- theocratic society - church and state are one
- therefore sin and the status of an individual's soul are matters of public concern
- everything/everyone belongs to either God or the Devil.
- Danforth (act iii): "a person is either with this court or be must be counted against it."
- witch trials - ultimate expresison of intolerance
- hanging witches - ultimate means of restoring community's purity
- no tolerance for devil-worship - must confess and accuse others.
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- hysteria tears the community apart
- enables people to believe that their neighbours, whom they have always considered upstanding people, are committing crimes
- communing with the devil, killing babies etc.
- hysteria gives them a chance to act on long-held grudges
- Abigail - accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft so she can be with John
- Reverend Parris - strengthens his position within the village by making scapegoats of people who question his authorty
- Thomas Putnam - accuses Rebecca Nurse of the murder of Ann Putnam's babies
- hysteria can only thrive because people benefit from it
- allows the acting out of dark desires under the cover of righteousness
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- very important in Salem
- fear of guilt by assosciation - the sins of their friends and assosciates will taint their names
- Parris - Abigail's questionable actions, witchcraft around Betty's coma
- Proctor - affair with Abigail keeps him from testifying against her.
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- empower characters who were previously marginalized in Salem society
- in general, women occupy the lowest rung of male-dominated Salem, few options in life
- work as servants for townsmen until they are old enough to be married off & have children
- Abigail - unmarried young girl.
- Also slave to Proctor's sexual whims - strips away her innocence when he commits adultery with her
- arouses spiteful jealousy wen he terminates affair
- greatest fear of theocratic community - defiance of God - Abigail accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship draw lots of attention of court
- Abigail aligns herself with God - gains power over society (and girls) - her word becomes virtually unassailable
- Tituba - despite being black - deflect blame from herself by accusing others - gives her some kind of power
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Accusations, confessions and legal proceedings
- witch trials - central to the action of The Crucible
- act i - Parris accusing Abigail of dishonouring him
- entire witch trial system thrives on accusations
- only way that witches can be identified
- confessions provide proof of the justice of the court proceedings
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The witch trials and McCarthyism
- the whole play can be seen as a symbol of the paranoia about communism in the 1950s
- Miller's main concern in The Crucibe is the unwillingness of the court officials to believe that they are not actually witches
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- several characters in the play face dilemmas of conscience
- following conscience must withstand the desire to preserve one's good name, freedom, life.
- it is not the duty of good Christians to follow their individual consciences, but to obey the rulings of the church (e.g. Danforth and Parris)
- conflict between duty and self-interest, conscience and obedience - plunges Salem into tragedy
- Proctor - only when tragedy strikes his family he follows his conscience - too late
- Proctor's decision central to the drama - leads to his spiritual development - moral integrity becomes more important than his name
- Hale - indecisive about what to believe - the church or Proctor
- Elizabeth - indecisive about telling the truth and lying for Proctor's good name
- John has to take in several concepts - good name in the community, worldly gain versus spiritual salvation, loyalty to his own desires, duty to wife, family and neighbours, personal integrity
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Evil and fear
- abigails dissembling (concealing one's true beliefs, motives, feelings)
- self-centeredness of Parris
- Putnam's mean and avaricious view of life
- lying and pretence of Abigal accusing the people of Salem
- Abigail's "marvellous cool plot to murder"
- witch hunts caused and fuelled by fear.
- only Rebecca Nurse and Giles Corey seem unafraid
- hysteria of girls - from fear of being punished for dancing in the forest
- creates an atmosphere where fear becomes the motivating force
- fear of being accused - neighbours to accuse others
- Parris- fear of losing position - leads him to join the witch hunt
- Proctor - fear of adultery being made public - delays him discrediting Abigail
- Mary Warren - fear of Abigail - withdraw accusations against her and accuse Proctor instead
- Elizabeth - fear for husband's good name - lie destroys evidence against Abigail
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