John Proctor: The Tragic Vision

Publication Year



Arthur Miller, The Crucible, character development, drama, playwriting, tragedy


Comparative Literature | Dramatic Literature, Criticism and Theory | Performance Studies | Playwriting | Theatre and Performance Studies


Modern American theatre is presented with a quandary. A highly fragmented modern society has yielded up a similarly fragmented dramatic tradition. On the one hand, we have probed the possibility of new forms in drama. On the other, we have demonstrated a certain insensitivity to an older form, the tragedy. It is not a universal fault, yet I cannot help but recall sniggers and boredom in association with Shakespearian productions I have seen. Who do we laugh at moments of high seriousness? If incongruity is the essence of the comic moment, then perhaps suffering nobly endured has become so odd a spectacle in a twentieth century context that it seems ridiculous. Perhaps the hero is irrelevant. Perhaps the problem lies in our own meager self-conception, our lack of faith in the worth of the individual human being. Whatever the cause, though many of us still read and watch the older tragedies with keen satisfaction, we have contributed little to the tradition of this form. There are few modern American tragedies.

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