A post-script regarding humorous moments. One of the loveliest things about this fandom, for me, has been the opportunity to engage with (in my experience) women of all ages, nationalities, and cultures. One facet of this that has personally fascinated me throughout this Crucible experience, is that I have read many accounts in forums, facebook posts and blogs, in which the theatre-goer expressed dismay and even offended sensibilities when the audience would chuckle during the performance.
So, on behalf of those who have derived amusement from the seemingly inappropriate moments, I can only say that I did appreciate several droll moments of humor, as intended by the playwright. Arthur Miller had an understated and wry sense of humor, and while this is indeed no comedy, many of the word choices and phrases could have been said in many different ways, but he specifically selected words with double meanings and humorous connotations.
- A nice illustration of this is Miller’s play on words when Parrish commented on the heavy stack of books Reverend Hale handed to him. In response, Hale replies, “They must be, they are weighted with authority.”
- Another is Proctor’s line “Oh, Elizabeth! Your justice would freeze beer!” There are infinite ways in which JP could have expressed his discontent with her brittle watchfulness, but here is a manly line, and one of my favorites!
- Another line that pleased me was Proctor’s sly compliment on his own seasoning of the stew.
I could wax on for quite some time listing these humorous moments, and how fabulous the cast was to have so seamlessly delivered them in the midst of such devastating themes and circumstances. I will say this: having read The Crucible in school and watched the Daniel Day-Lewis movie, I really didn’t have either an expectation of or an appreciation for the humor in this particular work before seeing the production in London. This was one of the nicest surprises for me.
Possibly some of the double meanings and innuendo are lost in translation when English is not a theatre-goer’s first language, and perhaps humor is also a very cultural phenomenon. One audience chuckle in particular really bothered some viewers- it was in Act 4, when Rebecca Nurse is being lead to the gallows, and she stumbles a bit. Several chuckles were to be heard following Rebecca’s line about how she faltered only because “I’ve had no breakfast.” I don’t think I chuckled here, but I did smile and appreciated a subtle humor in that, yet many others were basically flabbergasted that anyone could find it funny. My two cents: of course it’s not funny that this elderly, virtuous, wrongfully-condemned woman missed breakfast, but the understated humor lies in the fact that this is the LEAST of her problems, on execution day, yet she has the grace to make a light remark as she is being lead to her death. Many heroes in popular culture make light remarks in the face of death, and while it is not hilarious, it brings a moment of humor. Thus you will hear a few chuckles.
Having said all this, I by no means just laughed lightheartedly all through the performance, blithely ignoring the desolation all around me. Trust me, I also became very tearful, felt weak-kneed, hollow and basically devastated at the end. It was truly a rollercoaster to find comic relief at all in such a play, but I sincerely believe that is part of what makes The Crucible a classic.