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Tension, the suspense and drama of this play, is created and built up to great amounts and in various ways during Act two. This was most likely influenced by the events taking place at the time Miller wrote the drama. McCarthyism was a large part of Millers life and the comparisons between the unfair and unjustified trials of Salem and America greatly affected the play, for instance the tense relationships between Miller and others at the time of McCarthyism could have been reflected on to the characters. Resulting in adaptations of the facts, such as the raising o Abigail’s age and decreasing the number of “girls involved in the ‘crying out.’”
This could also have been reflected onto the relationships between characters, such as John and Elizabeth.
In the scene between John and Elizabeth there is large amounts on tension brought out through the awkwardness in their speech and actions. Especially as Miller is extremely descriptive in his stage directions we can see that small compliments and ‘sweet comments’ such as “I mean to please you, Elizabeth” Cause Elizabeth to blush and are hard to accept.
Miller tells us that “a sense of their separation arises” and they do not act as close as a husband a wife should. We discover that John has lied to Elizabeth and her suspicion as well as the audiences brings the ‘awkwardness’ and tension to a climax resulting in John’s outburst “with a violent undertone,” and “solemn warning.” The ensuing argument keeps to Millers traditional writing technique, using abrupt conversations and unexpected interruptions.
Another aspect of tension is brought about by a particular unexpected interruption. When Mary Warren interrupts the tense argument between John and Elizabeth- Mary symbolises the tension of the community- she enters into the wake of a “Bitter” comment from John and she brings more suspicion to the scene. This is because her entrance surprises us, we wonder at her strange behaviour and we learn that she is now an official of the court. Her lack of response to Proctors anger and violence is confusing and adds mystery to the scene, which leads to suspense, drama and tension.
Then, a second interruption by hale causes a large increase in tension, especially as he appears “Quite suddenly, as though from the air,” the proctors guilty-looking reaction of surprise also adds suspicion to the scene, the audience see the suspicion and tension at that moment, through Hales eyes and sense the danger that the Proctors are in.
Miller creates the tension in this scene through the suspicion of Hale and the awkwardness between Elizabeth and John. We are told that there is a “quality of urgency” about Hales manner and the way he openly suspects Elizabeth, by taking her shock at seeing him as guilt, makes the audience doubt their own judgement of the characters, creating more tension.
There is tension between all three characters as the proctors are defending their “Christian house” whilst silently feuding between themselves because of Johns sins.
There are themes of deceit, moral struggles and suspicion in this scene, all of which amount to a roller coaster of intensity.
As well as being very effective throughout the play, stage directions play a massive role in this scene. The uncomfortable situation between John and Elizabeth is shown through complex and detailed stage directions. John seasons the stew himself so as to not cause friction between them, they’re relationship is presented as a caring yet unbalanced one. Also, the stage directions regarding the behaviour and responses of other characters demand our attention and create drama and tension.
The dialogue of this scene also shows the tension of the characters involved. For example, most characters start to shorten their words and speak in a far more rigid fashion than usual when feeling threatened or uncomfortable, especially when a sense of suspicion enters the scene. These monosyllabic phrases litter the scene and show the audience the rising conflicts in the household and also the community. There are also many opportunities where the characters could freely give information but Miller keeps us in suspense, and makes Marry Warrens and Hales manner very secretive and reluctant to give out information.
Finally, the community in which Salem is based is one with a severe fear of the unknown and is represented through Mary Warren, as a messenger of the community. Miller uses this builds tension around the fact that the audience has as little or less information about the events taking place as the characters. As both the audience and characters, with the exception of Mary Warren, are apparently in the dark.
Throughout the play Miller uses carefully chosen methods and wording to create drama and tension. During this scene he builds-up this tension through the particularly careful and effective use of the secretive dialogue, the descriptive stage directions, through individual reactions and speeches, the relationships between characters, the unexpected events and interruptions, the feelings and themes of the storyline, the suspicion of the unknown, the monosyllabic conversations and anti-Communist references. These would have made this scene especially popular at the time it was published and shows us just how tense Millers situation was to have reflected quite so noticeably in the play.
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