“The Crucible” Analysis of Major Characters Major Characters • In Act 1, “An Overture”, Miller presents a series of essays through which he establishes the context of Setting: Time and Place and Character. What Miller is writing in these “essays” is like extended stage directions. Everything that is written is fundamental to any understanding of the play as it is his (Miller’s) intention we know the details given. • All the information given is a textual clue as to how we would: – interpret and play a character: acting and directing performance concepts. – design the Mise-en-Scene or create individual designs: designer and directorial performance concepts. – create an overall directorial concept for the play. • The essays and stage directions form important textual clues that can be as useful and informative as the dialogue throughout. John Proctor John Proctor – Introductory Notes (p16) Proctor was a farmer in his middle thirties. He need not have been a partisan of any faction in the town, but there is evidence to suggest that he had a sharp and biting way with hypocrites. He was a kind of man- powerful of body, even-tempered and not easily led- who cannot refuse support to partisans without drawing their deepest resentment. In Proctor’s presence a fool felt his foolishness instantly- and a Proctor is always marked for calumny therefore. But as we shall see, the steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul. He is a sinner, a sinner not only against the moral fashion of the time, but against his own vision of decent conduct. These people had no ritual for the washing away of sins. It is another trait we inherited from them, and it has helped to discipline us as well as to breed hypocrisy among us. Proctor, respected and even feared in Salem, has come to regard himself as a kind of fraud. But no hint of this has yet appeared on the surface and as he enters from the crowded parlour below it is a man in his prime we see, with a quiet confidence and an unexpressed, hidden force. Mary warren, his servant, can barely speak for embarrassment and fear. • From these notes we can find many clues as to the type of character John Proctor is. This has relevance to the proceeding play as well as key information for an actor playing John Proctor OR a director directing an actor to play John Proctor. John Proctor – Stage Directions (1) Physically: Strong, well built, strong upright posture, confident gait, strong presence “…powerful of body”,”…in his prime…”, “…quiet confidence”, “…an unexpressed hidden force” Personality: He is often a contradiction: Confident, even-tempered, arrogant, honest, brave, weak, quick tempered (with those he considers fools) “…quiet confidence…”, “…even- tempered…”, “…a sharp and biting way with hypocrites…”, “…as he enters from the crowded parlour below…” Characteristics: Pride, high moral integrity, guilty conscience, sinner, cowardice, masculinity, hot bloodedness, disbelief in witches, individual, mistrusting, protective, kind“…a sinner…”, “against his own vision of decent conduct.”,”…steady manner… not an untroubled soul…”, “regard himself as a kind of fraud” John Proctor – Stage Directions (2) Main Objective: To clear his conscience of guilt, to cleans his own name. “…the steady manner he displays does not spring from an untroubled soul. He is a sinner… against his own vision of decent conduct. …no ritual for the washing away of sins.” Purpose: Communication of dramatic message, representative of main themes, representative of Social context (SET) and (WRITTEN), Generator (not always intentionally) of conflict, catalyst for igniting plot, representative of tragedy, responsible for final climax, determines fate of the theocracy, to represent what happens when one is brave enough to speak openly against the church and state (theocracy) Occupation: Farmer. Motivation: His high sense of moral integrity and the protection of his name and reputation. Status: Low in his own opinion, high in terms of the rest of Salem (the townspeople) John Proctor – General Points • A strong male role which becomes increasingly demanding as the play’s plot unfolds. The actor has to be able to portray the subtleties and range of guilt, anger and frustration, but should also be able to take the audience with him in terms of support for the stand he has taken and a belief in his development. The character uses a wide range of language which at times is blunt and down to earth, at times full of imagery and sensuality; all of which means the actor has to have much confidence and versatility. This is quite a physical and dynamic part. Abigail Williams Abigail Williams – Stage Directions (1) Abigail Williams: No