‘The Crucible’ written by Arthur Miller is about the mass hysteria, which led to the 1692 Salem Witch Trials, which resulted in many people being persecuted. ‘The Crucible’ is based on people living in the Puritan times. Everyone was supposedly ‘pure’ and followed Christian activity. Abigail Williams plays a key figure whose activities are crucial to the development of the play. Abigail is a girl of seventeen Abigail’s age was risen for the play who is an orphan; her parents were killed by Red Indians. Abigail lives with her uncle Reverend Parris and her cousin Betty, daughter of Reverend Parris.
Tituba is the slave of Parris’ household who comes from Barbados. One night of teenage fun, ends in persecution of many innocents. Abigail, Betty, Tituba and many other girls from the village, which include Mercy and Mary Warren, were in the forest dancing and enjoying them selves. Tituba sang her Barbados songs and the girls danced and cast spells for fun. The story tells us Abigail drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor. Abigail previously worked for the Procter’s until Elizabeth ‘Goody’ Proctor discharged her; ‘Goody’ in these terms was short for good wife.
Abigail had an affair with Elizabeth Proctor’s husband John Proctor that led to her dismissal. Reverend Parris caught the girls that night in the forest, Betty was so shocked and stunned she has been lying in bed for a while with hardly making any communication with her family. Abigail is an arrogant and deceiving girl. She has many unattractive qualities; this could be due to her witnessing her parent’s death when she was young. Brought up without love and affection from her parents affect her personality when growing up.
On her first entrance she is described as having ‘an endless capacity of dissembling pretending or deceiving’ this shows anything she says or does cannot be trusted. She has a strong personality with which she can easily manipulate people. Abigail’s beauty is important as it shows how she tempted John Proctor. Abigail is described as ‘all worry and apprehension and propriety’ this helps understand why she acts in the way she does later in the play. ‘Uncle the rumour of witchcraft is all about; I think you’d better go down and deny it yourself’ Abigail suggests that Reverend Parris should confront his congregation.
Abigail may sense that it would more in her interest to eliminate the rumours of witchcraft now, than to wait until the witchcraft scare takes hold. Reverend Parris is ‘pressed’ to tell, which suggests he finds the suggested course of action unattractive. His disclosure that he discovers his daughter and Abigail dancing in the forest reveals his fears. In a Puritan community all acts of levity such as dancing was severely frowned upon. ‘If you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it’
Abigail is pressed to tell the truth, or a version that would satisfy the congregation. Reverend Parris makes it clear what things are important to him; he is afraid of ruin and afraid for himself. ‘I’ll be whipped if I must beâ€¦. Betty’s not witched’ Abigail confesses that they danced in the forest, and expects she may be whipped for it. She says Betty is not ‘witched’ but Betty is clearly frightened of the consequences of what she has done and of having been discovered by her father, the Minister.
Abigail’s version of the truth of what happened in the forest may be a reasonable description of the likely sequence of events, but many may not believe what Abigail says. Abigail when forced with accusations, her reactions quickly change from ‘innocence’ to ‘terror’ once she realises what Reverend Parris actually saw in the forest. Abigail’s tendency to lie shows when she talks to her uncle about ‘a dress’. ‘A dress? ‘ Abigail says innocently ‘Aye a dress. And I thought I saw – someone naked running through the trees’ Parris find this difficult to say. ‘No one was naked! You mistake yourself uncle! She says in terror. The fact she is in terror and later in the act has a conversation with Mercy telling her, her uncle saw her naked Mercy tells us Abigail is definitely lying. Reverend Parris feels he is only now gaining respect from the community and that Abigail may compromise his very character. It is ironic that Abigail feels the ‘weight of truth’ upon herself. Truth is something Abigail values less than self-preservation. Reverend Parris states that he has given her a home to live in, put clothes on her back, laid food on the table for her, and now he is asking for her to give him an upright answer.
Reverend Parris has to question Abigail’s innocence and reputation. ‘Your name in the town â€“ it is entirely white is it not? ‘ ‘There be no blush about my name’ Abigail is saying she has nothing to be ashamed of and that there is no strain on her character. But in reality she doesn’t really think that. Abigail resents the fact that her ‘name’ her character is being compromised in the eyes of the local people. This is the first reference of ‘name’ in this community. ‘Name’ was very important in communities like these.
The subject of ‘name’ rises many times in the play. One of which included John Proctors speech before he was to hang. Elizabeth Proctor says she rarely comes to church, as she will ‘not sit so close to something soiled’. Parris questions what signified this remark. Why Abigail is seven months out of the Proctors’ household and why still no one has called for her services. ‘My name is good in the village and I will not have it said my name is soiled’ Abigail believes her character is known for good reasons in the village and her name will not be ruined.
Elizabeth Proctor’s remark gives an indication of the underlying cause of tensions between Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail and John Proctor. Here we see Abigail’s feelings toward Goody Proctor. Words Abigail uses in reference to Elizabeth Proctor include ‘hate’, ‘bitter’ and ‘lying’. These words are used to describe Goody Proctor but are really describing Abigail’s character. When Abigail is questioned she becomes more and more annoyed. Living in a close-knit community where everybody knows or tries to know his or her neighbours business.
