For a play to meet with success, it is essential that it include a cast of interesting and captivating characters. Without interesting characters, the audience would not only be confused by each unimportant character, but possibly puzzled by the plot, disinterested in the theme and ideas, and worst of all, bored by the entire story. For instance, in “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller, we take an immediate interest in 17-year-old Abigail Williams. Miller portrays her as a vindictive, wicked and persuasive girl. Perhaps persuasive is too mild an adjective, but her evilness or malevolence is indoctrinating, and her manipulative capability leaves the other girls no choice but to follow her lead. Abigail psychologically forces the others to obey her, and is not reluctant to threaten them, or do them physical harm! She is the spark that ignites the inferno of mistrust, guided more by an obsessive love than by malice. There are two sides to Abigail’s nature which are portrayed throughout: the brutal and menacing side, and the heart-broken, passionate side. If Abigail was just a simple, average schoolgirl with not much involvement or relevance to the plot, we may not immediately take such an interest in her.
Similarly, at first, John Proctor appears to be a humble, ordinary farmer with a wife and two children. As the play unfolds, we discover that he is a man with a significant past; a man who has a story to tell. He and his wife are central characters to the play. He has had an affair with Abigail Williams, a girl years younger than himself; Abigail is in her late teens, Proctor in his mid-thirties. By Arthur Miller adding this twist, tension and curiosity has immediately been created in his audience. Proctor eventuates into a heroic character, a tragic hero.
However, he is noble only to a point, and one can relate to his character faults as a human being. One can argue that without interesting characters, a play would not have a strong, reasonable plot. After all, Abigail’s motive for her accusations of witchcraft is to eliminate Elizabeth Proctor, John’s wife, so that Abigail can claim John, the man she loves, for herself. Also, John Proctor, riddled with guilt after his affair with Abigail, exiles her from his household, anxious to please his angered wife.
Reverend Hale first presents himself as an expert on witchcraft, the current talk of the town. He apparently knows how to determine the symptoms and whether any suspicious activity is taking place among the townspeople. However, soon, he increases his role as investigator, more-or-less abandons his original mission as expert, continues to ask questions, and begins to draw his own conclusions. Mary Warren could easily have been a simple family servant, but is firstly seen in the woods, dancing with Abigail and the girls which makes her appear suspicious, and secondly, she gives a poppet to Mrs Proctor containing a needle, which leads to her accusation of compacting with the devil, another twist in the tale.
“The Crucible” would be a dry and uninteresting piece, if the characters and their situations were less compelling. The same applies to William Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, in which dramatic tension is immediately evoked at the opening of the play. In the first act, which mainly concerns temptation and resistance, the audience sees the witches briefly in the first scene, and not for the last time. The audience expects to see them again sometime during the performance, as they no doubt are an important part of the play. Shakespeare would not open a tragedy with a character, or group of characters who were not vital to the plot. In Act I, Lady Macbeth and her husband devise a plot to murder the current King of Scotland, King Duncan. This alone is a big enough plot to capture the attention of the audience, but that was not dramatically sufficient. Shakespeare then introduced the comparative evilness of the Macbeth pair, portraying Lady Macbeth, at this point, as a more evil character than her husband.
“I would, while it was smiling in my face, Have pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums And dash’d the brains out Had I so sworn as you Have done to this!” This quote alone demonstrates the present brutality of Lady Macbeth. It is not suggesting that this is her permanent state, and that she will not change. On the contrary, a transformation occurs in both husband and wife, where Macbeth loses his conscience, becoming more malevolent, and Lady Macbeth, who initially appears conscienceless, reveals later that she is not. For instance, Lady Macbeth admits that she cannot possibly kill Duncan herself because of the resemblance to her father. (Act II, Scene II) Finally, in Act V, Scene V, some may claim that Macbeth behaves in an extremely interesting and perhaps unpredictable fashion. He has committed murdered several times, and hired murderers to do his work for him. Now, when he hears the news of his wife’s death, it does not move him, not even momentarily. He is beyond emotion. “She should have died hereafter There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow ” Also, Shakespeare’s use of soliloquies allow the audience to experience the character’s thoughts and feelings; their inner journey is described verbally, so that the audience receives a first-person recount from the key characters. The more successful the characters are, the more popular a play becomes. Popularity is evidential by the length of time that a play is discussed, studied, screened, viewed or performed. Conclusively, a poor play with a poor cast, all similar in nature and character, with monotonous scenes which do not contrast, will not last long, and will not have a positive effect on the audience. But a play such as “The Crucible” or “Macbeth”, with many contrasting scenes and characters, whether they be heroic or vindictive, short-tempered or forgiving, will undoubtedly remain successful, maintaining its position as a work of respected literature.