The Crucible: What’s in a Name

The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play diverse in its approach, themes, ideas and messages. Miller takes the play to form as a cornucopia of political, social and psychological topics. The Crucible is famously known as a play with political theme, at face value an attack against theocracy, but is commonly associated with the time of the Red Scare, as an attack against Communism. It was so much so associated with this issue that Miller himself faced persecution by the government and was accused of being Communist.

However, I would like to focus on a less popular aspect of the text: It’s reflection of the self, of self-identity within the Crucible and Miller’s messages regarding this topic. in the final moments of the Crucible, John Proctor begs to be left with “his name”. He exclaims, “I have given you my soul, leave me my name!” What does this imply? When the consequences of denying to give his name are so dire, so fatal, what drives a man to be so adamant to keep his name?

The Crucible, while known to be a political text, Miller pays great detail to the struggle of the Individual, of the human temptations and individualist thoughts, that struggle in a society based on autocratic, strict religious thought and rigid collectivism. We can see this as the ignition, the actions that carry the play along. For example, Abigail Williams is seen as the orchestrator of the hysteria that takes over the community, all, in a general sense, due to revenge-motivated intention against John Proctor due to their messy affair. Proctor goes as far as to demote the entire hysteria to a “whore’s revenge”, a very individualistic statement in his expression of his individual irritation and aggression, and for its focus on her own selfish intentions. The affair, a individualistic, emotionally-based act of torrid temptation, expresses what I believe is Miller’s argument:  All Individuals are what let events unfold, it is by individuals anything progresses.

What is difficult to determine is whether Miller’s argument is for or against individualism. While the results of this individualism are largely fatal and negative, the power of the Individual is incomparable and unlike no other, and the suppression of Individuals within the text via the political structure, can be seen as what is to blame for the problematic approach and activities of the individual–for example, it is the government itself that puts Proctor in the situation in which he feels compelled to guard his individuality–if this approach is true, then one may see as Miller’s text completely against its conventional theme, and to actually be a critic of collectivist thought, or maybe even by extension, communism.

The Tempest: A reliable tale of the perils of revenge?

Shakespeare’s the Tempest has remained one of his finest works, but the actual validity of the play itself is something one must consider. We can argue Prospero is one of the major story-tellers in the play, and his accounts are skewed with partiality from a bitterness of a time much before the Island. His motives for making the journey of the others “tempest tossed” is one that certainly stems from revenge, but can we really truly know what is the source of his hatred? As the play is written with the main accounts being from a man scorned, about a play with witchcraft being imperative to the story’s survival, one may want to argue what is the potential truth of the play, what is it’s real purpose and it’s real, organic tale? Prospero comes about as a unreliable narrator, as he curses his brother and then moments later proclaims his love for him, and how Miranda’s perceptions seemed skewed by him, making her just as unreliable. Ariel is a slave, compromising his reliability as he has no other commitment, at is his most basic level, then to be a slave to Prosepro. All these flaws allow us to question the authenticity of the Tempest, and if it is actually more of a inflated lie of Prosepero’s than a story of an organic nature.

Plato’s The Republic

Plato is a household name within the world of philosophy and in most intelligent conversations, we see his name arise.

However, I personally was stunned by the political ideas of structure and society that he openly publishes under his name, compounding to the fact that Socrates also shares his name to these ideals.

“Excess of liberty, whether it lies in state or individuals, seems only to pass into excess of slavery.”  

Perhaps it is this that is most interesting: The deconstruction of Individuality we find within the Republic. There is constant diminishing of what it means to be an individual, in the form of different regulations set out within the text. Leaders are separated from family, denied the right to silver and gold, for example, to try to handicap the possibility of leaders being tempted into corruption. The concept entirely makes sense, but comes with heavy ethical considerations–particularly considering leaders typically do not take to their role willingly, but are rather assigned to it. Plato theorizes that leaders should feel all citizens are family and therefore should not be partial to just one set of individuals. This comes into the larger overarching principle of the state coming before all, to love the city most.

This overarching principle follows this pattern of deconstruction of the individual–into a part of the city. This has interesting political implications, and we have indeed seen vaguely similar examples of such practices within history today. It seems most examples in history, such as Soviet Russia and Khmer Rouge Cambodia, show drastic failure of this concept of deconstruction of the individual and putting state matter first. However, there are instances in which all these examples have deviated from The Republic’s original formula. The Republic is, as one would argue, a largely well-intentioned text. It theorizes that whilst state should be the first priority, an intellectual state of living. For example, the idea that pleasures of the soul are promoted over the pleasures of the body, shows examples of a society striving to achieve great things.

Thusly, the Republic’s ideas are not only striking but also lend themselves to a very interesting argument. It leads into a discussion of the context of the Individuality within government, within leadership, within a society, and is something seriously worth understanding in order to either use, not misuse and also argue against. This is why I believe it is important to read the Republic.