Discuss the Relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor and its Presentation - English Literature Essay Example
The Crucible is a tragedy about gathering hysteria, based on bona fide records of witchcraft trials in seventeenth-century America - Discuss the Relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor and its Presentation introduction. It seeks to elucidate how respected people came to be hanged for crimes they had not committed. It examines the motives of those who denounced them and of others who under stress made fictitious confessions. The conflicts of characters, emotions and principles are brought out in powerfully dramatic scenes, culminating in the pinnacle when the strongest man, John Proctor, is broken into ‘confessing’, but refuses to be disloyal to his own honour by implicating others.
He will not move from this proud and angry decision – even to keep his own life. Arthur Miller wrote the play “The Crucible” in 1953. He wrote the play as a response to his own experiences in the witch-hunt, which were concerned with anti-Capitalist pro-Communist accusations. Miller himself was accused of anti-American activities. He wrote the play set in an area of Massachusetts called Salem in 1692 where some adolescent girls were dabbling in the supernatural. The jails were eventually filled with men and women, accused of witchcraft, and twenty people were hanged.
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The inhabitants of Salem were rigid in their interpretation of the Bible, believing in witches and the Devil. They believed also that the Bible instructed them that witches must be hanged. John and Elizabeth’s relationship goes through a series of detachments and reconciliations thought the play, both physically and emotionally. John Proctor is the central character in the play. He is the husband of a good, puritan woman, Elizabeth Proctor. John has also been the lover of a young girl in the village, Abigail Williams.
In Act 1, we do not see Elizabeth, she is only mentioned, which gives the reader a biased point of view of her. In this act, the relationship between Abigail and John is brought to light. In Act 2, we see John and Elizabeth together. At the beginning of this act, they are very far apart, emotionally and physically, and by the end, they are emotionally closer, yet not physically, as Elizabeth is taken away. With Act 3, the courtroom scene, John and Elizabeth are now physically together. However, Judge Danforth creates tension in the courtroom by only allowing Elizabeth to look directly into his eyes.
In Act 4, John and Elizabeth are emotionally and physically stronger and closer than we have ever seen in the play, and by the end of the act, John is taken away. This may separate them physically but emotionally they have become closer. In Act 1, we do not see Elizabeth. This creates a rather one-sided opinion of her for the audience. Abigail refers to Elizabeth as “a cold, snivelling woman”. The audience now wait for her to appear in the play. John defends Elizabeth in spite of the fact she is not there with him. This gives the audience their first impression of his love towards her.
The impression I get from this is that even though he has been unfaithful to her, he still loves her. Abigail speaks badly of Elizabeth, but John will not have Abigail blackening her name, regardless of his feelings for Abigail. We also see John rejecting Abigail. Act 2 contains vital information about the relationship between John and Elizabeth, for it is the first act when we see them together, and how they act towards one another. This is the audience’s opportunity to make their decisions on Elizabeth and John as a married couple, and a chance to see if Elizabeth matches Abigail’s description.
When the audience first see Elizabeth, it is when she is greeting John. She says, “What keeps you so late? It’s almost dark. ” This is said in a slightly suspicious tone, which indicates distrust. The audience can sense the suspicion because they know of the affair with Abigail. John however also knows this, as he feels Elizabeth does not trust him. Personally, at this moment in the play I feel their relationship is very formal, because of the obvious emotional separation between them, which is conveyed in the way they converse with each other, their actions, and their directions.
The audience now start to find out more about their relationship as we discover more of their feelings both towards each other and about the affair. John says, “I think you’re sad again. Are you? ” to which Elizabeth replies, “You come so late I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon”. Here, John is asking Elizabeth if she is upset, John knows that she is and it is because she believes he is continuing his affair with Abigail. The presentation of their relationship further in this act becomes much more different, as they begin to argue, the lexis however is still very formal.
John says, “Women I’ll not have your suspicion any more. ” John addressing his wife with the word “woman” is very cruel, and degrading, almost as if they are not married. I think that John feels he does not have Elizabeth’s trust. One device that the author uses in this act is interrupting, which provides the play with a feeling of realism and helps add to the understanding of the arguments between characters and their situations. I think that presently, the audience’s opinion of this relationship is bad. I think this, because so far the relationship has been portrayed through trust, a key element in a relationship.
