria. In Act I, Miller identifies the narrow-mindedness of the human nature and the consequences of it. Therefore a sense of outrage is created among the audience.
Although dramatic tension is evident in Act I, Act II takes it to a whole new level. We are not only exposed to the tension that develops within society but also within certain relationships under this confined society. There has always been a subtle tension underlying the Proctor’s relationship ever since John’s crime of lechery. Every time they face each other, their relationship strains under their arguments. Elizabeth doesn’t want friction in their fragile relationship but “yet she must” persist in order to have her say in the family. She feels betrayed by her husband’s actions but yet she knows that he is still coming to terms with it himself. Due to their poor communication with each other, misunderstanding brewed heavily in their relationship. Thus the tension is felt ….
Above this, the mass accusations in Salem are taking its toll. Elizabeth unfortunately is also accused and at the time of her arrest, John realises the shame that he has brought upon his family. In order for his to apologise to her, he argues and eventually fights to save her life.
“She is innocent…I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem…vengeance”
His guilt gaive his strength to conflict with the magistrate and at the same time compounding the tension as he struggles against society. Miller identifies the terrifying nature of false accusations and the power and fragility of love. However, in the face of the hysteria, nothing can stop proceeding.
As tension develops within each act, it also builds form the previous act. When Elizabeth enters the court room and replies “No,Sir” to Danforth’s pressing questions of her husband’s crime, is the most nerve racking passages in The Crucible. We know that Elizabeth has “never lied” and indeed “cannot lie” but her attempts to not answer Danforth intensifies the corrosive tension experienced by the audience. The fact that she doesn’t know whether to answer Yes or No because both her husband and Abigail have their backs turned to her and if she gives a wrong answer, everything will be lost heralds an upsurge of tension. Danforth’s demand for an answer from Elizabeth intensifies the already tension filled atmosphere.
“look at me! …Answer my question! Is your husband a lecher?”
His harsh tone jeopardised all the security and courage in Elizabeth. As a result of this “[crises of indecision, she cannot speak.]” III This moment of silence captured the most explicit tension have yet seen in the play, as she makes the choice that will determine the life or death of he husband. The symbolic nature of Elizabeth’s lie proves that ‘anyone can be wielded under pressure’. Here a woman who cannot lie has told a lie due to the suffocating atmosphere in the court. Thus Miller’s purpose is the show that even a dignified person can become weak when faced with the pressure of hysteria. As a result of Elizabeth’s actions the dramatic tension is developing into a new height.