These holidays I will add some background reading to kick off next term’s study of The Crucible. The following article looks at conflict and how it relates it to the play.
Internal struggles are at the heart of Arthur Miller’s play, writes Paul Byrne.
CONFLICT, we are often told, is considered a normal part of life but it is something most people would rather avoid.
Conflict is the essence of drama. Without it films and theatre would not be worth watching. Conflict – verbal or physical – is essential in getting the audience involved, because it is conflict that propels the action forward.
For audience involvement to be sustained, however, it must go beyond these two elements. Effective conflict must also be internalised, with characters struggling against their worse natures or inner demons.
In his fictionalised portrayal of people and society during the witch trials in the theocracy of Salem in 1692, Arthur Miller has given us the full spectrum of characters – from the most demonic to the saintly.
In The Crucible we see people who struggle as much with themselves as they do with their neighbours.
Conflict, as playwright Rib Davis says, implies choice. “When there is conflict, we, the audience, are invited to take sides.”
Sometimes taking sides is made even easier when Miller doesn’t mince words in describing the characters that he disdains and those he admires or sympathises with.
From the outset, Miller’s contempt for the local minister Reverend Parris is readily apparent. Parris is described as a man who “in history … cut a villainous path, and there is very little good to be said of him”. Abigail Williams has an endless capacity for dissembling and Thomas Putnam has a “vindictive nature (which) was demonstrated long before the witchcraft began”. Later, in act four, when Judge Hathorne and Deputy Governor Danforth appear for the first time in the vestry room of the Salem meeting house, Hathorne is described as a “bitter, remorseless Salem Judge”.
Read the rest here.