The Crucible is a play that was published by Arthur Miller in 1952. The focus of the play is in the Salem Witch trials that take place in one small village in Salem, which is in Massachusetts. The play demonstrates the effects of the salem witch trials. A group of girls that want to avoid any trouble for conjuring forest spirits or dancing induce the Salem trials. Power, its nature, and effects clearly come out as one of the most important themes in the play. Power presents itself through three different ways. The control or power Abigail individuals accused of witchcraft and her allies in the trials, church authority over the villagers and judge’s authority in the trials present ways that depict power and its effects.
Abigail has power and authority over her friends and even influences their decisions. Abigail is seen to manipulate her friends and the trials throughout the play. There are situations that Abigail even threatened the other girls if they told the truth. “Now look you, all of you, we danced and Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. That is all. Moreover, mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night, and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!”. She also tells Betty, “Betty, you never say that again! You will never”. Smashing Betty across her face Abigail also tells her, “Shut it! Now shut it!”. Abigail uses these kinds of threats to keep her friends quiet and therefore protect her from being whipped for going dancing in the forest. It is evident that Abigail controls the trials by accusing people of using witchcraft and she is, therefore, the one who initiated witch trials. Through acting, they can convince the judge and deputy governor, therefore, the accused are put to death. Abigail accuses many of witchcraft including Mary who betrays the other girls and Elizabeth, john’s wife just because she wanted to be with him. Abigail has power over many in the community, and this is shown when Elizabeth cannot be saved even after John admitting to having an affair with her. Abigail’s ability to lie and still have people believe her is a clear indication that power is great but can be used to do harm to other people and therefore have an adverse impact on the society.
Another aspect of power is that of the church over the villagers. Puritans were known to be highly religious people governed by rules, policies, and regulations set forth by the church. The church had the power that they set rules to show gambling, drinking, dancing, and gossiping as sin. There were consequences for those who fell to the temptations including banishing them or even killing them. “At any rate, very few Indians were converted, and the Salem folk believed that the virgin forest was the Devil’s last preserve, his home base and the citadel of his final stand. To the best of their knowledge, the American forest was the last place on earth that was not paying homage to God”. The quote is a clear indication that the church had power over the people. “The witch-hunt was a perverse manifestation of the panic which set in among all classes when the balance began to turn toward greater individual freedom”, this quote shows the tragedy that resulted in extreme belief in religion. The preachers in general control the church and therefore the priests control the lives of the people dedicated to the church. For the church members not to fall into temptation and sin, all of them ought to master the prayers and commandments. The religious people believe that the preachers were the purest of all was not correct as priests in the play were involved in corrupt acts.
Reverend Parris was involved in lust for power and money. One of the effects of power that is known is that power can corrupt and the church’s power over its believers made Reverend Parris corrupt. At one time he is concerned about his niece Mercy running away with his money rather than her wellbeing and sudden disappearance. The corrupt nature of Parris even made John reject him in the act of baptizing his son, “I like it not that Mr. Parris should lay his hand upon my baby. I see no light of God in that man. I’ll not conceal it”. The corrupt nature of power makes the church unclean even though believers view it as a clean place or even a sanctuary view it. What this acts in the church provide is a clear indication that power is corrupt in nature and it is the duty of those who hold it to use it in a proper manner.
Lastly, power and its effects are shown by the power of the judge over the trials in general including the people involved in the trials. Judge Hathorne gave an order for the arrest of Giles Corey simply because he interrupted the court proceedings by wanting to produce evidence that the girls were giving false witnesses. When Giles fails to answer his indictment, it leads to him being punished through crushing by heavy stones. Through Giles remark, “You’re not a Boston judge yet, Hathorne. You’ll not call me a daft!”, Miller can depict that all power is not absolute power. Another judge Danforth is shown to be a hothead who has ambitions to transfer to a court in Boston. Through unethical means including intimidation and trickery, Danforth can milk out information he requires from defendants and witnesses. Danforth uses his power in uncouth ways in punishing the accused. He even says, “Hang them high over the town! Who weeps for these, weeps for corruption”.
Another quote that proves that Danforth has power in the trials is when he asks Mary, “Might it be that here we have no afflicting spirit loose, but in the court there were some?”. Besides, Danforth tries to force Elizabeth to convince her husband to a confession of being a witch. These examples are a clear indication of the power the judges have over the trials and how they use this power in a wrong way to suit them. Because Danforth is powerful and does not want to tarnish his name, he is sometimes shown to use his power to wrongly give sentences to the accused even though he knows that the accusations made are lies. His unwillingness to admit to the lies shows how judges use their power in unethical manners that in turn affects other people’s innocent lives.
In conclusion, Arthur Miller has depicted power as one of the most significant themes in his play The Crucible. Throughout the play, Miller shows how power can be useful and sometimes dangerous regarding its abusive and corrupt nature. Many characters in the play are powerful and use their power in different ways. So, however, analyzed three aspects of power and authority: Abigail’s control or power over individuals accused of witchcraft and her allies in the trials, church authority over the villagers, and judge’s power in the trials. All these three are examples of how power can be used in different ways to either improve or destroy lives. In summary, Miller can show that excessive power is dangerous and destructive to individuals and the community in general.