Elizabeth is silent when John asks of her opinion if he confesses to this false crime of witchery to save his life. She does not want to influence him. This is the second time in the play where we see Proctor requesting Elizabeth’s approval. The last time we saw this was in Act 2 where he expressed how he ‘means to please’ Elizabeth. This shows that he was true to that statement when he said it, he wants Elizabeth to be happy even when the decision is over his own life.
(Pause, for the first time he turns directly towards her) shows the audience that Proctor wants to show Elizabeth that he really does love her and that he feels guilty for his affair and that he regrets it. It is now that he asks for her forgiveness. And it is also now that Elizabeth breaks down. Up until this point she has kept relatively quite but when asked for her forgiveness she lets out a ‘heaving sob. ‘ This shows that she does not want Proctor to die and even more that she does not want Proctor to die and feels that she still has not forgiven him.
Proctor pauses after explaining that he could not die a saint because he is not one, he has sinned and God will not excuse his sins because he died as a hero in the eyes of the village. His pause shows that he needs Elizabeth’s approval, he needs Elizabeth to be ‘normal’ and show what she really thinks and feels and not act like the people of Salem have pressured her to. All of these stage directions inform the audience of how the couple is feeling. The fact that the stage directions show in volume the thoughts and desires of the characters shows why there is very little dialogue between the couple.
However once Proctor convinces himself that he is not a saint and can not pretend to die as one he tells Hathorne that he would have his life, meaning that he would confess to his ‘crime. ‘ When Danforth hears of this he says ‘Praise to God, man, praise to God; you shall be blessed in heaven for this. ‘ This shows how Danforth is very quick to accept a confession from Proctor. This is because he knows that the witch trials were not honest and that Abigail was lying. He knows that if Proctor confesses he will keep his power for longer, he hopes that Proctor’s confession will trigger others to confess.
There seems to be a sense of urgency in the confession (Cheever hurries to the bench with a pen, ink and paper) this is tries to be portrayed as urgency in Proctor’s favour. This is because it is soon sunrise when Proctor is due to hang but we know that it is because news of Abigail’s disappearance will soon spread and this will prove that the executions were unnecessary. Proctor is awed by their efficiency shown in his stage directions (with a cold, cold horror at their efficiency). Proctor uses accusations like Danforth, asking why the confession must be written.
This is another comparison between Danforth and Proctor but there is a startling difference in what the two characters ask questions for. Danforth uses accusations to show his power, Proctor uses them in bewilderment. An example in Act 4 where Danforth uses accusations as a way of representing his power in court is when he asks Proctor if he saw the devil. He starts by asking formally “Mr Proctor, have you seen the Devil in your life? ” Danforth gets frustrated when Proctor refuses to answer he sees it as being disrespectful. So, he asks again in a more omnipotent manner “Did you see the devil.
” This shows that Danforth uses accusations because he regards himself as powerful and expects that other should too. Proctor uses accusations quite differently. “Why must it be written? ” This shows the audience that he feels completely lost. The word must shows that he feels he has no choice in the matter; that he is not in control. When Proctor is asked if he saw the devil his jaws are described as locked. This shows the audience that he hates lying because his last association with lying was his affair with Abigail. Proctor goes on to admit to seeing the devil but when asked who else he saw with the devils he collapses yet again.
He calls the confession a lie. Danforth tries to regain power; he sees the laws as being just and right and will not tolerate any variation of them. He tells Proctor that he will not accept the confession if it is a lie. Proctor then tears up the confession. Parris takes great pain when Proctor tears up the confession he is described by Miller to act ‘hysterically, as if the tearing up of the confession were his life. ‘ This is the moment that the audience have been dreading and like the semi climax when Elizabeth was in court it is the fear of the unknown.
