“we will burn, we will burn together” or: Re-reading The Crucible now — John Proctor, cruelty and betrayals

Continued from here, a series of reflections on re-reading The Crucible in the wake of Richard Armitage’s casting as John Proctor at the Old Vic. This is going to be my last post on this particular topic, as we’ll have reactions to previous available in only a few days! The time has passed really quickly. A blog has been announced to collate the experiences of Armitage fans who see the play — follow it here.

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Tonight I want to write about my perception of the personal level of the play and the role cruelty plays between John Proctor, Abigail, and Elizabeth Proctor. I’ve illustrated it with a few period musical selections.

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tumblr_n79tt8cmQH1rrvslco5_1280Richard Armitage and Samantha Colley in rehearsal for The Crucible, Summer 2014. Source: Old Vic Theatre on FB.

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There are so many ways to be cruel, and I wonder which of them Richard Armitage will use John Proctor to plumb.

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I don’t know if the notes that Miller interpolated in the script are shared with the audience in performance, but Miller introduces Proctor early on in Act I with the note that Proctor’s low tolerance for hypocrisy and foolishness made him a target of “calumny.” The key statement, however, is Miller’s notation that Proctor is a sinner against his own notion of morality. “Proctor,” he writes, “respected and even feared in Salem, has come to regard himself as a kind of fraud.” I can only imagine the sort of ferment that that might have provoked in the mind of Richard Armitage the reader.

The lengths to which one will go to protect one’s own self-concept even against one’s awareness of how flawed it is. How cruel we can be to others in order to keep ourselves whole. I don’t know what Miller means when he says Puritan society lacked a mechanism for expiating sin; sin is not the problem here so much as Proctor’s inability to see himself as sinner in the way that counts most — from the inside.

In Act One, however, this contradiction is not yet visible, and Proctor is strong, powerful, and frightening, scaring his own hired woman when he enters the scene and flirting a little with Abigail, although, as it turns out, he has no intention of coming through despite the memories that animate the impulse to joke with her and his admiration for her “wickedness.” Here we see the basic cruelty of gender relations in the society of the play, and the way they affect the end of any intimate relationship — with the separating lover denying the telling of the common story that united lovers share. As Proctor says, Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind. We never touched, Abby.

It makes me wonder what Richard Armitage dreams as John Proctor — wild nights, brief encounters, violent joinings, curt brushoffs, with Abigail Williams? And his own inability to control Abigail, his threat to resort to violence to keep these women, disobedient servant, spurned lover, under control?

And what about Proctor’s relationship to his wife? What does Armitage dream about that?

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The psalter used by Parris’ congregation would have been a later edition of the Bay Psalm Book of 1640, the first book printed in North America. (You may remember that it is exceedingly rare, now, with only eleven known copies surviving, of which five are complete, and that a copy was sold last fall for $14.1 million.) Early editions of this work indicated only the melodies to which the psalms were to be sung; musical notation was not included until the 1698 edition. Below, a choir sings a setting of Psalm 23 (“The Lord to Mee a Shepherd Is”) harmonizing to the notation of the melody in the 1698 edition.

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The beginning of Act Two sharpens this conflict Proctor feels between rectitude and desire, and the line he’s willing to walk to keep his notion of himself clean, with the stage direction that when Proctor walks into the house, he puts down his gun, then tastes the food cooking on the fire and seasons it. I find this a fascinating moment — it could, indeed, be comic. But then it’s clear, once Elizabeth puts the stew on the table, that it was an artifice — for as she watches him eat it, he praises it as “well seasoned” and she blushes with the compliment. Think a moment about what might be happening there. John is not willing to eat a badly seasoned stew; neither is he willing to salt it in the presence of his wife; neither is he willing to lie about it. So he salts the stew himself so he can have it as he pleases without forcing himself to suffer nor lying to his wife. (Incidentally, salt was an expensive commodity in the early modern world, so parsimony with salt signaled either a thrifty wife or a stingy one, though I don’t know whether Miller knew this.)

