The Crucible: Girls and Their Mischief

One would think that a court would not believe little children to be capable of misleading them into killing a large portion of a population, but in Salem, Massachusetts this was exactly the case.

Multiple girls confessed to being bewitched including Abigail Williams. The Crucible is a play that portrays to us how these girls twisted the minds of the highest people in the court. Through the court, girls, and other subjects throughout the play, irony is involved. But what is irony? Irony can be described as “a figure of speech within meaning (Colebrook 14). The irony that is in this play is for more than just a chuckle while reading.

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It was very disastrous. The irony throughout the play breaks religious laws, involves girls pretending to be bewitched, and lying that created mass murders throughout Salem. These girls were doing more than just creating attention for themselves. They are making grown men believe, when they should not, and charging false charges on people that should have never been in this situation. It is said that The Crucible is a vigorous production of the Salem witch trials, a story about the United States of America in the McCarthy era (The Columbia Encyclopedia.

) Throughout Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible, there are many ironic events such as John Proctor saying that his wife never lies, Proctor not being able to repeat the ten commandments, Mary Warren’s poppets, and even the acts of the court. Throughout the year of 1692, life in Salem, Massachusetts changed dramatically. People were no longer free to do what they wanted and say what they felt. They believed as if they were restricted from freedom, and it was all because of a little game a couple dozen young girls played. They literally played with the minds of all the people. They had obtained the most power of anyone in Salem during that time frame.

Anything they said had not just a reaction, but a complete and thorough discussion or court session about how they have become bewitched. The sessions involved the questioning of innocent citizens. Also, they were very unjust court sessions in nature. If one was questioned and they claimed they have never seen the devil, they were assumed to be liars and sent immediately to the prison or even hung. This brought up the irony in the church that suggested if “a group that pretends to have been founded on a religion of compassion has lost all love, both individually and collectively, in an orgy of greed, ambition, and lust” (Johnson, Johnson 2.

) The court was being fooled by these young girls and basically in other words being enslaved by them to carry out the witch’s intentions. The court believed everything that was said by the young manipulators because only a witch and the persecuted would know what was actually happening spiritually and a witch would not ever come clean in these unforgiving times. These cruel injustices went on for a long period of time, unfortunately. Many loved ones were imprisoned, and these young girls were getting more and more powerful by the week. The church and court needed to find another way to figure out who and who was not being bewitched because “without that foundation, everything is turned upside down and inside out” (Johnson, Johnson 2.) And that is exactly what happened until enough time went by and enough people said that they never saw or were influenced by the devil.

The court was then very sorry for what they had done and attempted a measure of retribution to be paid back to the families after they realized the error of their ways. The irony in The Crucible was felt more than in the court room. It was shown through the people that were innocent, but unfairly put them in a bad situation. The prime example of this was John Procter. He got in trouble in the eyes of the church because the church believed if one could not repeat all of the Ten Commandments, they had seen the devil.

John had a wife named Elizabeth. They claimed to love each other, and John tried to cover up the fact that he had slept with another woman so his wife would never find out. This deception became very obvious when Mr. Proctor was questioned by Mr. Hale.

Mr. Hale asked, “Let you repeat them, if you will (Miller 63.) John Proctor started saying the commandments, but as he got toward the end, he started to slow down and stutter. He recited nine out of the Ten Commandments, but when he wanted to finish the tenth, he had a hiccup. He repeated a commandment twice. This was noticed right away by Mr.

Hale and Elizabeth. Elizabeth immediately said the one that he forgot by saying, “Adultery, John (Miller 64.) The ironic part about John not knowing that last commandment is that was the commandment he actually broke. He had an affair with Abigail Williams, which added a lot of drama to the story since there was tension between Abigail and Elizabeth. Besides creating a difficult situation within the family, now it was believed that Mr. Proctor has seen and been influenced by the devil.

Furthermore, Mr. Proctor and Elizabeth would experience a lot more stress to go through in court in the upcoming court sessions. During a court session, John Proctor confessed to Danforth that he had committed adultery. He cheated on his wife with Abigail. This is what started all the drama between these ladies. Abigail used to work for the Proctor’s, but Elizabeth fired her.

After Abigail was fired, she felt that Elizabeth was making her sound very bad in public. Abigail did not like this, and she wanted to do everything in her power to kill Elizabeth. Not only to get her name back, but because she was in love with John Proctor. With saying this, John told the truth to the court even though Abigail was dishonest and stated that she did not have an affair with Mr. Proctor.