They hope that Parris’ outburst may bring about some change and that Proctor’s life will be saved but he is taken by the guards and hanged with Rebecca Nurse and Martha Corey. The audience is aware that this is the point of the play where the title shows how it is appropriate. This is where John shows the purification of the town. He has shown throughout the play that parts of him have been ‘boiled away’ (like in an actual crucible) until the audience see the raw character of John Proctor as if he were in a crucible. This execution also shows how Proctor’s death filter the town of its evil because he is now a true …
hero. The ending of the play is very climactic. It uses the background of Proctor and the earlier scenes of the play to build up tension and strain. Through doing this the audience is also brought closer to the character of John Proctor. This means that by the end of the play when Proctor’s life is in jeopardy the audience feels that they want him to live. This means that any hope that Proctor will live is magnified sub-consciously by the audience and when this hope is broken by events in the play it seems to be a tragedy in itself.
This means that the tearing of the confession is particularly dramatic because the audience seems to feel that he is so close to surviving this awful sequence of events. The ending is such a complex and seemingly counteractive one that the audience is torn of which outcome they wish for. If Proctor confesses he will live but he will be demoralising himself. The audience does not want this to happen because they want Proctor to be a hero. However if Proctor does not confess he will hang, though he will be an honest man once more. I think that the reason why the tearing of the confession is so dramatic is that Proctor signed it first.
The signing of the confession symbolises all of the themes put forward in the play; faith, paranoia, legal proceedings, accusations and reputation. The confession symbolises faith because it is to be nailed upon the door of the church to inform the town. It also shows the idea of faith because of what is written on it. It says that John admits to seeing the devil. This shows the audience of what a big crime this was at the time, linking the themes of faith to legal proceedings. Reputation is a big part of the confession, I believe, because it is all centred on the proof.
The proof being John Proctor’s name. John does not want to sign the confession because he wants to be left with his name after betraying his friends. It is important to the court to have John Proctor’s name on the confession in case he refuses to admit to witchcraft after the confession. Parris rightly says that it is a ‘weighty name,’ meaning that Proctor has a good reputation and if he confesses it will shock others into confessing. This is all very important to Parris, as he knows that his daughter has run away and that she is most possibly guilty.
This shows all of the different symbolic meanings that the confession has and also why John Proctor did not want to sign it. This would also mean that the audience would not want him to sign it; they would be aware of all of these factors implied by the signing of the confession. Once Proctor signed the confession the audience convinced themselves that it was the right thing to do. It seems like the right thing to do using modern day empathy. People will be concerned about Elizabeth, their children and their unborn baby. They also want whatever Proctor does to be the right thing because they want him to be a hero.
However Proctor then tears it up. This throws the audience because they are already satisfied that Proctor did the right thing by confessing; he can be with his family. Now the audience has to accept that Proctor was wrong and by dying he will become a hero. By Proctor dying he is able to undo any wrong doings that he has done previously. Him dying for something that he did not do to save friends and family shows him gaining back his goodness. Proctor is seen as a hero and martyr at this point in the play. This shows how Miller made the tearing of the confession dramatic.
Miller built up tension throughout the play that resulted in the confession being dramatic in some respects exhausting. Miller used clear and lengthy stage directions to show how characters reacted to one another. These stage directions were often very descriptive which means that an actor performing the play could express Millers exact interpretations. This means that the audience could predict (whether they were reading or watching the play) how each character would react to the tearing of the confession. However most characters did not follow their expected routes.
For example Parris was in hysteria and though the audience had seen him in panic in Act 1 he was never concerned of Proctor’s life and business. At this point he seemed to be the most affected. This shows us how Miller used stage directions to create bonds, which would be broken at the tearing of the confession, between the audience and characters. Finally the ending of the play still seems very dramatic even though it was written over 50 years ago. This is because the play was based on fear growing into paranoia in a community. This theme can be related to any time period such as communism in the 1950’s.
It can even be related into the society of today (possibly with the growing fear of the power in china) which is why I believe that the play is still so popular and why it is still seen as a huge tragedy; people can relate to it. People could relate to it in the 1950’s when it was written because of the conflicts with Russia and communism and people can relate to it now with the threat of China’s growing power. People in society will always have fears, therefore the play will always have some relevance no matter which time era it is being read / performed in.