In The Crucible by Arthur Miller, what are specific passages or parts of the book that make the book a tragic comedy?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I disagree with the premise that Arthur Miller's The Crucible is a tragic comedy.  While it does contain a few--a very few--comic elements, it could not be considered in any way a comedy, in my opinion.  The only real comic character is Giles Corey, and only then because he's old and sincere and he does some curmudgeonly things which are sometimes laughable (such as his use of the word "fart" and his sometimes outrageous reactions when he has heard something wrong and taken offense).  Aside from that, there is little worth laughing at.  Parris's spoiled-brat tantrums would be laughable if he weren't determined to lie and save his own reputation at the expense of others.  Mrs. Putnam's belief that Tituba could somehow help her communicate with her dead infants could make one smile, except she is deadly serious and is quick to assign guilt to others for her losses.  The idea of the "sly," "fat" Mercy Lewis dancing naked in the forest and being seen by Rev. Parris is a little amusing, except that she lies so outrageously in court to avoid punishment for such silliness.  Any other examples are the same--perhaps a little funny or amusing, but generally only tragic because people lose their lives because of it. Like almost everything in life, the audience may find a little something to laugh at even in those horrible moments. Overall, though, this is, it seems to me, a tragic play, not a tragic comedy.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Crucible to me is a most significant tragedy. But, if I was to try and label parts of the tragedy that ensues, I would identify several scenes that point out there is some comedy amidst the tragedy.

The opening scene is one of these. Watching Betty purposefully be out of it to show Abigail her displeasure and to mess with her dad made me laugh, but worry that maybe she was indeed possessed.

To watch poor John Proctor deal with Mary Warren when she says it was a lie and then takes to court with the intention of telling the truth, but then lets the foolery of teenage conformity overtake her makes me throw my hands up in the air as a parent. It makes me wonder why John goes to the effort to force the truth when he might have already understood the power of teenage conformity.