Language Analysis on The Crucible
Miller uses language to effectively set the period and the tone for the play but successfully manages to ensure that it is typical of the language used by 17th century puritans.
Although the language is partly based on Salem records, most of the dialogue is Miller’s own invention.
The language is convincingly old-fashioned containing echoes of the King James Bible, but word-by-word, apart from a few archaic terms such as ‘poppet’, the vocabulary used is modern.
Miller achieves his effects by changing verb tenses, linking words unusually and by using double negatives.
One of the most effective uses of language in the play, Is Miller’s use of old fashioned, outdated words such as ‘harlot’.
Miller’s frequent use of words such as this ensures that the language maintains its period echo but is simple to understand.
The dialogue constantly uses ‘aye’ or ‘nay’ which when said carry more emotion than a simple ‘yes’ and ‘no’ but is also easy to understand.
Miller ensures he uses words that although are dated, do not faze the audience, other examples of this are ‘hearty’ (well), ‘bid’ (told) and ‘Goody’ (Mrs).
The use of Goody as a title suggests a relationship between a couple as being strangely remote.
Miller also refers to dated objects in his dialogue to maintain this old fashioned feel.
He constantly refers to words such as ‘poppet’, which in modern terms would be a doll but ensures the period idea is preserved.
Other examples of this are ‘heifer’ and ‘writ’.
Miller maintains an unusual use of the verb ‘to be’, when hearing this, it is not hard to understand just makes the dialogue seem alien to our ears which ensures this period effect is kept.
For example, Miller uses ‘it were’ instead of ‘it was’ and ‘there be’ instead of ‘there is’.
He also uses this by prominently referring to the second person ‘you’, for example ‘Be you foolish’, instead of ‘You are a fool’.There is rustic, colloquial feel to the language, which is helped by dropping the final ‘g’ from words.
This is portrayed in phrases such as ‘dreamin’, ‘carryin’ and ‘nothin’.
Double negatives are another method used in achieving the archaic language.
For example ‘he cannot discover no medicine’, which is used instead of ‘He cannot discover the medicine’ which is as simple to understand but does not maintain the traditional language which Miller strives to achieve.
This is retained by changing the normal word order, ‘I like not to search a house’ also.
Miller also uses language to ensure the play feels believable, by having conversations being cut short by other people talking: Parris: They will make of it a- Mercy: Your Pardons, I only though to see how Betty is.
Miller ensures that conversations are authentic because in general conversations, people do not wait till others are finished before they begin.
The conversations are also lifelike in the language people use towards others.
The girls talk to each other in the slang language typical to the era, ‘It’s weirdish’ and change their language whilst talking to those older or more important than themselves ‘Aye, Pardon Sir’.
This ensures that their characters seem more believable.
This is also shown in the contrast in language between the judges, ‘Proctor, I cannot think how God be provoked so grandly by such a petty cause’ and those of a lesser status such as Giles Corey, ‘Hands off, damn you, let me go!’.
Throughout the play, Miller uses long monologues to give us an in-depth background into all of the characters in the play.
This helps the reader to get a deeper insight into the characters which ensures they can be related to.
For example, The background to Thomas Putnam in the village makes his actions seem more horrendous and inexcusable which in turn makes the final result of the play seem more brutal. Miller uses biblical and religious references such as ‘gospel’ and ‘lord’, which confirms the nature of the religious community.
By constantly referring to these biblical terms, it ensures the society’s religious background is maintained and enforces its realism.
During the court scene, Elizabeth refers to Abigail’s entrance ‘The crowd will part like the sea for Israel’ to enforce this background.
Many of the forenames of the characters are also very religious and are taken from the bible, for example ‘John’, ‘Thomas’ and ‘Susanna’.
Metaphors are also used to set the scene and ensure that the audiences conjure strong, unmistakable images in their minds.
There is evidence of this in ‘Crazy children jangling the keys of the kingdom’ which is a contrast to the simplistic language ‘Aye, he did’ throughout the rest of the play.
This ensures when metaphors are used, they seem more pivotal to the dialogue.
During a workshop studying ‘The Crucible’, we worked at length on the subtext in different character’s speech, for example, Elizabeth and John Proctor.
The stage directions also tell the reader a lot about the character.
Before Mercy Lewis enters she is told to be ‘fat, sly, merciless girl of eighteen’.
This instantly helps the reader visualise the character and will aid an actor whilst playing the role to act more effectively. When acting the production, the actors will speak with an American accent.
This carries the dialogue more effectively because with an American drawl, the accentuated words and phrases will seem more critical. Miller language to show each character’s different status in the village and how this has little relevance on the final outcome in Salem.
By keeping the language modern enough to understand but with an American element to it, it ensures that the play keeps to its historical basis.
Miller uses language to create a believable society, which in turn helps the plays essential power and realism.