notes are given for Abigail but Miller’s short stage direction at her entrance is invaluable to a director, actress or student of “The Crucible”: Abigail William, seventeen, enters- a strikingly beautiful girl, an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling. Now she is all worry and apprehension and propriety.” Dissembling: To disguise or conceal behind a false appearance Abigail Williams – Stage Directions (2) In the opening scene Abigail is established as a controlling and central character in “The Crucible”. In the first 6 pages she has little dialogue yet Miller gives her more stage directions than any other character: P6 : “..worry, apprehension and propriety.” P7 : “(quavering as she sits)” P8 : “(lowers her eyes)” P8 : “(she is silent)” P8 : “(innocently)” P8 : “(in terror)” P9: “(with an edge of resentment)” P9: “(With ill- concealed resentment at him)” P9: “(in a temper)” P12: “(whispering)” P14: “(with hushed trepidation)” P14: “(…with fear in her voice…shakes her)” P15: “(…furiously shakes her)” P16: “(…cautiously approaches)” P16: “(smashes her across the face)” P16: “(stares in fright)” P17: “(both afraid of him, strangely titillated)” P17: “(Since proctor’s entrance Abigail has stood as though on tiptoe, absorbing his presence, wide-eyed.)” P17: “(with a nervous laugh)” P17: “(Winningly she comes a little closer, with a confidential, wicked air.)” P17: “(A thrill of expectant laughter escapes her, and she dares come closer, feverishly looking into his eyes)” P17: “(Her concentrated desire destroys his smile)” P17: “(tauntingly)” P17: “(now beginning to anger- she can’t believe it)” P18: “(now softening)” P18: “(with a flash of anger)” Abigail Williams – General Notes (1) Physically: Beautiful, sensual, her presence is felt or not depending on the situation (gait, posture, body language etc follow suit) Personality: Domineering, flirtatious, worldly wise, spiteful, passionate, freespirit, Characteristics: She has a short fuse, manipulative, rebellious, liar, violent, traumatic past, dishonest, bitter Themes representative of: Abuse of power, hysteria, individual in society (she challenges authority but for very different reasons to John) Main Objective: To gain John Proctor for herself. Purpose: Catalyst for creating events in the forest, main accuser, generator of hysteria, generator of conflict, representative of main themes, highlights John Proctor’s fatal flaws, is responsible for creating the tragedy that befalls Salem, partly responsible for creating the witch hunt. Motivation: To protect her name, survive and her lust for John Proctor. Occupation: Was a servant. Status: Low in the town ,her name is somewhat tarnished, she is female and seventeen. High with the girls, she is their leader and controls them. Abigail Williams – General Notes (2) • This has to be one of the most exciting, complex and demanding roles for any young actor to play. Abigail is an attractive, sexual and manipulative character. A very strong and challenging female role. She provides a focus for the central concerns of the play. The actor playing the part of Abigail has to create a wide range of emotions, even in very short scenes showing both violent cruelty and personal charm co-existing. A rebel who is sexually aware. Has to concentrate and think all the time on stage, particularly when the focus of the dialogue is not directly on her. Reverend Parris Reverend Parris – Introductory Notes (p16) “At the time of these events Parris was in his middle forties. In history he cut a villainous path, and there is very little good to be said for him. He believed he was being persecuted wherever he went, despite his best efforts to win people and God to his side. In meetings, he felt insulted if someone rose to shut the door without first asking his permission. He was a widower with no interest in children or talent with them. He regarded them as young adults and until this strange crisis he, like the rest of Salem, never conceived that the children where anything but thankful for being permitted to walk straight, eyes slightly lowered, arms at the sides and mouths shut until bidden to speak. His house stood in the ‘town’ – but we today would hardly call it a village. The meeting house was nearby and from this point outward – toward the bay or inland – there were a few small- windowed, dark houses snuggling against the raw Massachusetts winter.” Reverend Parris Physically: in his forties, sly/ scathing facial expressions, upright posture, air of importance, thin, cold expressions, defiant/ dismissive gestures to those he disregards, meek/ pleasing gestures to those he needs, tall, looks “weathered” (his worries, discontent