The Crucible – Review

16/03/20

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.

17/03/20

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.

Reference

Millar, A; 2000; The Crucible; London; Penguin Classics

Review – The Shepherd’s Crown

Terry Pratchet wrote The Shepherd’s Crown whilst he was dying, and fittingly one of his most loved characters, Granny Weatherwax died at the beggining of the story.

Her death left a gap in the barrier between Discworld and the land which the elves live. She past her cottage and roles as lead witch to Tiffany Aching.

The elf Queen, Nightshade, has her wings torn off and is thrown out of the elf kingdom by Peaseblossom. He did this because he felt that Nightshade had become to soft on goblins, and that she should be organising an attempt to take over Discworld now that the barriers were weaker.

Tiffany struggles with meeting her duties in Lance and on the Chalk. The Nac Nac Feegles live on the Chalk, and they also have a duty to look out for Tiffany. Nac Nac Feegles are blue, 7 inches tall, and they speak with a Scottish accent. They love to drink and fight.

The Nac Nac Feegles reluctantly agree to Tiffany’s request for them to guard Nightshade, who Tiffany refuses to kill because she is injured. She hopes to convert the elf Queen to understanding humanity and developing a cooperative attitude rather than a hostile one.

Meanwhile, Geoffrey, who left home due to bullying  from his father, wishes to become a witch under Tiffany”s guidance.

As the elves begin to prepare for war Tiffany calls all of the witches together to prepare to defend Discworld and banish the elves forever. Geoffrey unites the local men and they develop weapons to prepare for the war. Elves are harmed my metal, so they build a catapult and gather scraps of iron to fling at the elves.

As Geoffrey and the men defend Lancre, Tiffany, the witches and the Nac Mac Feegles defend the chalk. At the start of the war Peaseblossom kills Nightshade, but the are ultimately beaten when the King of the elves turns up, and overthrows Peaseblossom.

All in all it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. The characters were believable and my imagination was gripped throughout. I could picture the different people and events in my mind. There were moments of laughter, excitement, compassion, sadness and dislike. I love the humour in Pratchet’s writing.

Pratchet, T; 2016; The Shepherd’s Crown; London; Corgi books.