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Jose Pedro Peredo Vera

Ms. Messervey
English 12
March 24, 2016
The Irony of The Crucible by Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller, one of America's greatest playwrights, living or dead, is a master of
verbal irony. An examination of three strong examples of verbal irony in Millers
play, The Crucible, will prove this out. While Miller started the genre of the
tragedy of the common man, and is also know for his thoughtful and decisive plot
lines, much of his fame, possibly can be attributed to his brilliant use of language
generally, and his use of verbal irony in particular. The irony makes the play more
relax and funny.

Amidst the drama of the court scene in Act III, Proctor and Mary Warren are
being questioned in relation to Elizabeth's possession of puppets. Parris is trying
to prove the fact that maybe they were unaware of her possession of these, that
she could have hidden her puppets. In a response to Proctor, Parris sites that
'We are here, Your Honour, precisely to discover what no one has ever seen.';
Parris' meaning is very simple; he is simply commenting that the court is trying to
discover the puppets that supposedly Elizabeth had hidden at her house, that no
one has seen. But to read Miller, one must be more perceptive, and in examining
this quote by Parris, there is another meaning behind it. As most know of the
Salem witch trials, they specifically know the unjust and misled court system that

was used to accuse the witches. The words uttered from Parris' mouth at that
instance are so contradictory of the court and ironic that from a reader's
standpoint, one is mixed between the emotions of laughter and tears. For the
knowledge of the witch trials would allow one to know that they were nothing but
a hoax. The court is out to discover what no one has seen. Knowing that there
are no witches, then Parris is precisely right when he says this. It's just the irony
of Parris' ignorance that makes this quote affective.

The relationship between John and Elizabeth is brought to test throughout this
play. The fact that John cheated on his wife and the fact that Elizabeth cannot
forgive him for this is the basis of the conflict. In Act II, Reverend Hale comes to
visit the Proctors on his own account to alert them that Elizabeth's name was
mentioned in court. Deep in the conversation, Hale asks John to recite the
Commandments with the intent to prove he is a covenanted Christian man. John
can remember only nine of the ten. It says in the stage directions that Proctor is
lost, and is flailing for the last commandment. Then delicately, Elizabeth says,
'Adultery, John.'; Of the Ten Commandments he was reciting, the single one he
forgot was the single one he had broken. Add to this, to have the primary person
it affected other than him remind him of it is great irony. The Guilt that the irony
brings on here is amazing work on the part of Miller. To harness the already
blackened ties between John and Elizabeth to produce such a powerful line is
genius.

Miller, in Act III shows another wonderful example of irony. The verbal irony
portrayed earlier by the Proctors is once again affective here and in some cases
even more powerful. John admits to lechery, and the court brings out Elizabeth to
vouch for this crime. Elizabeth is a Christian woman who has never committed a
crime, or broken a commandment. Loyal to her husband, when asked if John has
ever committed the crime of lechery, she faintly replies, 'No, sir.'; To go through
life never telling a lie, and to have to first and only lie you tell be the one that
condemns your husband is horrible, but written beautifully. The thoughts that
must have been going through Elizabeth's head at the time of the question must
have been unimaginable. Choosing whether to shame her husband's name or to
save it is a tough choice. Miller takes advantage of every little detail he can and
exploits it to produce as much shock as possible.

Miller and his contemporary outlook on playwrighting has allowed him much fame
in his lifetime. In retrospect, his use of verbal irony in his writing has greatly
contributed to this fame and has made a considerable contribution to his
reputation as a writer.