and paranoia have aged him) Personality: Cold, weak, paranoid, selfish, greedy, un fatherly. Characteristics: Full of self importance, easily controlled, considers himself to be misunderstood, uses God to further his position/ for his own gain, bows to authority, hostile towards those who are reviled by him Themes representative of: Abuse of Power, Hysteria, Theocracy Reverend Parris Main Objective: To keep his status high in the town Purpose: To represent main themes, to accuse others to save himself, representative of a friendly witness (CONTEXT WRITTEN), To uphold the theocracy, to rid Salem of the devil, to be weak in the face of authority. Status: High in the town. He is the reverend and therefore he speaks God’s word. Low with some Salemites as they see through his falsity to his greed and corruption, he is distant from them Motivation: his sense of status and fear of individualism. Occupation: Minister of Salem Reverend Parris – General Points • This can be a tricky part to play. The character can be seen as an outright villain or as a figure of ridicule. This is an obsessive character, almost stiff and unbending, driven by an awareness of his political position as well as a desire to keep the community together spiritually. At the beginning of the play, the fight for survival is very real for Parris and the actor must avoid patronising this character, because that could undermine the argument of the play. He is not a likeable character and often speaks as if he is in the pulpit. The actor playing this part will need to have a deep understanding of the character’s motivation. Reverend Hale Reverend Hale – Introductory Notes (p26) “ Mr Hale is nearly forty, a tight- skinned, eager- eyed intellectual. This is a beloved errand for him; on being called here to ascertain witchcraft he felt the pride of the specialist whose unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for. Like almost all men of learning, he spent a good deal of his time pondering the invisible world, especially since he had himself encountered a witch in his parish not long before. That woman, however, turned into a mere pest under his searching scrutiny and the child she has allegedly been afflicting recovered her normal behaviour after Hale had given her his kindness and a few days of rest in his own house. However, that experience never raised a doubt in his mind as to the reality of the underworld or the existence of Lucifer’s manyfaced lieutenants. And his belief is not to his discredit. Better minds than Hale’s were-and still are- convinced that there is a society of spirits beyond our ken. One cannot help noting that one of his lines has never raised a laugh in any audience that has seen this play; it is in his assurance that ‘We cannot look to superstition in this. The devil is precise.’ Evidently we are not quite certain even now whether diabolism is holy and not to be scoffed at. And it is no accident that we should be so bemused…. Reverend Hale – Introductory Notes (p26) … Coming into Salem now, Revered Hale conceives of himself much as a young doctor on his first call. His painfully acquired armoury of symptoms, catchwords, and diagnostic procedures and now to be put to use at last. The road from Beverly is unusually busy this morning and he has passed a hundred rumours that make him smile at the ignorance of the yeomanry in this most precise science. He feels himself allied with the best minds of Europe-kings, philosophers, scientists and ecclesiasts of all churches. His goal, is light, goodness and its preservation and he knows the exaltation of the blessed whose intelligence, sharpened by minute examinations of enormous tracts, is finally called upon to face what may be a bloody fight wit the fiend himself.” Reverend Hale Physically: late 30’s (38 or 39), appears youthful, quick paced, careful tread, swift gait, kind; thoughtful; sincere and serious facial expressions, strong. Personality: Intense, passionate, well read, well meaning, God fearing, a man of conscience, suspicious, guilty becomes direct, becomes very self assured as he tries to amend his wrong doings by committing a sin. Characteristics: well intentioned but somewhat naive, seeks to do the best for God, considers himself very intelligent, he is proud of his knowledge: like John Proctor this will cause him to fall, troubled once he realises there are doubts, allows his faith to cloud his better judgement (leading to the tragedy), becomes a broken man Theme representative of: Hysteria, Abuse of Power (unwittingly), Theocracy. Reverend Hale Main Objective: To rid Salem of the devil: to find the truth Purpose: To act rashly and generate initial accusations