John has, in the end, told the truth. He has avoided something that’s apparently a bone of contention between them, but only by adjusting the circumstances to fit his later words about them. Things about the scene suggest that he feels manipulated to this end by Elizabeth — he tells he wants to please her, but she is not willing to accept his affections — and then he has to ask her for a drink, so that he appears to be criticizing her anyhow. He says he wants to please her, but he himself manipulates the situation so that he may do so without wounding his own rather casuist sense of truth-telling. His desire not to be cruel is thus a superficial move on his part, for in the end, if we take the seasoning as a synecdoche, he changes nothing about himself in his attempt to please Elizabeth. And this, one suspects, is what he most needs.

Indeed, the script suggests John thinks he’s already conceded enough, that he has no more obligation to suffer for his dalliance with Abigail, and that his wife’s suspicion of even a brief encounter with her is unfounded. As he says to Elizabeth, You forget nothin’ and forgive nothin’. Learn charity, woman. I have gone tiptoe in this house all seven month since she is gone. I have not moved from there to there without I think to please you, and still an everlasting funeral marches round your heart. I cannot speak but I am doubted, every moment I am judged for lies, as though I come into a court when I come into this house! And yet: it’s clear, he has lied.

And still lies. Elizabeth points out that she is not the judge, but his own heart — which points to guilt he still feels for things he still does. As he has no cause to whip his wife, he then turns to Mary Wolcott, whom he threatens to whip for her absence, in her place. When Elizabeth points out something they both know, tentatively albeit it reasonably — that Abigail wants to take her place — and urges him to disabuse the girl of any fantasy she might have of becoming Goody Proctor, John puts off the indictment of his own feelings by reading Elizabeth’s insistence as further cruelty to him. Agreeing to do as his wife acts, he nonetheless replies, I see now your spirits twists around the single error of my life, and I will never tear it free!

Elizabeth’s insistence that she will win, the curiously foreboding forecast that John will come to know that [she] will be [his] only wife, is then interrupted by the entrance of Mr. Hale. When John attempts to list the commandments, her attempt to save him by pointing out the one he’s forgotten is the prohibition on adultery thus strikes the reader as both a lifesaver and a condemnation.

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tumblr_n79tt8cmQH1rrvslco3_1280Richard Armitage and Samantha Colley in rehearsal for The Crucible, Summer 2014. Source: Old Vic Theatre on FB.

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At the very latest, the photos released earlier this week should have suggested the possibility that the scene that Arthur Miller omitted from the first performance of the play because it slowed down the tempo of the production, Act II, scene one, John Proctor’s encounter with Abigail Williams in the forest, will play a role in this production. (That placement doesn’t make narrative sense to me — it would work better narratively as Act III, scene one, which is why I am discussing it here.) That scene makes clear that Abigail is motivated by desire; jealousy / greed; and the desire for revenge. Miller’s script clearly adds madness to this list — or at least some kind of dissociation from the reality that Proctor is unlikely to marry the woman whose testimony hangs his wife — but this seems like overkill to me. Can a madwoman truly be cruel?

In this scene, it’s clear, Proctor’s decided — he’s going to ruin Abigail and defend Elizabeth (or try). One wonders why — out of loyalty to Elizabeth? But certainly out of a desire to preserve his own position and more importantly, his self-image. This move is, in part, a cruelty toward which his society forces him, a cruelty that Elizabeth has demanded as payment for his transgressions, but also, let us admit, a cruelty that he commits willingly or necessarily, particularly once he sees how far from reality Abigail is. To me, the more interesting thing about this scene than Abigail’s apparent madness or John’s apparent decisiveness — in essence, I think, he still gets what he wants here, if his plan works — is the bandying about of hypocrisy. Abigail’s real knowledge — the thing she knows that she can truly torture him with as no other person in the play can — is her awareness of his hypocrisy. Telling the truth about their relationship and confessing his fornication to the court, she points out quite astutely, makes him the hypocrite.

