Why is The Crucible a tragedy?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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If we use Miller's own definition of tragedy as a part of this, then we can see how his work represents a tragic condition.  Miller argues that tragedy involves, the depiction of ordinary people in domestic surroundings.  This fits much of what happens in the drama quite well.  The characters in the work are not wealthy beyond belief, or represent the highest of political power.  They are not Kings and Queens of city states nor are they Olympians sitting high above the realm of the mortals.  They are regular people.  They exist in reality for all to see.  The tragic conditions that besiege the people of Salem involve whether or not to trust government, trust families, or even trusting themselves.  It is tragic because the condition of Salem and the accusations started by Abigail are ones where individuals are trapped between equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action.  The notion of placing faith in government and society, yet understanding that these elements have been twisted is an element of tragedy because there is little release from such agony.  When Proctor has to choose between embracing a lie or dying for the truth, it is a condition that happens to real people, to an individual that has no respite from a condition of agonizing pain.  In this light, the drama and the choices its characters make are representations of tragedy.

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