and Hysteria, to represent a main theme, to challenge the court (therefore highlighting its overwhelming power and corruption), to represent doubt Status: High on arrival, soon usurped by Danforth’ s arrival. Motivation: To do God’s work and help people Occupation: Reverend, specialist in demonology Reverend Hale – General Points • Hale begins as an optimistic and eager character, full of confidence and joy in his knowledge and faith. By the second act he is chastened by the growing number of accused and, by the end of the play, he has to appear tortured and incompletely broken man, physically exhausted, with his faith shattered. The actor playing the part of Hale must be careful not to make him appear a figure of fun. He will irritate and frustrate but ultimately hold our pity, as he makes some attempt to right the wrong. This character feels great responsibility for his actions and wants to achieve good. Deputy-Governor Danforth Danforth – Introductory Direction (p68) Enter Deputy- Governor Danforth and behind him, Ezekiel Cheever and Parris. On his appearance, silence falls. Danforth is a grave man in his sixties, of some humour and sophistication that does not, however, interfere with an exact loyalty to his position and his cause. He comes down to Giles, who awaits his wrath. Deputy-Governor Danforth Physically: Looks older but sophisticated, in his sixties, wrinkled yet alert and contemplative, slow, careful looks and gestures, composed, stern, makes continuous eye- contact, perfectly presented Personality: Blinkered, harsh, self-assured, confident, egotistical Characteristics: Full of his own achievements, proud, intellectual, ambitious, hypocritical. Themes representative of: Abuse of Power, Theocracy Deputy-Governor Danforth Objective: To punish those named as witches and bring society back into line Purpose: represents main authority, generator of conflict (particularly with John Proctor), personifies the theocracy, representative of context (WRITTEN): he is a parallel of Senator Joseph McCarthy, is the personification of power, which the common man cannot challenge, allows ambition to cloud his sense of right and wrong Motivation: His sense of pride and achievement: the betterment of his name/ the raising of his status, the preservation of his position Status: High Occupation: Deputy Governor of the Province (New England) Deputy-Governor Danforth A cold, cruel and calculating character. However, the scene at the end of Act Four with Proctor shows some measure of panic and anger in his frustration at John’s actions. The role can be challenging because it has to strike a balance: between how this man presents himself to the public and his intentions to protect the theocracy and his own political ambitions. A figure of authority, but also a figure of corruption. Elizabeth Proctor Elizabeth Proctor Physically: quite plain but nonetheless still attractive, slim? (she has been ill) Personality: subservient but strong when necessary, quiet, motherly, cold, withdrawn Characteristics: religious, pious, victim “she frightened all my strengh away”, defiant “I see what I see John” this contrast in Elizabeth makes her a far more complex character then she first appears. Themes representative of: individual in society, (victim of) abuse of power, (victim of) hysteria Elizabeth Proctor Purpose: representative of main themes, generator of conflict, creates a turning point in John’s decision-making process, builds mini and main climax Motivation: to regain her dignity and the love of her husband Main Objective: to keep her family together, to have her old way of life back: to have harmony in her relationship with John and feel like she pleases him. Status: High (but in terms of the patriarchal society fairly low) as she is a mother and a central character. Occupation: housewife and mother Elizabeth Proctor A challenging female role. The actor playing the part of Elizabeth has to ensure that, in the relatively short time she appears on stage, she creates a character that the audience will believe has undergone quite radical self development. Within the coldness and rigidity of her nature there have to be glimmers of potential warmth towards her husband, since what saves her from hanging is the discovery of her pregnancy. The actor playing this part has to achieve a fine balance between the ‘goodness’ of Elizabeth and her realization that the passion she feels for her husband is reciprocated. She has to show control, but there are also moments, when she is arguing with her husband, that reveal her determination and assertiveness. There are also moments when she strives to hold on to her dignity in the face of great fear.