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The Crucible - The Dark Age Of Puritarian Society

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The play begins with the initial reports of witchcraft and witchcraft-related afflictions, like in the cases of Betty Parris and Ruth Putnam. It sets the stage for the build up of the plot, which delves deeper into the Salem Witch Trials that resulted in numerous convictions and executions of Salem residents. What is interesting about The Crucible is the development of the "love" or lust of Abigail Williams for John Proctor, which took place prior to the first act. What was initially young forbidden love turned into a passion that fuelled the conviction of Elizabeth Proctor, wife of John Proctor, and others.

The Crucible is set in Salem, Massachusetts in the year 1692, a time wherein private life was very much an affair of the rest of the community. Norms were dictated by the Puritan way of life, which emphasized greatly the God-centeredness in everyday life. This theocratic system acknowledges the faults of man and his total dependence on divine grace for salvation from such faults. As a result, personal religious life, supported by communal practice, sustains the everyday aspects of life. This is seen in the reaction of Reverend Parris and the rest of Salem to rumors of the participation of Betty Parris and her friends (Abigail Williams included) in pagan rituals. Not only is it frowned upon by members of the Church, but acknowledgement of the capacity of evil forces led the Salem court to hand out execution sentences for participation in such activities and the infliction of misfortune towards others. It is evident in the convictions of Rebecca Nurse, who apparently killed Mrs. Putnam's 7 children; Martha Corey, who was suspected of dabbling in witchcraft because her husband witnessed her secretly reading from a book at night as well as an instance wherein Walcott had purchased a hog that had died a few days after; and, Elizabeth Proctor who allegedly stabbed Abigail Williams with a needle in the stomach through the use of a cursed poppet.

Religion plays such a big role in this society that performance, or non-performance in this case, of religious obligations are indications of one's moral disposition. When Reverend Hale visited the Proctor household to conduct his own investigation on the accusations against Elizabeth Proctor, he asked for an explanation for John Proctor's irregular participation in the Sabbath Day services, which was followed up with a recitation of God's 10 commandments. John Proctor's lack of religious credibility easily led Reverend Hale to question his or Elizabeth's moral state. The importance of religious practice is further emphasized by the authority and respect given to Reverends Parris and Hale during the course of the story. Their opinions with regards to the witch hunt were given weight despite the clear overlap of Church and state. It is further shown in the fact that Reverend Parris, whose motivation for the witch hunt was clearly political, as was admitted in the first act. Being in the position of the minister of Salem cast away any doubts that others may have had on personal motives that led Reverend Parris to act in that way.

The first act paved the way for the introduction and further development of the characters of the play. Of the characters that played significant roles in the play, the ones that provide for an interesting analysis of are Abigail Williams, Reverend Hale and John Proctor.

Abigail Williams was orphaned when she was a child, when her parents were murdered by native Indians. She was then taken in by Reverend Parris, her uncle, and was able to find employment in the Proctor household, which led to the development of the conflict in The Crucible. Abigail was sent away from the Proctor household after Elizabeth found out about the lecherous acts between Abigail and John Proctor. The build up of experiences, from the murder of her parents up until the first act probably led her to the current disposition she is in during the play. She easily prioritizes her own desires at the expense of others, even going to the extent of cursing Elizabeth Proctor during prior to the first act and, later on, blaming Elizabeth Proctor for practicing witchcraft. Abigail Williams does not seem to be bound by moral standards, as seen in her continuing active participation in the witch hunt and conviction of a number of Salem's citizens. Her knack for mischief develops further towards the third act, when Mary Warren came forward with the claim that she had lied about being afflicted by supernatural forces. This statement could have displaced the previous accusations that Abigail and her friends had given in the past. Abigail, recognizing the possibility of being imprisoned for deceiving the court, started acting as if Mary Warren had cast her spirit on Abigail and her friends. Mischief turned into vengeance at this point, when the girls were too deep into their lie that self-preservation and hatred towards those endangering that self-preservation fueled their actions.

Reverend Hale was a minister at Beverly who was summoned to Salem by Reverend Parris for his (Reverend Hale's) experience in dealing with the supernatural. His character balances out that of the other characters. Reverend Hale was motivated, from the beginning, to bring out the truth and not for any personal motives unlike the others: Abigail Williams, motivatged by mischief and vengeance; Thomas Putnam, motivated by greed and materialism; Reverend Parris motivated by lust for influence; and, Danforth, motivated by politics. He approached the case of Betty Parris systematically, with a clear head and no biases, which acted as a buffer for the different conflicts that were experienced. He was conscientious and sympathetic throughout the whole play, backed with his quest to bring the truth forward. He was the one who sided with Mary Williams, Giles Corey, Francis Nurse and John Proctor when they came forward in the third act with Mary's confession to the false claims of Abigail. Even after a few months had passed since the incarceration of John Proctor and the death of others, Reverend Hale came back to Salem in the effort to bring people close to God in that dark time, and possibly to plead with them to confess in order to spare themselves from execution.

In a society that encourages moderation and balance between work, family life, community and religion, it seems that Aristotle's golden mean is not heeded. Puritanism encourages that religion guide, but not lead, the actions of citizens. This shared value brings the people of the community together, which is important considering that the colony in the New World was newly established and harmony within the community contributes to the

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