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Concept of Lust in Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible” and Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “The Tenth Muse”

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Lust

Noun –

  1. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness.
  2. A passionate or overmastering desire or craving (usually followed by for): a lust for power.
  3. Ardent enthusiasm; zest; relish: an enviable lust for life.

Verb – (used without object): to have intense sexual desire.

  1. to have a yearning or desire; have a strong or excessive craving (often followed by for or after).

Etymology: Before 900; Middle English luste, Old English lust; cognate with Dutch, German lust pleasure, desire; akin to Old Norse lyst desire.

Lust played a big part in defining the romantic movement, especially in Arthur Miller’s play, “The Crucible”. “The Crucible” is a story about the old Puritan society where a man faces serious punishment for committing adultery against his wife. Lust is what pushes John Proctor to partake in the very sinful act that puts the entire town of Salem in an uproar. Lust is what causes Proctor to make his poor decisions and ultimately cause his own downfall. The lust for power is also present in the story of “The Crucible”. Through the whole of the play, the condemnation of innocent people for being witches happens simply for one’s own prosperity or power. People in the town of Salem lust to increase their own stature but more importantly, for the destruction of others. In Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Tenth Muse”, is a letter that she is writing to her husband who has died. Anne explains the lust that she has to return to her husband and be with him once again. The lust that Anne Bradstreet displays in her poem is one of passion and desire to be reunited with her spouse.

The origin of the word “lust” comes from Old to Middle English and also from Dutch and German roots. Lust is defined as “uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness” and also “a passionate or overmastering desire or craving”, according to dictionary.com (“Lust”). Lust in “The Crucible” is something that is within lots of the characters present in the play. From one of the most important characters throughout the story, John Proctor and Abigail Williams who ultimately causes the downfall of proctor, the entirety of the story revolves around lust. In Anne Bradstreet’s poem, her “lust” is different from what is displayed in “The Crucible”. In “The Tenth Muse”, Anne Bradstreet lusts to be reunited with her late spouse with strong passion and craving.

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Lust is a common theme in the “The Crucible” and it governs the plot of the story as a whole. The tension between the characters because of lust grows as the plot progresses in the play, mainly between the culprit, John Proctor and his wife, Goody Proctor. At the beginning of the story, the main focus is set on the witch trials and the girls who were said to be doing witchcraft in the woods, but as it progresses there is a shift in the plot. While the focus of the story is on witchcraft, there is a sense of lust for power especially between Parris and John Proctor. As Betty is “ill” or possibly consumed by a demon, Proctor keeps pressing Parris to alert legal authorities of what is going on. Part of this is due to Proctor testing Parris and his credibility as a pastor. Parris knows at this point what Proctor is doing knows that if it is found out that the reverend of the town’s daughter is consumed by a demon than he certainly will not be respected in the same manner. After being put under fire by both Rebecca and Proctor, Parris says, “A wide opinion’s running in the parish that the Devil may be among us, and I would satisfy them that they are wrong” (27). in an attempt to defend himself. Another instance where Proctor displays his lust for power is when he states that Parris has too much authority and essentially tries to tear down Parris’ credibility. Proctor states, “ I mean it solemnly, Rebecca; I like not the smell of this “authority” (31).

In the later parts of “The Crucible” the mood of the story shifts, and so does the type of lust that is present in John Proctor. The tension between Proctor and his wife grows and their long marriage seems to all be a lie to Goody Proctor. During these moments, there is also a strong sense of lust from Abigail as she tries to claim John for herself. She makes up lies about Goody Proctor and accuses her of witchcraft in attempt to put her to death. The lust between these two characters is what fuels the story. The weight of John’s lustful act peaks as he says to his wife, “When will you know me, woman? Were I stone 1 would have cracked for shame this seven month!” (62). After John sincerely makes up with his wife, the problems that his lust creates are even larger. In court, Goody Proctor has to lie to protect her husband but it backfires. Elizabeth Proctor says “ I came to think he fancied her. And so one night I lost my wits, I think, and put her out on the high road.” (113) when asked why Abigail was kicked out of their house. Eventually, Proctor is put to death because of the lust that he had in the strict Puritan society.

In Anne Bradstreet’s Poem, “The Tenth Muse”, she displays a type of lust that is a little bit different from that of what goes on in “The Crucible”. She lusts for her own return to her husband. A longing for his presence in a genuine, passionate manner. She says, “So many steps, head from the heart to sever, If but a neck, soon should we be together” (Line 5). She is expressing her illicit desire to be reunited with her husband. She also says, “Which sweet contentment yield me for a space, True living pictures of their father’s face “ (Line 15). She displays the lust for the return of her loved husband and this lust is the basis of the poem.

In conclusion, Puritanic writing can be encompassed by lust. Lust in “The Crucible” progresses the plot and writes the story. All of the characters are in some way connected or affected by lust. In Anne Bradstreet’s poem, “The Tenth Muse” it is lust that she is filled with and it is what helps her express her feeling in the poem. In Puritan society, lustful acts were not taken lightly and these works, especially “The Crucible”, reveal this very well.

Works Cited

  1. Arthur Miller “The Crucible” 1953 https://esprdg.cscmonavenir.ca/files/2013/10/21078735-The-Crucible-Arthur-Miller-2hmdzot.pdf
  2. Anne Bradstreet “The Tenth Mule” 1650 http://www.thatwasi.com/AmStud/resources/from_the_tenth_muse_and_other_poems.pdf

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Concept of Lust in Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible” and Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “The Tenth Muse”. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 5, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-lust-in-arthur-millers-play-the-crucible-and-anne-bradstreets-poem-the-tenth-muse/
“Concept of Lust in Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible” and Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “The Tenth Muse”.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-lust-in-arthur-millers-play-the-crucible-and-anne-bradstreets-poem-the-tenth-muse/
Concept of Lust in Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible” and Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “The Tenth Muse”. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-lust-in-arthur-millers-play-the-crucible-and-anne-bradstreets-poem-the-tenth-muse/> [Accessed 5 Feb. 2023].
Concept of Lust in Arthur Miller’s Play “The Crucible” and Anne Bradstreet’s Poem “The Tenth Muse” [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 5]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/concept-of-lust-in-arthur-millers-play-the-crucible-and-anne-bradstreets-poem-the-tenth-muse/
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