Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, and the movie with the same name have many differences and similarities, all of which contribute to the individual effectiveness of each in conveying their central message.
There are several additions and variances in the movie. First of all, the scene where the children and Tituba are dancing in the forest is never seen in the forest; we simply learn of it from dialogue. This scene was most probably added in the movie for a dramatic effect: foreshadowing.
Along the same lines, there are many scenes included in the movie that are outdoors, however; there were no such scenes in the play. All of the action in the play was indoors. The director, in this case, was simply using the advantages of movie making. It is difficult to replicate an outdoors scene in a theatre. Also, some of the techniques used when filming outdoors create a symbolic message. A portion of the scenes before the beginning of the witchcraft trials is seen in a downpour of rain, possibly foreshadowing doom and dreariness to come.
There were some scenes added or adapted in the movie as opposed to the play. First, the large group of “stricken” girls, which indeed had a greater number than did the group in the play, left the church meeting at the beginning of the movie to see about Betty’s condition. Betty seemed to be much more violent in the movie and she tried to jump out of the window, which did not occur in the play. These details were most likely added to augment the idea of “mass hysteria.” A scene was added in the movie, showing the hangings and cheers of the crowd watching, also to add to that effect.
Next, Tituba was not whipped into confession in the play, whereas she was in the movie. This was most indefinitely added to show that the profession was typically not made willingly. One had to be forced one way or another into confessing, to save their skin or their life. Also, around the time of this scene is one where Abigail and John Proctor have a conversation. In the movie, Abigail kisses John Proctor and he throws her off of him, which did not occur in the play. This was no doubt inserted to show the audience that Abigail was oddly and obsessively lusting over the man while he was making a sincere attempt to get over her.
Another significant change is in the character portrayal. In the play, Parris seemed to be overly egocentric and self-conscious. He is still thus in the movie, but is more whiny, and annoyingly so. Putnam, also, seems to have a personality change. In the play, his personality is not so domineering as in the movie, where he is bordering on psychotic. His role seems to be made larger and more significant in the movie, which presumably accounts for the change in character representation.
Another difference is the presence of three judges in the movie, whereas in the play there were only two, both of whom where made out to be “bad guys.” One additional judge is added in the movie possibly to show that it was not the entirety of the Church that was unjust, cruel, and nearly ignorant. I wonder how much the Puritans paid the director off for that little extra.
The Proctor children were never present in the play. We know of their existence, apparently sleeping upstairs, when Elizabeth is arrested for witchcraft. They appear to cry, and hug their mommy, and make the scene extremely sentimental. Their whole purpose was to show people how devastating these witch-hunts were to families, especially children.
A scene that was added to the movie was one where Parris opened his door and found a large knife stuck in it. This is to show how much Parris was despised in the community.
In the section of the movie where Mary Warren goes to confess that she has “seen no spirits,” there are a few changes. First of all, the girls never came after Mary in the play, while, on the contrary, they did in the play. This is simple foreshadowing, showing that further on the girls will unite against Mary. Next, the girls never ran into the water after the bird scene, obviously because there were no outdoor scenes in the play. I believe the purpose of their running into the ocean was that the girls needed to cleanse themselves of the evil spirits. The accusation of John Proctor practicing witchcraft comes when he is standing in the water to his mid-thigh, possibly meaning that, although he has sinned less than some, he still needs to be baptized (in a sense) completely to be free of his misdoings.
The final three differences all have to do with Abigail. First of all, she is seen stealing money from her uncle where in the play we only hear of it second-hand. Second, in the movie, Abigail visits John Proctor in jail, which never occurred in the play. Lastly, Abigail accuses the Reverend John Hale’s wife of witchcraft, and is told by Judge Danforth that she is mistaken. This did not happen in the play, but helps in the movie to more clearly define Abigail as one of the “bad guys” in the movie.
Personally speaking, I prefer the movie to the play. Granted, the play may have deep, underlying meanings, but to me, it wasn’t very moving or emotional. The additions made in the movie help to more clearly define the roles of good and evil, and play on the hidden feelings people have. I think most of the additions, if not all, were appropriately made and were quite successful. I enjoyed both the movie and our reading of the play very much, but again, I would have to say that I prefer the movie.