However, the trust in this relationship is certainly lacking. The audience is now introduced to Mary Warren. The author uses her as a device to break the arguments between John and Elizabeth. Therefore, Mary Warren becomes a scapegoat, and sometimes finds John shouting at her. When Reverend Hale arrives, he brings news to John that Elizabeth’s name was mentioned in court. This makes John and Elizabeth closer, as they both know that any allegation against her is false. They know that any accusation by Abigail is bogus, as they know both realise that Abigail wants to replace Elizabeth as John’s wife.
In Act 2, John says to Elizabeth, “I mean to please you, Elizabeth”, Elizabeth saying, “I know it, John”, follows this. The stage directions then say, “He gets up, goes to her, kisses her. She receives it. With a certain disappointment, he returns to the table. ” This shows the tension between them to the audience at the very beginning of this Act. I think the audience would acknowledge the tension, and perhaps feel sympathetic towards John. Between the interval of Acts 2 and 3, I think the audience has the impression that John Proctor loves Elizabeth.
She is taken away and he is angered by this, there is a sense that he will, in following acts, try to save her. This creates a sense of drama for the audience, as Act 2 closes just as Elizabeth is taken away. The audience can only imagine what John will actually do next. The end of Act 2 brings Elizabeth’s detainment, and some of the love between John and Elizabeth being restored. Act 3 is where the trials commence, and although John and Elizabeth are far apart physically, they are very close emotionally. John is trying hard to free his wife, he loves her.
This gives the audience a feeling of sympathy for them, as they are together emotionally, but not physically. This is the way things remain throughout the whole of Act 3. However, towards the end of the act, when John confesses to lechery, Elizabeth is brought in. When she arrives, the audience can see she is nervous. She is unsure as to why she has been brought in, and she only sees the back of John and Abigail. The audience however, know why she is there, and this creates drama. The audience know that she must tell Judge Danforth that her husband is a lecher.
Elizabeth does not know this, John and Abigail however do. John says, “That woman will never lie, Mr Danforth. ” John here refers to Elizabeth as an individual; he is not giving a biased opinion of her like the one the audience saw before in Act 1. During this act, the stage directions read, “She stands alone, her eyes looking for Proctor. ” Here, the audience sees the drama created by Danforth. The audience can see that Elizabeth is relying on John for support. The audience also sees the drama created from their physical closeness.
They want to be together, but Danforth’s restrictions deny this, and create a closed and controlled scenario. Again, the stage directions say, “Slight pause. Then Elizabeth tries to glance at Proctor. ” This again emphasises the tension and drama created by Danforth to the audience. Elizabeth then says, “My husband is a good and righteous man. ” Elizabeth says, “My Husband”, she could have called him John, except she knows Abigail is there. Elizabeth has a sense of her audience. She may also place emphasis on the word “My”, showing belonging to her, not Abigail.
This could also be for Elizabeth and John personally, reminding each other that they are husband and wife, and of their closeness. The use of the word “righteous” carries weight too, as it would have been significant vocabulary in the time of the Christian theocracy. This small sentence adds drama for the audience, as we now see how close John and Elizabeth are, and the fact that Elizabeth addresses the audience directly may change opinions of her. In addition, before Elizabeth speaks, there is always a slight pause, adding a feeling of intensity for the audience.
In Act 3 Danforth tells John that Elizabeth’s life is saved for another year because she is expecting a child. John, however, does not want a child without a wife, as there would be very little if no chance at all of the child surviving. I think the audience reaction to this would be that John has made the right decision and they would like this, a child would have no chance of survival, and it would therefore be deemed unfair to give birth to it. I Act 3, In order to save John’s life Elizabeth tells a lie. Elizabeth is asked by Danforth, “Is your husband a lecher! ” to which Elizabeth replies “No, sir. The playwright makes this incident dramatic because Elizabeth is not allowed to look or speak with John or Abigail. She must concentrate on Danforth. Tension is shown in the bodies and their positioning, and the audience already knows that John has confessed to lechery. For the audience, this creates one of the most dramatic scenes in the play. I think they will sympathise with Elizabeth for being put in the situation she was, her husband’s life rested on the questions asked. By the end of the act, the audience see how powerful their love is; because Elizabeth lies for her husband and denies that, he is a lecher.