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One of the tunes recommended for use in the original Bay Psalm Book (the metrical index with of tunes can be found here) is Old Hundredth — the original melody for Psalm 100 as derived from the 1551 Geneva psalter and thus one of the oldest tunes of Protestant Christianity. Here’s a performance of that psalm following the melodic and rhythmic style of the seventeenth century (without harmony), beginning at 2:30. Note that the Puritans would not have used musical instruments in worship and that pianos of the style they are using were not current until the 1720s.

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Act Three of the play takes us to the courtroom, where John brings Mary Warren to the court in order to have her testify that the poppet used as evidence against his wife was given to her. The officials suspect this testimony, knowing as they do that Proctor is no friend of Parris and that his cultivation of a Christian life has suffered under this enmity. When they ask him whether his only impulse is to free his wife, and not to upset the court, he falters in his answer — on the one hand, as if he hadn’t thought they could think something of him; but on the other, I find myself asking, given the character’s history of showing that his only recourse when he loses an argument is to (threats of) violence, if there isn’t something to this charge.

I think most viewers will be inclined to sympathize with the Proctors in Act Three; Elizabeth is the target of a false accusation from Abby because Abby wants Elizabeth’s place, a false accusation that could bring Elizabeth to her death; John goes to court to prove his wife innocent and he’s fully willing to blacken his own reputation to do but even that will be insufficient. This reading, with the failure of the Proctors’ private lives made manifest as an ideological or political failure brought home at the hands of the crazed Abby, is fully in line with the Arendtian reading of the play I proposed last time and is close to Miller’s original thinking about the play. My understanding is that this is how the play is usually played, with the Proctors’ contradiction of each other seen as a sort of O. Henry paradox in which each sacrifices himself in order to save the other.

At the same time, however, the problems set up by the triangle are potentially more complex than this. Leaving aside the problem of Abby’s madness, we still have the question of she can best get payback for Elizabeth’s decision to put her out and John’s turning away; it does not matter, in the end, if John is unwilling to marry Abby, for Elizabeth’s destruction is sufficient to remedy both her social disgrace and her having been discarded as lover. All Abby can do to get what she wants is to behave cruelly — the society gives her no other choice — but the act is nonetheless malevolent. John’s willingness to proclaim in open court of Abby, repeatedly and forcefully, that she is a whore, a harlot, is a lie — everything the play tells us suggests that he was as willing as she — and cruel to her. He blackens his honor temporarily but only strengthens the picture he wishes us to see of him, as the man who clings to the truth. He admits to fornication in order to prove that he has told the truth, just like he salted the soup in order not to lie to Elizabeth — again doing exactly as he pleases to support his view of himself but not telling us the whole story.

Finally — we have to ask ourselves, based on Act Two, about the extent to which we believe John’s charge that Elizabeth will never let him free of awareness of his sin. Is this John’s defensive posture or is it an accurate description of his betrayed wife? It’s John who tells us that Elizabeth lies to save his honor. But whether she does it to save her honor or to gain her own revenge, she ends up the victor on that score (especially since we know by this point that as a pregnant woman, she will not be executed immediately), even if not on the charge of witchcraft. And when John’s attempts to insist Mary tell his version of things fails and sets loose a wave of behavior that indicates demonic possession and ends in accusations against him, John realizes the mistake of this — that it is the man who “quails,” the man who cannot tell the truth, the man he has been all this time, arranging the circumstances, telling half truths, in search of maintaining his own notion of his rectitude — only when he sees that the possessed girls’ accusation against him is now inevitable and irrevocable. He may not have possessed Mary Warren, but it’s thoroughly clear that he must have threatened her.

John may not have come in order to upset the court, but in fact he does exactly that.

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10389284_10151896378627185_4499078830811423190_nRichard Armitage in rehearsal for The Crucible, Summer 2014. Source: Old Vic Theatre on FB.

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And Elizabeth?