If it came out that Abigail lied, her reputation would be lost in the court, and the court will not believe that she was not bewitched. This was why Mr. Proctor confessed and also added to the story by saying, “In her life, sir, she have never lied. There are them that cannot sing, and then that cannot weep- my wife cannot lie” (Miller 103.) This statement was believed in the court, and from it a number of things would have happened. If Elizabeth told the truth, by admitting that they had an affair, Abigail would have lost all her power in the court, but if she lied and said John did not have an affair, John would be the one getting hung.

When asked upon to answer the question by Danforth, Elizabeth was not allowed to look at John or Abigail. The restriction was to simply receive the answer that was within her, so she should not need any help or cues from either John or Abigail. When the time came to answer the question, she ironically said, “No sir” (Miller 105.) She did this to potentially protect her husband from being an adulterer, but she had simply made things worse. Elizabeth made Abigail have an even a stronger voice and influence in the court, and in the end led to her husband being sentenced to death. With Abigail’s voice being so high and influential, she could say practically anything and have it seem relevant and truthful, even if it was not.

Abigail took it one step farther when she accused Elizabeth of planning on killing her. Ironically, in the courtroom, Abigail suddenly stabbed herself with a needle and said that it was witchcraft done to her by Elizabeth. This actually was just another act from Abigail trying to get Elizabeth killed. Abigail saw that Mary Warren had made a poppet with a needle attached to it. She used this as a way to frame Elizabeth because she knew that it was going to be in the Proctor household.

Truth be told, when the investigation went to the Proctor residence, the poppet was found. And attached to it was a needle. Abigail’s plan worked and she completely framed Elizabeth Proctor of practicing witchcraft upon her. Mr. Proctor was furious about the act when Cheever said, “She… testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in” (Miller 71.) Mr.

Proctor knew that Abigail wanted his wife’s life to end, and the only way to prove it was through Mary Warren because he knows that “Mary Warren gives Elizabeth a poppet of her own making; later, when Abigail has been found stuck with a needle, the poppet is used as evidence against Elizabeth because it too has a needle stuck into it (Bloom 90.) With knowing this fact, he told Marry Warren, “You’re coming to the court with me, Mary. You will tell it in the court. You will tell the court how the poppet come here and who stuck the needle in” (Miller 75.) This was exactly what happened, and in court it was proved that Elizabeth used her spirit to stab Abigail through questioning.

The only thing that saved Elizabeth was that she was showing signs of being pregnant. They were not allowed to kill her with a baby inside because the unborn child was completely innocent. As one can see, throughout The Crucible, irony is a huge factor not only with the people involved in the court case, but also in people’s personal lives such as John Proctor. In the court, Danforth, the judge, was blind to the fact that the girls were lying to him. As time went on and the lies kept mounting, the girls received more and more power, while the court was making bad ruling after bad ruling. One would think that the church and court would be able to see that the girls were lying after so many loyal people said they have never seen the devil, but this was not the case.

People learned over time to lie in order to not be hung. With everyone learning to lie, this simply created more and more havoc and intensity in the court. Irony was not limited to the court, though. It also was in John Proctors life. This was when he told his wife that he had never had an affair with another woman, but in reality he did. This became quite apparent when he was only able to recite nine of the Ten Commandments with the only commandment missing being adultery.

Mr. Proctor not being able to recite all of the commandments made things very interesting for him in court. When he was asked if he committed adultery by Danforth, he told him that he had. He told this to the court because Abigail said that she did not have an affair. If Abigail was to be proven a liar, her word in the court would not mean anything anymore. John had full faith that his wife would tell the truth because he claimed that she had never told a lie in her entire life.

The only dilemma was Elizabeth did not know what was going on, and when she was asked by Danforth if her husband had committed adultery, she said no. This was her first lie, and it was a damaging one. Lastly, it was ironic that Abigail Williams used a poppet that was meant to be a gift for Elizabeth to frame Elizabeth for bewitchment. Works Cited Bloom, Harold, ed. Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1999.

Questia School. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. Colebrook, Claire. Irony in the Work of Philosophy.

Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska, 2002. Questia School. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. Johnson, Claudia Durst, and Vernon E.

Johnson. Understanding The Crucible: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1998. Questia School. Web. 4 Mar.

2013. “Miller, Arthur.” The Columbia Encyclopedia. 6th ed. 2012.

Questia School. Web. 4 Mar. 2013. Miller, Arthur. The Crucible.

New York: Penguin Group, 2003. Print.