In the literary context, a tragedy is defined as a form of drama in which the characters are primarily impelled to suffering or an unhappy ending. This means that, in the course of the play, you, as an audience, through empathy or identification with the characters, experience either the purification of our emotions or intellectual enlightenment (David). As such, Arthur Millers play The Crucible is said to be an excellent representation of the true meaning of a tragedy, since it more than adequately depicts some human suffering.
To begin with, the protagonist of the play, John Proctor, falls from his initial prosperity to misery through a series of reversals which are as a result of his own discoveries. Based on this context, it is obvious to the reader that Proctor is indeed a tragic hero with a fatal flaw. In this regard, Proctor, who comes from a high position in society, happens to have a reversal of fortunes which culminates with an epiphany (Bloom). In the beginning, Proctor is portrayed as a good character whose pride, eventually gets the best of him. For instance, Proctor thinks that he can have fun with Abigail and then return to his wife, as nothing happened. This, in essence, causes him a lot of trouble in the end, and like all tragic heroes, Proctor redeems himself in the end and proves that he remains a good person except when it is time to save himself.
Besides, the fact that there are numerous incidences of human suffering, is yet another reason why the play is considered a tragedy. More fundamentally, Miller exposes the readers to the sufferings of the characters especially when the accusations begin and several people arrested. Besides, the fact that all the arrested people are innocent and there is no proper evidence to prove their guilt, indeed gives the reader, greater depth to the amount of pain that is experienced by the characters. An excellent example is the protagonist, Proctor, who was hanged even after he had publicly confessed.
Also, with regard to Proctors death, it is evident that the cause of his death was primarily attributed to this tragic flaws such as his inability to rationalize the world around him. More specifically, Proctor, who was a married man, was unable to justify the feelings he had for Parris with what he considered as his need to become a renowned part of the community. Moreover, at the end of the play, Proctor is intentionally irrational of signing the confession. This, in essence, paints the picture, that, although this was considered one of his moments of strength for Proctor, this particular tragic flaw becomes the sole cause of his death (Jewel).
In addition to Proctors tragedy, there are also other tragedies that befall his wife, Elizabeth. According to the playwright, Elizabeth was a good and a morally upright woman who would choose to protect her husband, Proctor, even at the cost of her own life. Besides, she is also falsely accused of witchcraft, which sees her getting imprisoned. In the end, however, Elizabeth is left alone after Proctors death. Based on Elizabeths tragedy, the audience gets to understand the broader surrounding tragedy through all the innocent people who were not only accused of witchcraft in the society but also killed or imprisoned solely because of a form of hysteria that was started by some idle teenage girls (Bloom).
Similarly, Rebecca Nurses tragic death is yet another example that proofs that the play adequately subscribes to the definition of a tragedy. Rebecca, who had a good reputation in the town, was much respected and admired by the townsfolk to the extent that some of them approached her for basic advice and consultation (Baker). Thus, based on this context, people recognized her integrity, and she was the ideal example of kindness and generosity. Nonetheless, despite all her positive traits, the play portrays her death as one of the most tragic ones. Notably, Marthas death is as a result of the Putnams of jealousy and their greed. This is substantiated in the play, where they went to the extent of using their daughter to lie in court and hence making all their accusations believable.
Finally, the play The Crucible, is also deemed as a tragedy owing to the fact that, there is a feeling of emotional purification, at the end of the play when Proctor, Martha and Rebecca die for what they consider unfair. Miller makes us believe that the death of these three characters is a sign that they are paying for everything that was done by Parris, Abigail, and Danforth. Thus, based on this context, the audience are more inclined to pity the teenage girls since they go through tough times with things such as the law, their reputation, or even their love. For instance, even after many towns people die, Danforth does not realize that what he does to the society is wrong. He says that, Hang them high over the town! Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption? (144).
Baker, I. L. "Arthur Millers art in The Crucible." The Crucible, 1991, pp. 39-48.
Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller's the Crucible. Chelsea House, 2004.
David, Palmer. "Tragedy, Integrity, Guilt, and Shame: Understanding John Proctor." The Arthur Miller Journal, 27 Feb. 1949, www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-3046668181/tragedy-integrity-guilt-and-shame-understanding.
Jewel, Bonita. "Literary Analysis of Arthur Millers The Crucible." 27 Mar. 2014, danielandbonita.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/literary-analysis-of-arthur-millers-the-crucible/. Accessed 15 Dec. 2017.
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