This is a lie. However, it is only Hale who realises that she said what she did out of love, Judge Danforth will however, not believe this. In Act 4, John and Elizabeth are physically further apart more than they have ever been before. Elizabeth is pregnant and neither of them is allowed to see their children. John is being held prisoner, he has been accused of “trafficking” with the devil, and Elizabeth will not be hung until her child is born. This brings them closer emotionally. Reverend Hale wants John to confess to save his wife and child.
He tells Elizabeth that her husband is due to hang the next morning, and tries to get her to make him confess. They meet, and at the beginning they are very formal, and it is not until further on in their conversation that their true feelings for each other become apparent to the audience. Elizabeth quietly says, “I have heard it. ” She has heard the news her husband is due to hang. This is a statement, and a monosyllabic one. The sound of “h” repeated twice is a soft sound. This gives a tone of defeat. She may not like, but has accepted it, and without further comment.
I think the audience will now feel sympathetic towards Elizabeth, but it will also create a sense of drama in the events to come, as the audience now know John is set to die. Elizabeth and John greet each other by Proctor saying, “The child? ” to which Elizabeth replies, “It grows. ” To the audience I think this would seem a cold greeting. They have not seen each other for a long time now, and no real emotion has been shown. I think the audience may be moved by the fact that their child is the first thing they mention however, showing that they care for it. John says, “You are a-marvel, Elizabeth”.
She is not showing any emotions, and instead she is remaining strong. This could be because there are onlookers, but regardless, this is a sign of respect towards John. I think the audience reaction to this would be one, which reflects the close physical and emotional bond. The audience may be moved by Elizabeth’s strength. Elizabeth says, “I cannot judge you, John. ” She is not trying to influence him; she wants him to do what he himself wants. Directly after, John says, “I would have your forgiveness, Elizabeth”. These two quotes from the play create a powerful moment for the audience.
Elizabeth says, “Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it. ” This echoes everything she has previously said. It signifies she has accepted what has happened, and forgiven him for his mistakes, which led him here. I think the audience would be happy at this moment, for Elizabeth has made her peace with John. A stage direction for Elizabeth reads, “now pouring out her heart”. Elizabeth has never done this before in the play, she has always kept herself undemonstrative. I think the audience would react well to this, as this is the first time they will have seen her show true emotion.
Elizabeth says “Forgive me, forgive me, John-I never knew such goodness in the world! (She covers her face, weeping. )” The phrase “forgive me” is an imperative; she does not want John to dispute it. I think the audience would react well to this, it signifies an end to all the drama, and now it is evident that the end is near. The audience however will feel sympathy for Elizabeth, as we know she is due to lose her husband. In Act 4, I think that Proctor’s reason for confessing now, just before the execution, is that he wants Elizabeth’s forgiveness. His “honesty is broke”, he says, he is “no good man. In addition, he says, “I want my life. ” I think the audience will find this part dramatic; all of John’s true feelings are beginning to emerge. I think the audience will like the fact that he is being his own man, and is no longer saying things just in order to please Elizabeth. I think that Elizabeth’s opinion of her husband now, is that he is a good and honest man and that she truly loves him. My opinion on this is that the audience will like the fact that they are now together emotionally, and stronger in this sense then they have ever been before. John says, “I cannot mount the gibbet like a saint.
It is a fraud. I am not that man. ” At the end of the play during the execution scene, he says “now I do think I see some shred of goodness in John Proctor” I think the fact he stuck by the truth, he did not lie, even though he could have stayed with Elizabeth, bought him to change his mind about himself. I think the audience will respect him for this, as now he can see the goodness in himself and the fact that he has stuck to his good name, and not lied. In Act 4, when Elizabeth and John meet again in the prison, there is a great change shown to the audience in their relationship.
They are a lot closer; Elizabeth says she is not good enough for him. She describes herself as a plain woman who kept a “cold house”. This part ends with a passionate kiss. I think the audience will enjoy this moment, as John and Elizabeth are now physically together for a moment, and emotionally together. The fact that the scene ends with a passionate kiss, not influenced by religion or other factors but true feelings will also make the audience feel for John and Elizabeth, they as the audience know it will end soon.