Abigail’s departure from the Proctors’ household clearly generated rumours. The longer Abigail remains unemployed the more the gossip will circulate, and the more bitterly Abigail will feel. Abigail is the first to demonstrate the effects of fear, immediately denying her part in the dancing fiasco and accusing others. A pattern that occurs throughout the witch-hunt. Abigail has a strong and dominant character. This shows when she is talking to Mercy about Betty and what they are going to do. ‘Have you tried beatin’ her? Here let me have her’ Mercy asks.
Mercy moves towards Betty. Abigail holds her back, not out of concern to what she might do to Betty, but for the fear of being found out. Abigail is in hurry to talk to Mercy so they can get their ‘story’ straight. Mary Warren enters a servant to John Proctor, she is described as a subservient, naive, lonely girl. Her naivety and loneliness make it easier for people to influence her, as does her subservience. She falls easy prey to the demands of Abigail and Mercy. As Betty awakens, Abigail interrogates her, which shows Abigail’s ruthlessness. Abigail shakes Betty furiously.
Betty’s frantic response and her cries for her mother are to be expected bearing in mind pressures from her ‘friends’, the activities she took part in, the Puritan community she lives in and the fact that her father is the Minister of that community. “You drank blood, Abby! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor! ” Betty screams. This is an important allegation made by Betty. It tells us even further Abigail’s hate towards Elizabeth Proctor. This shows how greatly Abigail wants to be with John Proctor and that night in the forest Abigail’s charm/spell was more of a serious tone than to that of the other girls.
From trying to persuade her uncle to ‘tell’ at the beginning of the play, Abigail has now reached a point where she is forced by recent events to threaten the other girls into silence. Abigail’s character shows her domineering and angry side when she silences the girls by threatening them. “I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” Abigail threatens the girls if they dare even breathe a word about anything that as happened. “I saw Red Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine”
This tells us Abigail witnessed her parents’ death. Abigail will pay revenge if they uttered a word about anything that happened in the forest that night, especially that of Abigail’s doings. As Betty whimpers away again, the spotlight turns onto the arrival John Proctor. The relationship between Abigail and John Proctor is suggested in many ways. Abigail looks at him wide-eyed, she refers to his strength, she laughs nervously, and she has a ‘winningly wicked air’. John Proctor hasn’t come five miles to ‘see a silly girl fly’. John Proctor is curious to know what mischief Reverend Parris is brewing.
Abigail implies that he didn’t travel all the way just to see a girl fly; she believes he has come to see her. John may be telling the truth that he has come to see what is going on, but then at the beginning of Act 2 when John Proctor comes back from Salem he lies to his wife, when she questions him about where he was, he replies “I were planting far out the forest edge” I believe his full intention wasn’t to see Abigail, he didn’t mention his visit to Salem because he didn’t want his wife to raise wrong suspicions. Abigail is seen in many different emotional conditions.
She is volatile and therefore very dangerous. Her reference to John Proctor as ‘sweating like a stallion’ confirms her animal attraction that she finds in Proctor. Her remarks suggest that John Proctor isn’t all perfect her hatred for Goody Proctor is shown, and it shows why. Abigail thinks she knows John Proctor only after having had sexual relations with him, she is certain she knows what he thinks. John Proctor doesn’t want any involvement with Abigail as he pushes her away, but Abigail is persistent. John Proctor isn’t infatuated with her as the play tells us he us sympathetic but firm.
John Proctor does become angry. John Proctor shakes Abigail when she badmouths Goody Proctor calling her ‘a cold, snivelling woman’. The shaking indicates the physical nature of Proctor and Abigail’s past relationship. Abigail’s little speech ‘I look for John Proctorâ€¦. ‘ could be seen as moving and genuine or just pretence. Abigail may have found love in Proctor. After having seen her parents killed finding love in him could leave her bewildered and infatuated with John Proctor which it does. Abigail accusation against Proctor shows the true nature of their relationship.
Proctor does not deny what Abigail says he just ‘turns abruptly to go out’. He may be regretting his past relations with Abigail and has no answer for her accusations or disgusted by the imaginings of his dismissed servant. “I never knew what pretence Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! ” This comment shows the difference between the community’s Christian appearance and its very unchristian reality. When Betty wakes and cries out, Abigail is quick to say the sound of the congregation singing the lord’s name as the reason for her crying out.
Mrs Putnam another villager whose own daughter is not well makes the very dangerous connection between the crying out because of the singing and witchcraft. Reverend Parris calls Reverend Hale to come to Salem. Reverend Hale is an ‘expert’ on witchcraft. He is called to answer many questions the villagers are desperate to know. He comes to examine Betty after Abigail made accusations against Tituba the slave from Barbados. Abigail makes hysterical accusations against various people accusing them of witchcraft.
