How far do you agree that dramatic tension is a major part of the effect of The Crucible as a tragedy?
The dramatic tension does indeed go a long way to create the play's ultimate emotional effect. From the first hints are Abigail's "improprieties" to the full disclosure (in private) of the affair between Abigail and John Proctor, a secondary tension is created which heightens the more topical tension of the play focused on the witch trials.
Also, we are provided with a tragic figure in John Proctor whose desire to be a man of integrity leads to his death. This sense of integrity is directly linked to the secondary story line which never quite becomes public. The audience, however, is aware of the private failings of John Proctor and the possibility of a confession from Proctor really helps to make the play edgy and tense.
I think that the dramatic tension that is revealed in the discussion between Abigail and John in the second scene of the first act. The dramatic tension is evident because the audience recognizes that there is a fundamental division present. When Abigail reveals to John that the rumors are false, the audience that there is a fundamental problem with Abigail and that she covets something she cannot have. John's reluctance in this scene also indicates that there is an uneasiness present. The fundamental division revealed in this scene is one where the audience understands that sides need to be taken. The reader/ audience grasps that one is either for John or for Abigail. No other ground can be negotiated and this becomes the basis for the dramatic tension throughout the drama. After this point, the structure of the drama is one where this division is present. Abigail's coveting of John and of power, in general, drives the hysteria present and forces John to assume moral order and ethical structure in a world where this is absent. In the end, I think that this scene becomes vital in establishing the dramatic tension element in the drama, and helps to feed both its tragic quality and its ultimate redemption.