The audience is shown that Elizabeth has truly forgiven John and has come to realise some of her own failings. At the very end of the play, I think her attitude towards John is that she now believes he is a good man, and an individual. He made his own decisions, and she is proud of him for that. A good respected man in the village of Salem has been wronged. If she had been loving and confident in their relationship, he may not have fallen into temptation. In the end, Elizabeth shows great courage and she refuses to influence her husband’s decision.
She loves him dearly but knows that he must do what is right for him, even if it means bringing about his own death. Throughout the play, a series of themes can be spotted. By theme, I am referring to something that can be seen commonly throughout the play. Some that I have encountered are on the concept of “name”, “goodness” and “conscience”. The theme of “name” can be spotted throughout the play. In Act 1, Abigail complains that Elizabeth is blackening her name. In Act 2, Elizabeth insists that her name is “good”. In Act 4, John will not give up his name, but he will give up his soul.
In the play, name has high importance and perhaps more than life itself as we see with John in Act 4. Another theme in the play is John and Elizabeth’s relationship. It is the only relationship in the entire play that is detailed in depth throughout the whole play. An additional theme in the play is “goodness”. During the period in which this play was set, there was a theocracy. This made the idea of good and evil carry considerable weight, both spiritually and politically. Elizabeth is perceived as a “good” woman in Salem.
She says that John is a “good” man, and that she will not attempt to take his “goodness” away from him, in order to try to make him save himself. A different theme is the public context of the play, and how all of the actions in the play are made public. John’s adultery is a good example of this. Really, the adultery involves only three people, namely John, Elizabeth, and Abigail. However, when the issue of the adultery is brought up, it is in the context of the whole Salem community, for example in the courtroom where many are present.
An extra theme in the play is “conscience”, and the guilt and forgiveness, which is a part of it. An example of this is with John’s adultery. We know that John is the lecher, however when the issue is raised the guilt, blame, and forgiveness towards this issue seem come from both John and Elizabeth, as she feels partly to blame. The idea of purification is a theme in The Crucible. A crucible is a container in which metals are heated, to try to separate the pure metal from the impurities. The Crucible as the title is a metaphor representing Salem. Tyranny is also common in the play.
The play shows people acting as tyrants, making false confessions and trying to manipulate one another for self-gain. The conflict between personal and communal security is a theme that runs throughout the play. Salem as a community is under attack from its inhabitants, exploiting the common fear of the Devil. The Crucible highlights the misuse of power granted to individuals by the state, who followed on to persecute and denounce people. This also gives the play a direct parallel to the McCarthy investigations, where anyone who opposed them was treated as enemies. Honesty and integrity are significant themes.
The most admirable characters are in the play are those who keep their dignity and refuse to lie. Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth are just some examples of this. John Proctor also comes to peace with himself as he takes the decision to die rather than lose his good name. This brings us back to the theme of the crucible, where he becomes “purified”. Those who do not retain their dignity however, end up despondent, and mentally and morally scarred. Loyalty is another theme in The Crucible, and John and the loyalty towards his friends in Act 4 best demonstrates this theme.
He could have retracted his accusations against Abigail when he learns Elizabeth is pregnant, but instead he continues to support his friends whose wives have too been accused of witchcraft. Another example of loyalty in the play is when Elizabeth, in the courtroom scene, denies that John is a lecher. This was the loyalty of a lover, except ironically her loyalty destroyed John’s case against Abigail. Another theme in the play is courage. We see courage through the behaviour of those accused of witchcraft, for example Rebecca Nurse. As she goes to be hanged, she tells John to ‘fear nothing’.
John also tells Elizabeth to show no tears. We hear of Giles Corey defiance of the authority by refusing to plead guilty or not guilty to his charges, so that his sons will inherit his farm as opposed to the state. His last courageous words were “More weight”. Envy is demonstrated in the Putnams’ arguments over land, and Ann Putnam’s harsh attitude towards Rebecca Nurse. These harsh feelings find their way to become accusations of witchcraft. Abigail is also envious of Elizabeth being John’s wife, and is dependant on the fact that with Elizabeth removed, she can take her place.