Miller disappears Abby in Act Four, conveniently, and the audience is left with the problem of how the Proctors will resolve their relationship. Hale no longer believes in what he is doing, but the maw of the machine must still be filled, and so if John is to come free, he must do so in a procedurally correct way, by confessing. Hale tries to get Elizabeth to push him to do so — and it is at this point that one wonders most, independently of John’s charges that she lacks charity (the seventeenth century idiom for the term ἀγάπη, the love referred to in 1 Corinthians 13), exactly what Elizabeth’s feelings are. John enters the scene, clear that he is no saint — as if, perhaps, he’s realized exactly what his self-image has done to himself and his family. Elizabeth, while reminding him that part of his problem has always lain in his own stubborn insistence on clinging to his image of his responsibilities — for who can forgive someone who refuses forgiveness? and is not the refusal to accept forgiveness, the refusal to forgive oneself, the height of arrogance? — now concedes her own role, that part of what he has said about her coldness is true. And while she bends in this scene on some level, still the cold quality of her principle is clear — she will not beg John to abandon the self-conception that has brought himself to this point in the first place. She will not.

The end of the play is usually read as heroic, with Porter Proctor going almost eagerly, indeed heroically, to his death. Since high school, I’ve not cared for that reading; I see the end of the play as heavily ambivalent, for it is entirely irrelevant to a society that believes in witches on the level that Miller depicts this one as doing whether the victims are innocent or guilty — they serve as examples either way. If we prefer the roman à clef reading (sustained by an excerpt in the Old Vic’s teaching guide to the play, although it’s frustrating that they reproduce only Miller’s memories of this incident and not Kazan’s, because they are strikingly different) that Proctor’s death is some kind of reproach from Miller to Elia Kazan, it’s still not entirely clear that making the arrogant hero die pointlessly is really a statement in praise of naming no names. Proctor does die.

In the end, despite his disclaimer that he is no saint, Proctor goes to his death as proudly as he scoffed at the existence of witches in Act One; in the end, as Elizabeth points out when she refuses to plead with him to change his mind about the confession and says to Hale, He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!, his picture of himself has been sustained throughout. We can read this as heroic if we want to see this play as the fate of the martyr before the totalitarian authority, I suppose. But in the end, John Proctor ends the play where he started it — a stubborn man who has maintained his notion of himself and is willing that others should suffer the consequences for him. He cannot remake his world in the way he salted the soup, but neither can he let go of the incredibly hubris of believing that he can somehow do so by dying. And Elizabeth? She supports this notion — he has his goodness now — but if she is as cold as she admits, this statement is can also be read as bitter rejoicing. She will not betray him. If this is a decision to be cruel, or to be kind — given the fact that he’s about to die — we can only leave to the actors and to the audience watching them.

And again, I wonder — I wonder so hard — how Richard Armitage dreams John Proctor’s death.

~ by Servetus on June 20, 2014.

32 Responses to ““we will burn, we will burn together” or: Re-reading The Crucible now — John Proctor, cruelty and betrayals”

  1. Well said! Thanks for the primer!

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    • You’re welcome, but this isn’t really a primer. I’m reading against the conventional position on this play (and have been throughout the series). But I’m glad if it is useful to you!

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  2. I’ve just finished leading Act II, and I believe it’s Act II, Scene 2 that is the dropped scene in the forest, right?
    I don’t know what combination of reasons Proctor has for choosing to save his wife, but he did say of Elizabeth that “that goodness will not die for me!” Maybe his conscious cannot let Elizabeth be torn down as he remains safe.
    I loved the line at the end of scene 1! “It is a Providence, and no great change; we are only what we always were, but naked now.”
    I can’t read the rest of your comments until I read for myself how events unfold!
    Thanks for this, though. Certainly a self-examining play.

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    • the edition I have gives it as Act Two, scene one, but that can certainly be a mistake (as it doesn’t make sense there).

      I wish you a lot of enjoyment with the remainder of your reading!

      I’m reading this from the repeated perspective that the actors articulated regarding “cruelty”. Also, I find both John and Elizabeth seriously unsympathetic characters. I think if one had a more sympathetic view of these characters one would certainly read the play differently.

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      • I looked it up and my (public library) Penguin edition says the missing scene is Scene 2.
        Ok, you’re analyzing for cruelty.
        ‘Unsympathetic’ meaning these two characters express little sympathy for others or that you as a reader find little sympathy for the characters?

