Explore Miller’s dramatic presentation and development of the theme of power and authority.
Even though The Crucible is not historically correct, nor is it a perfect allegory for anti-Communism, or as a faithful account of the Salem trials, it still stands out as a powerful and timeless depiction of how intolerance, hysteria, power and authority is able to tear a community apart. The most important of these is the nature of power, authority and its costly, and overwhelming results. “But you must understand, sir, that a person is either with this court or against it,” says Danforth conceitedly. With this antithesis, Miller sums up the attitude of the authorities towards the witch trials that if one goes against the judgement of the court they are essentially breaking their relationship with God. Like everyone else in Salem, Danforth draws a clear line to separate the world into black and white. The concurrent running of the “Crucible” image also captures the quintessence of the courtroom as Abigial stirs up trouble among the people that have good reputation and loving natures in society. In a theocratic government, everything and everyone belongs to either God or the Devil.
There are numerous examples of how Miller presents and develops the theme of power and authority, but it only unveils itself gradually through the play, due to each character’s hidden physical attitudes. Firstly there is the religious authority, with the work of god that presides over the lives of the villagers. Next we soon come across the court’s legal authority that is run by Danforth who consumes most of the court’s say in every matter, but they still abide and depend on the strict Puritan’s religious authority. Then there is abusive empowerment that Abigail largely possess, and with this, she falsely “name names,” which allows her to have everyone at the palm of her hand. This is suggested by making Mary give a “poppet” to Elizabeth, as it is used to hurt others and therefore the tool of a witch. Finally, there is also moral and spiritual authority which is shown greatest from Proctor’s tirades in order to confess himself, to save his life.
At the start of Act 1, Parris is the only sole voice of spiritual authority in Salem. Parris’s desire to own the deed to his house is likewise significant in deducing his character. He explains his reasons in terms of the community’s capricious manner and especially Putnam’s vindictive nature towards him. Before his arrival, the Putnams and the Nurses engage in a bitter dispute over the choice of a minister, a quarrel that proposes ample evidence of a minister’s vulnerability to personal grudges between families and rejecting his leadership. His fear of his family being tainted with claims of witchcraft and his natural lack of leadership and authority means that he is quickly ousted with the arrival of Reverend Hale. When Parris mentions how he has called for Reverend Hale of Beverly, Goody Putnam puts down Parris’s authority by...