Throughout the play “The Tempest”, themes and characters are used symbolically to represent challenges to ethics through provoking both conscious and unconscious thought within the audience. From this, the author – Arthur Miller is able to attack commonly held beliefs and tendencies held at the time of publishing the play without causing unwanted alarm; in a time of mass hysteria anyway. Perhaps a less obvious, though nonetheless effective way of achieving this, is through the character of John Proctor. From early on the paly, Proctor appears a relatable, sound townsman to Salem.
This is portrayed through Proctors early dismissal of the prospect of witchcraft being present in Salem; “What’s this mischief then? ” Hence allowing the audience to subconsciously align Proctor as a source of reliable information, due to the downright absurdity at the prospect of witchcraft to the nineteen fifties audience. Despite this, early on in the play, it becomes apparent John Proctor has – like most people – made mistakes that he would much rather forget.
This is palpable from the line: “No, no Abby. That’s done with.
” This implies he has indulged in something intimate with young character of Abby, which although making him seem arguably slovenly, may actually make him more relatable in that he does not seemingly wade through gold per se, as many other character such as Parris make out. To continue further, the character of Proctor ensures the audience are in no sense believing in the chance of witchcraft, hence aiding the accumulation of absurdity at the happenings of persecution, prejudice and peril throughout the play.
Similarly, the character of Proctor always allows the placement of other characters within the minds of the audience.
An example of this lay within the exchange between Thomas Putnam, Reverend Parris and John Proctor as they quarrel over the ownership of land. Putnam is clearly labeled as a villainous character through the line of Proctors; “This bag will not be a bag to swing around your head, Mr. Putnam. ” The metaphor describes a somewhat barbaric method of emptying the contents of the bag, ergo the line can be somewhat interpreted as to suggest Thomas Putnam aims only to exploit and gain whatever he can from the phenomena that is the witch hunt.