Im about a third of the way through the play and I’m struggling a bit. Although I can follow the story line, I keep losing track of the people. It feels like there are too many characters introduced at the same time. (This is unlike the first few chapters of a book in which people are slowly introduced). It’s hard to remember who is who and what their role is. I do like the stage directions though and can see how the basis of a play pans out with this style of writing.
I’ve only just realised that the narration is set in the 20th century, looking back in on Salem in 1692/3. It’s taken me 40 pages to realise this. This review highlights how little I have read plays over the years. In fact, the only other play I remember reading was Death of a Salesman by the same author, when I was at school.
It is 5.40 am and I have been up since four. I started reading The Crucible about an hour ago and I cannot put it down. I find myself enthralled by the pace of the book. I’m gripped by the drama, and the characterisation. People are ill and cursed from witchcraft, others are cursed as witches and are being rounded up and taken to court. Naturally I have heard of the Salem witch trials, but I have never read of them before in either fiction or historical accounts. The Crucible reveals how easily an accuser can lay claim, whether this be from suspicion or a falsehood which is decried from a resentment against those whom they accuse. I’m finding it easier to follow the conversations today and am becoming more accustomed to the way in which Miller writes.
The book is too short, it’s only roughly 130 pages long. I feel that if a play follows the script exactly then it must be very short.
The pace of act three is incredible, there are twists and turns with accusations and denial. Conversation makes the flow so incredibly real. I was a witness to the proceedings of arrest and court. I saw the people and places in my mind.
The key here is the conversation. There were two environments, Proctors home before and during the court summons and arrest, and in a side room of the courts. My learning point here is conversation. People do not need to say long speeches, just brief sentences keeps the action quick. Because this is a play there are also directions into how the characters present themselves, such as anger, disbelief, how they are standing, who the are facing or addressing. The directions are a huge contribution to the rhythm of the story. I’ve certainly never given consideration to play writing, but it deeply interests me now.
The fourth act was short and rounded up the tale. The Severn women who refused to admit they were witches were to be hanged. Procter signed a confession that he had done the work of the devil and tore it up, refusing to give it to the judge. He did this because a signed confession on the church door would be interpreted as the Severn being witches. Proctor knew they were innocent, and their lack of confession was one of purity and honour. Despite the judge witnessing proctors confession he condemned him to be hanged because he tore up the confession. To my mind this makes the judge guilt of murder before God, the work of the devil itself, and judge himself should have gone to the rope.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this play, I’m surprised at just how much. When I go back to the library I will loan another play.
Millar, A; 2000; The Crucible; London; Penguin Classics