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How Miller Creates Dramatic Tension In Act One Of The Crucible

2738 words - 11 pages

Twentieth Century Drama
How does Miller create dramatic tension in Act One of "The Crucible"?

"The Crucible", by Arthur Miller, focuses on Theocracy and the effect it can have on a community, as well as on an individual. From Act One, Miller creates dramatic tension in many different ways. These include dramatic irony, and sudden twists in the plot, as well as the range of emotions that Miller's characters express both frequently and eloquently.

As the curtain rises, the audience are curious as to why a man who is so clearly distressed is sat over the girl, Betty, who lies motionless and 'inert' on a bed. The audience grows more curious as he calls for God to help him, and the audience are intrigued, wondering what is happening.

In a direct contrast to this, the ending of the scene is loud and frantic, leaving nothing to the imagination, with all the girls screeching and accusing. The intense power that the girls? poses is intoxifying, and is illustrated when a character orders:
?Let the marshal bring irons?

This shows the control these children have, if they can alter the minds of these men, persuading them to lock up innocents. This also shows the control they have over the whole community.

The visual impact of the opening scene is that of a ?clean spareness?, the room only contains the bare minimum needed. This also relates to the Puritan way of life, ?vanities? were frowned upon and rooms were furnished with only what was necessary. The fact that rev. Parris is ?evidently in prayer? has religious references which, as the play goes on, are confirmed.

The quote: ?There is a narrow window, through its panes the morning sunlight streams? also indicates that the room is basic ? it would seem that even light is rationed by the size of the window, and no more then is needed for every day tasks is allowed. All the time, this is creating an ambience which would fit in perfectly with the era, nothing frivolous is added to improve the appearance or comfort of the room. The fact that even the wood is ?raw and unmellowed? shows that even to varnish or paint the wooden walls would be too vain and unnecessary to consider.

This description of simplicity is repeated in Act Three, in the jury room. Similar descriptions such as:?Heavy beams jut out, boards of random widths make up the walls?. This description shows that they take so little care in the appearance of their rooms, in order not to seem vain, that they didn?t even measure and smooth the wood.

Miller also uses irony and unexpected twists to draw his audience in and attract their interest. The fact, for instance, that one of the girls was dancing naked in the woods (?He saw you naked?) would shock the audience, as the Puritan view on nudity is wildly known. Showing flesh more than hands and face, let alone showing the whole body, was a sin in Puritan Massachusetts. Even the neck was covered, with log whit collars, while the woman?s dresses stretched to the ground,...

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