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        • I don’t doubt it (I have the Bantam 1975).

          Both, I suppose. I really develop very little sympathy for John. Elizabeth is harder for me to read, insofar as she starts off as the wronged party. I really don’t know how to read her in Act Four.

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  3. What you’ve written in this series is truly fascinating. There is, however, a general consensus on how this play and its characters are to be interpreted in a production. While I understand the method of your analyses and your position as a certain type of theorist, I doubt the director, or any member of the cast for that matter, will deviate much from that consensus. Your analyses, to theatre people, would inevitably lead to the conclusion that Miller’s creation of the Proctor characters is a failure; well, it isn’t normally seen that way. Characters that deserve more criticism are probably Hathorne and Danforth. They are described by some critics as puppets of evil because Miller didn’t seem to understand the nature of that particular brand of evil himself, leaving people knowing the language of theatre confused.

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    • This is not to diminish the value of your views. I’m not the most qualified to critique them. They are certainly unique, of a play quite thoroughly explored in the past. And it is very rare and refreshing to find a fan of Mr Armitage’s so well-learned and astonishingly eloquent.

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    • Thanks for the comment and welcome. To clarify — I was hardly writing to try to influence the director, and neither she nor any member of the cast is reading this blog, so what I think is immaterial to their views.

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    • I don’t think that I said anywhere that the Proctor character is failure — I would say, however, that it is at least arguable, if you want to look at this play from the standpoint of classic Greek tragedy, that he does not achieve the character arc of the classic Greek tragedic hero.

      That I don’t like this play especially well has probably been obvious since the beginning of the series, though 🙂

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    • to me, Danforth and Hathorne are throwaways from the standpoint of talking about cruelty — representatives of the state are encompassed by the Arendtian view (see previous post).

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  4. Du schriebst: I don’t know what Miller means when he says Puritan society lacked a mechanism for expiating sin; sin is not the problem here so much as Proctor’s inability to see himself as sinner in the way that counts most — from the inside.

    Zuerst mal: Ich habe bisher keine Aufführung oder Verfilmung gesehen, auch das Stück nicht gelesen, geschweige denn Sekundärliteratur dazu – nicht mal deine Texte komplett, nur diesen hier -, und über Puritaner habe ich auch nur das (ähem) Fachwissen, das man mit einem kurzen Überfliegen des deutschen Wikipedia-Artikels erlangen kann.
    Anders ausgedrückt: Ich sollte die Klappe halten.

    Allerdings ging mir dein oben zitierter Satz nicht aus dem Kopf, während ich deine Gedanken über die Beziehungen der Charaktere gelesen habe, und deshalb sage ich doch was.

    Sehr kurz zusammengefasst, scheint die puritanische Lehre vor allem auf der Annahme zu basieren, dass der Mensch an sich schlecht ist und nur das eiserne Festhalten am Leben nach dem Wortlaut der Bibel garantiert, dass die angeborene Verderbtheit des Menschen nicht in den Vordergrund tritt. 100%ige Einhaltung der biblischen Regeln, wenn jemand ein aufrechtes Mitglied der Gemeinde ist.

    Für mich heißt das: Wer strauchelt (falsch handelt, sündigt), dem kann nicht vergeben werden. Rituelle Buße, zeremonielle Reinigung, wie es sie wohl – vermute ich – in den meisten Religionen in der einen oder anderen Form gibt, existiert bei den Puritanern nicht.

    Wie kann dann ein angesehener Mann auch nur vor sich selbst eingestehen, dass er, der so stolz ist, ein vorbildliches Mitglied der Gemeinde zu sein, ein Sünder ist? Nicht nur die Sünde des Ehebruchs müsste er sich eingestehen, sondern auch noch (viel wichtiger!) die des Stolzes. Er müsste sich eingestehen, dass er ein Heuchler ist.
    Ja, ich weiß: Genau das sagst du auch.

