I thought I was an island
And the people were the sea
I never had a homeland
Until you came for me
I thought I was a river
Flowing to the sea
I never was a giver
Until you came for me
I thought I was a mountain
Head high in the sky
I never saw the fountain
Until you came by
I thought I was an ocean
Empty and so cold
I never knewemotion
Til I had you to hold
I thought I was an island
Choose a play in which a character keeps something hidden or pretends to be something they are not.
Explain the reasons for the characters behaviour and discuss how it effects your attitude to the character.
A play in which a character portrays themselves to be something they are not is “the crucible” by Arthur Miller. The play is based in a small village named Salem, in Massachusetts. The extremely well known play was written by Miller as a reflection of his opinions and experiences of McCarthyism in the 1950s. The play features an array of young women who find themselves pretending to have been possessed by the devil after their menacing leader “Abigail Williams” was caught trying to bewitch the wife of the man she had previously had an affair with- John Proctor. When the girls are accused, they are informed that should they admit and confess others of witchcraft, they shall escape the inevitable fate of a witch: to be hanged. As more and more of the accusations spread through the village, the true identities of the characters begin to arise.
Early on in the play it becomes evident that Proctor has had an intimate relationship with Abigail, who very blatantly makes it clear that she remains to have feelings for him. This is confirmed for us when they are alone in her house while proctor is visiting Abigail’s cousin who is struck by an illness thought to have been caused by a form of witchcraft, Abigail states proudly “you loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is you love me yet!” . This desperate outburst gives us the understanding that Abigail is still greatly involved in the idea of her and Proctor, and is extremely passionate about him, a passion that is so strong it fuels her reckless action that contributed to the beginning of the dilemma, when she attempted to bewitch Elizabeth Proctor in order to be with John Proctor once again. Also, towards the very beginning of the play she is described by the author as a girl “with an endless capacity for dissembling”, this tells us that Abigail has caused trouble before, and hints to us that she is about to cause trouble again, which she does when she begins to lie about having been a witch.
Slightly further in to the play we observe Elizabeth Proctor’s concern after having found out that her husband and Abigail were in a room alone together. Her reaction is justified as she has obviously been extremely hurt by the affair, however this is not the way Proctor sees it. He is very distressed by Elizabeth’s reaction and proclaims “I will not have your concern any longer!” His angers allows us to see exactly what Abigail has done to their relationship, in the eyes of the village she pretends to be an innocent young girl who had been unfortunately struck by the devil, however, we see her as a troublemaker who tempted a married man and destroyed his relationship with his loving wife.
As the hangings and accusations proceed to become worse and worse, Elizabeth tries to convince John to go to court and admit to the affair, in order to have the judge understand that Abigail might be lying to later accuse her. John avoids this solution until the latest possible point when Abigail finally accuses Elizabeth by watching her maid knit a poppet and then placing the needle inside, then when the maid gives the poppet to Elizabeth proctor, accuses Elizabeth of using the poppet as somewhat of a voodoo doll to stab Abigail with a needle. Elizabeth is then taken in to custody. John at first tries to find an alternative route around his confession by convincing the maid (named Mary warren) to go to court and confess to making the poppet. However Abigail turns on her and manipulates Mary with more of her lies and pretence until John has no other choice than to confess to the affair. Abigail has strung out the lies she only began with to cover up her antics, and is now using them to pretend to be being tormented in order to get what she wants, in this case, she wants Elizabeth Proctor hanged and is not willing to allow anyone to get in her way.
Another instance in which the play is negatively affected by Abigail’s continuous pretence is that, after she turned on Mary Warren, she manipulated her into accusing John Proctor of setting the devil on her. Mary Warren states “he says to me…we must go and overthrow the court!” when she says this the judge instantly turns on Proctor, accusing him of witchcraft and evil. Here we see Abigail’s lies have tarnished the villages name and even the most trusted members are subject to concern, she has not only manipulated the court into prosecuting an innocent woman, only because of her own jealousy, but she has convicted the very man she began the lies for, she has risked him hanging in order to continue the pretence of her innocence.
After Proctors last desperate attempt to save Elizabeth by confessing to his affair has failed, he has no choice, he must either be hanged or admit to witchcraft he did not partake in and that he is entirely sure is false. Abigail’s lies and pretence have caused the protagonist to give his entire name away only to be accused of further wrong-doings, this greatly affects our opinion of Abigail as we see the full effect of her lies and manipulation on the village and the people in it.
Around the time Proctor was sentenced to hang, and did in order to keep his good name and avoid further confliction with his conscience, Abigail had been announced missing and had taken all of her uncles money with her. This is when the people of the village begin to realise that Abigail had been pretending to be something she was not for a long while.
In conclusion, a play which effectively displays a character who is pretending to be something they are not is “The Crucible” by Arthur Miller. It reveals Abigail Williams affinity for destruction and lies and exactly what lies and manipulation can do to tear apart a close harmonious society, and thus Arthur Miller effectively reflects the destruction that McCarthyism had on America and him as a writer himself.