This is a very interesting stage direction. It has been used to create a separation of hearts which were once together. Miller uses religious imagery here as Moses parted the sea of Israel to let his followers pass and let it flow once his enemies started coming through. Miller could have wanted Elizabeth’s heart to represent the sea which has now closed and would not bestow John (considering him as an enemy) any place within it. The term ‘receives it’ tells us that she doesn’t give anything back in return, feeling some animosity towards him and also indicating her mistrust in him.
As a director I would tell Elizabeth to not show any signs of emotion indicating that she is not impressed by his attempts to regain her trust, where as to the actor play John I would request a sigh of disappointment accompanied with a remorseful facial expression showing how much he regrets making that move. This will help the audience get a vision of his feelings. Elizabeth’s views are clearly indicated further on in Act 3 and 4 we find out that she doesn’t actually feel this way as she believes that John has benefited her, as a woman like her would by no means have got a man like him and she admires him putting up with her.
Act 2 commences in John Procter’s living room. In my view the stage at this point in time should consist of dull lighting in some areas and then in contrast there should be a flickering fire burning deep in the fireplace. This would be a metaphorical form of the devil watching over the house of Procter as the devil is usually associated with fire and the fire of hell burns in their living room. At each end of the fire place I would place John and Elizabeth signifying that their feelings for each other have been burned in the fires of hell.
This is also evident as throughout the duration of act 2 you can see that they both are very uncomfortable with each other’s company. This is because Elizabeth knows about the affair that John has had with Abigail Williams. The separation of their hearts will be represented by a long dining table which I would put at centre front stage; the table will be lit with flickering candles, this time though for the purposes of shining light onto the two characters to create a dramatic. In addition on the chimney breast I would put a bible, this would be very effective as it would represent the devilish fire taking over the purity of the bible.
On the stage I would also put a mirror, this will be positioned to show the road to the town of Salem, in fact reminding John Procter to go and bear witness to the court. Proctor would know it’s the only option he has and would proceed to the court and testify. This links with the key theme of Individual vs. Collective consciousness as if he goes to the court his individual conscious will be against the collective consciences of the girls and he will also have to reveal his secret about his affair with Abigail.
This theme takes effect all through Act2 and the whole play, which would make it one of the most important themes of the play. This theme has a lot of effect on the characters in the play; it causes much havoc and disbelief into the purity of hearts of others. Throughout the play we can see that the battle between the individual and collective consciousness is being mainly won by the combined consciousnesses of the villagers of Salem. Arthur Miller writes many stage directions.
This may be because he wants everything to be done exactly as he wants which gives the audience a view into his thoughts and feelings and the kind of experiences he had at the time and he wants to create the same atmosphere in the play. Miller uses his vivid imagination to describe most of the stage directions, although some directions have not been explained as well as others. One particular direction is, ‘He reaches to a cupboard, takes a pinch of salt And drops it into the pot. As he is tasting again, Her footsteps are heard on the stairs. He swings the pot into the fire place and goes to a basin
And washes his hands and face’ John doesn’t want to get caught by Elizabeth seeing that he doesn’t want her to know that he doesn’t like her cooking. This would fuel and offensive by Elizabeth and John doesn’t know that he doesn’t want her to do that as he has deeply offended her trust in him. If I were to direct the play I would propose the actor to move promptly when her footsteps are heard and with the absence of noise. The spotlight should be focused on his face to highlight his facial expressions which should show a state of slight panic.
When Elizabeth arrives John should act as I he just arrived home and is washing his hands for dinner. Elizabeth should show no emotions through her face and present dinner without using the element of verbal sounds. This would be done to heighten the level of tension between the two characters I the play. Through out Act 2 the audience is led to believe that the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor is not going to last for a long duration. Many arguments, actions and expressions that are made by them aid this belief very successfully.
Further on in the play they start trusting each other again and towards the end of the play Elizabeth is then widowed as her husband John looses his battle with the court and is accused of working with the devil. Act 2 most likely reflects the personal life of Arthur Miller. He wanted to show how the rich and powerful will corrupt society throughout time. It seems that he wrote ‘The Crucible’ to clearly present his views of life to the world to see, and in his views he illustrates how life in the 17th century didn’t differ very much to life over two centuries later.