The Crucible By Arthur Miller: The Use Of Irony To Portray Salem Witch Trials And The Puritans
The Puritans escaped England due to their beliefs being oppressed, however, they did the exact same thing by creating a society that relied on strict laws and a strict moral code. When they came to rise in the 16th and 17th century, they sought to essentially purify communities where a devil’s presence was believed to be and because of this anything that went against this was thought to be a sin which was punishable, and this is how the rise of witchcraft occured. Nineteen people were hanged, thirteen died in prison, and all of this occurred because they were accused of something they did not do, witchcraft. The irony of The Salem Witch Trials is just that, people were accused of things they did not do and they died because of that. The main idea of the trials was to preserve order, promote morality and serve justice and instead they did the opposite of that. What the puritans perceived as doing good was hanging innocent people, which is actually bad. The Crucible about Arthur Miller is written about this, as well as the flaws that existed within the trials due to a lack of proof of the “witchcraft” that was said to be occuring. The Crucible uses irony throughout the book to talk about these heavy topics, and to evoke a variety of emotional responses from the audience and to keep them engaged. Miller shows the irony in the Salem Witch Trials through verbal, situational, and dramatic irony. Verbal irony is when people say the opposite of what they mean, which occured a lot in the trials in The Crucible.
One of the ways Miller used verbal irony is through a pre understanding that the Salem Witch Trials were known for being a hoax, misled and unjust. In Act III, when Proctor and Mary Warren are under questioning for whether or not Elizabeth owns puppets, Parris says that “We are here, Your Honor, precisely to discover what no one has ever seen. ” The verbal irony of this is in the understanding that the Salem Witch Trials are known for having been a hoax and knowing that there are no witches this statement is completely contradictory to the courts. Another form of verbal irony utilized in The Crucible is in Act II when John is reciting the Commandments. However, while reciting them, John can only remember 9 of the 10. Elizabeth had to remind him of the one he forgot, which was adultery. The irony in this is that the one Commandment he forgot was the one he committed, and the person that it affected was the one who reminded him of it. This same idea is utilized later on when John admits to lechery in Act III and the very first lie Elizabeth says in her life is that her husband has not committed lechery when she knows he has. Situational irony is when something happens that is different from what was expected. This is shown in an abundance of ways throughout the book. One prominent example is when John Proctor is speaking in Act III to Mary Warren and he says “Do that which is good, and no harm shall come to thee. ” This shows situational irony because the expected outcome is that someone who confesses would be a lie, and the Puritans do not stand for lying so harm will come to those who confess. However, the people who are honest and do not partake in Witchcraft and refuse it will be the ones who wind up dying whereas the people who confess, lie or not, will live. Another example of situational irony is Mary Warren and her lies. When she first lied, it was accepted and embraced. However, when she tells the truth, it is perceived to be a lie and Danforth doesn’t believe her and wants to punish her. The situational irony in this is that she is accepted for a bad thing, and wanted to be punished for a good thing.
Dramatic irony is when the character within the book doesn’t know something but the audience does. An example of this within The Crucible is when in Act III Judge Danforth says “I have seen marvels in this court. I have seen people choked before my eyes by spirits; I have seen them struck by pins and slashed by daggers. ” (page 91) This is an example of dramatic irony because the audience already knew that all of these girls were fake and that these were made up by Abigail, however, Judge Danforth does not know this and so he believes Abigail. Another example of dramatic irony is when at the end of Act III John Proctor makes a big speech and accuses the court of doing the Devil’s work essentially, which the audience already knew had been occuring. It’s also irony because later on Proctor is accused of the same thing he accused the court for doing. The work of The Crucible by Arthur Miller truly shows the irony of the Salem Witch Trials and the Puritans through his use of through verbal, situational, and dramatic irony. By portraying the irony within the different trials, confessions, and characters, Miller truly shows how instead of doing good like the Puritans intended with the Trials, they instead ended up doing more bad than good.
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