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The Crucible by Arthur Miller - Barron's Booknotes
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STYLE

Plays can be classified in two major varieties: plays of episodic
action and plays of continuous action. Shakespeare's plays are
episodic. No one scene is very long, and the action jumps from
place to place, sometimes skipping over years in between. On
the other hand, Greek tragedies like Oedipus Rex and some
modern plays such as Eugene O'Neil's Long Day's Journey into
Night, follow what are called the three unities: of time-the
action usually takes place within a 24-hour period; of place-
there is only one location,, and of action-there is no break in the
action from beginning to end.

The Crucible falls somewhere in between. The time span is
about three-and-a-half months; the action occurs in four
different places, although it never leaves Salem; and there is a
gap of at least a week between each act (between Acts III and
IV almost three months elapse). But within each act the action is
continuous from curtain to curtain.

One advantage of the continuous-action method is that it allows
the author to build tension or suspense gradually. It also can be
less confusing for an audience, because we don't have to stop
and figure out where we are every few minutes. And, finally, it
allows us to get to know the main characters very well, by
letting us watch them for a long time at a stretch. This is
especially important in The Crucible, where we come to
understand what happened in Salem in 1692 through the
experience of one man, John Proctor.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the style of The Crucible
is its language. These people speak a dialect that is much closer
to Shakespeare's English than to our own. Shakespeare's time
was full of adventure and discovery, and his language reflected
that excitement and energy.



The Puritans themselves were outspoken. One reason they were
driven to the New World in the first place was that they couldn't
keep quiet about religious matters. And most of them came from
the lower classes, whose language is generally very earthy.

Add these things up, and then add in the rugged life these
pioneers were forced to lead in the early years of American
settlement, and you come up with a way of speaking that is
sometimes called "muscular."

Arthur Miller has made his characters speak the way they think-
bluntly, directly, and with little concern for fancy phrase-
making. He took some lines straight out of writings of the time,
including transcripts of the witch trials. The result is a kind of
rough poetry, sometimes of great power.

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