Miller's Presentation of the Theme Of Greed And Envy within The Crucible

Miller's Presentation of the Theme Of Greed And Envy within The Crucible
?The Crucible? was written in 1953 by Arthur Miller in the time of the cold war, although the play was set in 1692. The play is about a town called Salem in America and about the witch-hunts that took place there. Because it was written in this time period there is a feeling of mistrust, greed and envy echoed in the play. Arthur Miller plays on these feelings and produces a theme of greed and envy that is critical to the whole play. I will be discussing this theme further. Miller first introduces the theme of greed and envy by creating many social tensions in Act 1. We can tell there are social tensions because of the way the people speak to each other, such as when Mr Putnam says to Mr Parris ??No witchcraft! Now look you, Mr Parris -?? (Pg 10.) This shows us that Parris and Putnam must have a history between them of unfriendly feelings, as not many people would dare stand up to a minister. This unfriendliness is confirmed by the piece of analytical text Miller has included (pg 11) to help us understand it better. In this piece of text he writes, ?Some time before, Thomas Putnam?s brother-in-law, James Bayley, had been turned down as minister of Salem.? This gives us the idea that Putnam is resentful of Mr Parris, because Parris acquired the job Putnam?s brother-in-law would have got. Another example of social tension is when Mrs Putnam says, "You think it God?s work you should never lose a child, nor a grandchild either, and I bury all but one?"
This is a sarcastic comment from Mrs Putnam to Rebecca Nurse and it shows that Mrs Putnam is bitter and blames Rebecca Nurse for her children?s deaths. An audience might react to these social tensions by becoming more involved with the play and resenting or accepting the characters as if they were real life people. We can tell there are social tensions between most of the characters because of the stage directions too. For instance when Proctor and Parris are having an argument (pg 25) there is a stage direction that says ?Proctor goes angrily to the door and turns to Corey with a smile.? Because of this direction we know that what Proctor is about to say is a taunt to Parris to evoke an emotion. Whereas, if the stage direction was not there we could interpret what he is going to say as having some different meaning. It is important to have this stage direction at this point to show the audience that there are social pressures within the play between the characters. A director could choose to interpret these authors? notes about social status in many ways; such as he could subtly merge the notes into the play by changing the speech or actions of the characters. Another way they could interpret these notes, are with a PowerPoint presentation where the characters go into a freeze frame. A character could just read out a shortened version of the notes, or even a copy of the notes could be handed out at the beginning of the play for the viewers to read at their own leisure. It is important for the audience to be aware of the authors? notes in order to gain a better understanding of the play and characters. At the beginning of the play we are first introduced to the main theme of greed and envy when we meet the characters Elizabeth and Abigail. This feud runs throughout ?The Crucible? and without it the play wouldn?t exist. We know that Abigail is envious of Elizabeth because Elizabeth is married to John Proctor. We know this because throughout the play, through the characters remarks we piece together a picture of life before the play started. For example Abigail says, "I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you do now!" (Pg 18) is one of the comments which tells us about their past. Abigail does many things during the play, which reveal her envy of Elizabeth; one of them was at the beginning of the play where she drank blood to summon the Devil to murder Elizabeth. Another was when she accused Elizabeth of witchcraft, for instance Hale says, "Your wife?s name is - mentioned in the court." The audience instantly knows that it must be Abigail who accused her because of Abigail?s obvious envy of Elizabeth. An audience might start to feel angry towards Abigail, as we now know that Abigail is at the centre of all the angst and unfriendliness. Throughout the play Hales? character greatly shapes the course of events. For instance in Act One he is portrayed as an arrogant and self-centred character, only interested in his own importance as shown by, "Have no fear now ? we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face." This also shows us that he means to gain respect from the villagers. It also shows the audience that some of the characters are apprehensive, this is important because fear builds tension and pressure. However as the play goes on and the witch hunting starts to get out of hand, we begin to see a different side to Hales? character. For instance in Act two the stage directions start to point to the fact that Hale doesn?t like the witch hunts anymore and isn?t so sure about witches any longer, for example one stage direction instructs, ?in great uncertainty? (page 64), which shows the audience that Hale is now at a turning point in the play. From then on it seems that Hale is no longer greedy for power and respect or envious of any of the other characters but he seems genuinely worried for the well-being of the accused witches, for instance in Act three he says ?You cannot believe them!? This turn about in Hales? character was probably created by Miller on purpose to create anxieties in the audience as they realise things are getting serious. The theme of greed and envy gets stronger as the play goes on. For instance when the two new power-greedy characters are introduced, Danforth and Hathorne. The audience is shown how power greedy Hathorne is in the courtroom when he exerts his authority on the villagers, for instance ?Arrest him, excellency!? (pg 68) shows that he is trying to gain control of the situation, it also shows he is greedy for the respect of Danforth. We can also see that Danforth tries to get the respect of the villagers by telling Nurse "Do you know who I am, Mr Nurse?" It shows that the characters Danforth and Hathorne have no respect for the villagers themselves but only worry about their own status in social matters. This is a crucial part in the play where Miller shows us that these characters are so conscious of themselves that they are prepared to put others to death in order to gain a social position if that?s what it takes. It adds a very real sense of tension to the play. I think that Miller ensured these characters to be seen as foreboding and power hungry to build up the pressure even more. I think that by writing this play, in a manner where everything revolves around greed and envy, Miller has subtly put in a moral to the story. The moral shows that being envious or jealous gets you nothing but trouble. I think that to a major extent he believed that jealousy and envy were the chief factors in the tragic events both in the play and in reality. I think that when the play was first shown the original audience would have felt very emotional and would have been able to relate to the characters because it was first shown when McCarthy?s anti-Communist campaign was at its height. The similarities between these two events were many, for example, the fear shown in the play towards witches was the same as the fear shown in real life at the time between the anti-communists and the communists. I believe that if Arthur Miller had not made the themes of greed and envy so strong then the tension would not have been as great and the play would not have been as interesting. These themes were important in the whole escalation of the witch-hunts and their dramatic purpose was to create a vibrant yet serious play. The moral purpose of the play really affects the audience and creates good tension throughout ?The Crucible.?

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