    Und in einer Gesellschaft, die Buße – und die anschließende Vergebung – als normal ansieht, wäre es vielleicht möglich, dass er es sich eingesteht. Es wäre peinlich, es wäre demütigend, aber es wäre nicht der Verlust allen Ansehens. – Wäre es das bei den Puritanern?

    Kurz: Ich sehe durchaus einen Zusammenhang zwischen der Nicht-Existenz von Buße-Ritualen und Proctors Unfähigkeit, sich selbst einzugestehen, ein Heuchler zu sein.

    OT: Du hast einen schlechten Einfluss auf mich – dieser ganze Text nur wegen EINEM Satz von dir. gg

    OT: Bin ich die einzige, deren Blick beim ersten Bild immer wieder magisch zu Richards Hand hingezogen wird?

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    • Hmmm. I hope it’s okay if I answer in English.

      Part of the problem with this play from the perspective of a religious historian is that Miller makes repeated errors about religion. Most of them are not really serious, for instance, Miller refers to the Puritans singing a psalm that refers to Jesus (and the consequences for the possessed girls). Actually, the Puritans sang the psalms as religious texts, and none of them refer to Jesus, having been written centuries before. Or he has the court ask Proctor if he reads the Gospel, and when Proctor says he does, they refer to an incident that’s not in the Gospels (the story of Cain and Abel).

      On this one, though, he’s just plain wrong. Puritans certainly had confession of sins — both a corporate confession of sins during worship, and the injunction to confess one’s sins privately to G-d and to the injured party, which shows up over and over again in the literature of their divines. Moreover, they had institutions of social discipline, consistories and consistory like institutions that called sinners before them in order to examine them, alter their behavior, and punish them for wrong-doing through various types of exclusion up to and including excommunication. The participation in these activities was certainly a public act. I’m not exactly sure why that fails to meet the criteria for expiation of sin.

      If we want to speak theologically, Miller is in even worse shape. The Puritans did not believe in free will in the sense of capacity to affect one’s salvation by one’s actions. (They were what is sometimes sloppilly called “double predestinarians”). People could not be saved by being particularly holy. This did not mean, however, that they thought the sins of the reprobate (those who would not be saved) unimportant, nor that lacked a mechanism for people to confess them (see above). If one were a church member (see below, I’m not exactly sure what Miller understands that to be), there would be higher standards for behavior, certainly, as the Christian is supposed to gradually become sanctified in his outward actions. In essence, Calvinists of this stripe thought that (apart from the political use of the law, and the purpose of make humans aware of what awaited them) the law actually encouraged Christians in their path toward sanctification.

      This failed reading on Miller’s part is why the body of historians who were expert on Puritanism in the 1950s and 60s panned this play so thoroughly — it operates on a modern understanding of “how I might feel if I lived in that society.” Miller seems to have accepted Max Weber’s reading of the meaning of predestination for Protestants generally wholesale, but a historian of that period would laugh himself silly. Protestants generally found predestination to be a comforting teaching; it was a reason to join the Reformed Church. Moreover, on this level, the question fails to meet the requirement of distinction, in that every Protestant Church was that way.

      I’m not sure if Proctor was actually a church member in Miller’s eyes (or historically — I would have to look it up — but I think he was not a member of the Salem village church). Miller seems to think that all church members were created equal, so to speak. But there was a difference in Salem society between people who were professed members of the church (like Mary Sibley, whom Parris called out from the pulpit, or Rebecca Nurse — this is why her case was so particularly scandalous) and everyone else. Members of the church were subject to greater degrees of church discipline than those who were not.

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      • Danke für die Erklärung.
        Ich hab’s ja selbst gesagt: Ich sollte die Klappe halten, wenn ich keine Ahnung habe. 🙂

        Da du Prädestination erwähnt hast: Ich habe nie verstanden, wie das ein ansprechender Gedanke sein konnte (kann?). Wenn du Zeit und Lust dazu hast, wäre es nett, wenn du mir (ganz grob) erklären könntest, was daran reizvoll war und welche geistige Grundeinstellung dahinter stand.

