What effects does authorial intrusion yield in The Crucible?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Crucible,Arthur Miller provides ample text notes that go beyond the usual stage directions found in plays. These comments serve two different types of purpose, to present the play as literary work and to help guide its performance and production.

Miller anticipated that the play would be...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In The Crucible, Arthur Miller provides ample text notes that go beyond the usual stage directions found in plays. These comments serve two different types of purpose, to present the play as literary work and to help guide its performance and production.

Miller anticipated that the play would be read as well as performed. It was his third original, full length play to be produced, and the first of those to be set in a different period. He had also adapted Ibsen's An Enemy of the People, so had some experience with historical, politically relevant material.

Miller's commentary helps the reader feel immersed in all aspects of a world from which they are distanced in time. While some of the comments are directions about action, much of the material explains the setting or gives the backstory of particular characters who enter the action. The reader is encouraged to see almost all the characters as whole persons with complex motivations.

In terms of the more customary aspect of production guidance, Miller alternates between emotion and action. This dual approach is especially important in a work whose primary themes are deception, hypocrisy, and corruption. Dialogue alone would be a misleading guide to actors or the director.

One example is presenting John Proctor's character more in terms of his own way of understanding himself, rather than through modern psychology: "He is a sinner." Similarly, when Elizabeth Proctor is torn about whether to back her husband's story, at one point she has no lines. The author tells us that she looks "as though she would speak but cannot...."

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Arthur Miller's intrusions into the play help readers to better understand these complicated characters because he offers us quite a bit of insight into their fictional lives.  For example, he tells readers that Abigail Williams is a fantastic liar and master manipulator, and this helps us to read into her behaviors and get to know her much more quickly that we might otherwise.  Likewise, we quickly develop an understanding of the complexities of John Proctor's character as a result of Miller's exposition on him (exposition is the presentation of background information that usually occurs toward the beginning of texts as a way to help the reader quickly get to know the people and places).  This helps us to contextualize Proctor's and Abigail's conversation with one another in Act I, and our opinions of these characters can begin to crystallize much more quickly.

Additionally, Miller's comments -- in acquainting us with these fictional characters -- help readers to understand how Miller has differentiated and changed them from their real-life counterparts.  Many of these names were real players in this tragic era of American history, and Miller makes some important changes (such as bringing Abigail and John closer together in age and creating their sexual affair).  His intrusions into the text allow us to quickly ascertain what changes he's made to the history.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team