Abigail is only accusing people to take the spotlight off herself, and nobody could rouse suspicions that she may be involved in witchcraft. When Reverend Hale discovers of the dancing in the forest, Abigail is under direct attack from him, which she tries to find her way out of. Tituba is brought back into the scene and used as a scapegoat for the other girls who were in the forest that night, but first Abigail tries to wake Betty and get her to admit what actually happened. As Abigail talks about the devil constantly and associating the devil with various people, it makes her centre of interrogation which makes her desperate.
Tituba’s reappearance turns the spotlight away from Abigail. Tituba makes a genuine response to Abigail’s accusation. When people are accused of witchcraft, they begin by denying their involvement but when they discover that denials are useless they begin to acknowledge the supposed ‘sin’ and plead for forgiveness and start to accuse others in hope of saving themselves. This is the exact action of what Abigail had done. Abigail’s tells that Tituba makes her laugh when she is at prayer, Reverend Parris quickly acknowledges this. Abigail stretches her story with details that leave Tituba in a very awkward situation.
Abigail is clever to use her own failings to implicate Tituba. This accusation satisfies Reverend Hale and having made his mind up that Tituba is behind the whole affair. “I want to open myself” Abigail is afraid that Tituba will name her or feels this is her only chance of escape. Abigail is merely only trying to protect herself. Betty’s sudden interruption has a major effect on the company around her. Reverend Hale sees this as proof that the girls were bewitched and now the spell had been broken. Abigail’s outburst is seen when she talks in ‘great glee’. Abigail takes this moment and enjoys it.
She is no longer under interrogation or under the threat of getting a whipping. She takes everyone attention and it is now them who are under her influence. The witch-hunt now begins and will rapidly include the whole of the community. Abigail’s relationship with Reverend Parris is hardly close to a father-daughter one. I feel Reverend Parris ‘has’ to care for Abigail, after her parents were killed leaving her as an orphan. Reverend Parris would like to treat Abigail and Betty equally but of course Betty would be his priority because she is his own daughter.
Abigail doesn’t seem to have much respect for Reverend Parris, after he has brought her up and looked after her. Abigail seems to find it easy to lie to him, which shows Abigail is not close to Reverend Parris. Abigail even steals his money and feels no guilt later in the play. Abigail’s relationship with the other girls seems to be the most influential. Abigail can control them and they are influenced buy her. Elizabeth Proctor makes a remark about Abigail’s authority over the girls in just a short while. “Abigail brings the girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel”
We see Abigail’s power over the girls when she silences them in not to talk about that night in the forest, but the major influence of Abigail over the girls is shown in court during the witch-hunt trials. Abigail will show resentment and hate towards Mary Warren after John Proctor persuaded Mary Warren to tell the truth in court that Mary and the other girls did not see spirits in the forest that night and the poppet Elizabeth Proctor has was given by Mary Warren “You’re coming with me to court Maryâ€¦â€¦. You will tell the court how that poppet came here and who stuck the needle in” Mary Warren gave Elizabeth Proctor a poppet as a gift.
Abigail has now accused Elizabeth of witchcraft. Abigail exclaims that Elizabeth put needles on the parts of the bodies in the poppet and cursed that Abigail would feel pain in those parts of the body. Abigail is lying and trying to get revenge on Elizabeth for many reasons. One is the fact that John Proctor is her husband Proctor is not interested in Abigail and the fact Elizabeth discharged her from the Proctors’ house. When Mary was in court with John and the other girls, Abigail’s acting skills came, which deserved an academy award. Abigail, with a weird, wild, chilling cry screams to the ceiling. “You will not! Begone! Begone, I say!
Abigail pointing with fear, is now raising up her frightened-the girls are doing the same Mercy follows with the act that there is something up at the ceiling. “It’s on the beam! Behind the rafter! ” The girls say they see a ‘bird’. They say Mary has changed her figure into a bird and is on the beam. Mary denies this and Reverend Hale also present in court says he doesn’t see anything and the girls are pretending. The girls become hysterical. Mary screams that she isn’t doing anything. Everything Mary shouts back at them all the girls repeat everything she says. Mary becomes mad. Mary: I’m here, I’m here! Girls: I’m here, I’m here!
Mary starts whimper, so do the girls. Mary has fallen into Abigail’ trap and becomes powerless she has little chance of survival. She gives into Abigail. Mary decides that now she has no power her choice is to turn against John Proctor. Proctor is stunned. All the girls are again falling under Abigail’s authority. John Proctor starts to lose faith in the justice system after Mary accuses him of conversing with the devil. Danforth the judge of the court, orders Proctor to be taken to jail, after Proctor makes a blasphemous comment. “I say – I say – God is dead! ” Abigail’s doings brought so much pain and even led to death of many.
While John is in jail to hang, Abigail makes an attempt to persuade John into running away with her. Abigail has stolen Reverend Parris’ money and she tells Proctor that they can catch the next boat and run far away. Proctor is not interested. Abigail runs away by herself as she knows people will find put eventually that she was a fraud. Her theft and subsequent flight are serious implications towards Danforth as he believed her thought on how ‘God was speaking through her’. Abigail unfortunately was a self-absorbed, opportunistic, vain, dominating, arrogant and most of all a very cunning girl.