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        • If you start from a free will supposition — G-d has enough merit available to save everyone and aspires to do so; humans have the capacity to act to save themselves, either by initiating the process (congruent merit) or cooperating in a process that G-d initiates (condign merit — both of these views were current in the medieval church and the latter becomes the official view of the Roman church after 1563); if they do not cooperate, they will not be saved — some theologians in the 1500s and 1600s argued that the struggle for salvation was unbearable because there were no guarantees that what one did was sufficient. On the one hand, you affect your own fate; on the other, you would never be certain that you were good enough to merit salvation because you cannot know the mind of G-d.

          Predestination ends discussion about knowing the divine will, which is inscrutable, because G-d has already decided this (depending on your view, either before time began or shortly after the Fall into Sin.) If you start from a no free will position, then whatever you do is “good enough” because everything you do is irrelevant. G-d has already made this decision (and in the view point of an orthodox Calvinist, the saints are elected “unconditionally,” i.e., G-d elects not for merit or lack of same, but simply according to G-d’s will) and the decree is eternal and impossible to resist. Moreover, everyone is worthy of damnation, so that G-d chooses to save anyone at all is a huge gift for which humans should be grateful. As humans simply don’t know what will happen, they are free to live their lives in conformity to that divine will without anxiety.

          Arguments about which of these views is philosophically more consoling have been going on for centuries; I think the answer to that depends on your own personality. But historically speaking, in multi-confessional areas in Europe where people could choose their own religious confession, we find literate people writing and preaching to each other that predestination is a consoling doctrine. Interestingly, and this is also controversial from our standpoint, we find in areas like East Frisia where Anabaptist options were available, that people left the Reformed Church because they did not think the discipline it practiced was severe enough. In our world, the Puritans stand for all that is harsh and severe in religion but in their own world that was not quite so clearly the case.

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          • Danke. Ich glaube, ich kann jetzt nachvollziehen, wie der Gedankengang abläuft.

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            • I grew up in a “no free will” setting and I tend to agree that it’s crushing — if I were picking a Christianity today I’d totally pick a free will Christianity — just that it’s hard to read that back onto the 17th c.

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        • I think the point for understanding Proctor is not the spurious question of a public ritual — that could have been a throwaway for Miller — the play says clearly, or rather Elizabeth points out repeatedly, that Proctor’s problems are in his head. She says, he can’t forgive himself but my reading of it is more that he isn’t willing to change how he sees himself.

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          • In anderen Worten: Ein verdammter sturer Esel.
            Eben ein echter Mann …

            Ich werde das Stück erst mal lesen, dann werde ich sehen, wie ich Proctor einstufe.

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            • noting that what I write above is not the conventional view of the character, which sees him as a heroic man resisting the demands of his society although without any hope of success. It is, however, a possible one.

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              • Ich halte selbst nicht viel davon, einen “conventional view” nachzuplappern, nur weil das die übliche Sicht ist.

                Vielleicht werde ich Proctor als heroisch sehen, vielleicht so wie du, vielleicht habe ich eine dritte Ansicht – das wird sich zeigen.

                Und jetzt verschwinde ich und lese noch was, aber ganz sicher nicht The Crucible. Schönen Abend/Tag noch. 😉

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    • re: Richard’s hand — no I don’t think that’s strange at all!

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    • Igelchen: Auch ich kann nicht an der Hand vorbeisehen…… YOU ARE NOT ALONE! 🙂

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  5. […] side table and tastes the stew and corrects the seasoning (I wrote about that moment in the script here), and then moves to the basin of […]

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  6. […] After watching the play so many times, I grew to appreciate Farber’s emphasis on a sort of reflexive personal cruelty as a synecdoche for the political issues in the play even more than I had…, in part because it shows how unfair and personally motivated certain sorts of moralistic charges […]

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  7. […] is that Hale is much more important for the audience as witness to the events of the play than Proctor, who changes very little from the beginning to the end of the play. Hale makes the journey that I believe the audience is supposed to trace itself, from a belief that […]

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  8. […] are four posts about the historical significance of the play as a text we read in U.S. high school classrooms, as a commentary on Salem and witchhunting, as a […]

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