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The Crucible – Character Essay: Abigail Williams In the play The Crucible, written by Arthur Miller, Abigail Williams is a very manipulative, seductive, and dishonest person. She is constantly caught up in a lie or is in the presence of trying to manipulate a person or a group of people. This vicious antagonist will stop at nothing to attain her demented goals. Although, in the end, Abigail’s persuasive lies do not get her what she really wants, her actions throughout the play influence many events and make her the most compelling character of The Crucible.
Throughout the play, Abigail speaks using deceitful language in her constant quest for power. The audience’s first introduction to her true nature is in Act I when she says “…Let either of you breathe a word and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you…” This quote shows Abigail’s desperation and truly violent mind while she tries to control the mistake she has made, but to control this mistake she must control those around her who know of it.
Abigail feeds on the fact that no one would dare to expose her if they feared her so terribly. Abigail’s desire for power and her willingness to deceive anyone to get what she wants also foreshadow her actions. Abigail lies in Act I when Reverend Parris confronts her after finding her and other girls dancing in the woods and practicing witchcraft with Tituba. In the town of Salem, Abigail’s reputation is already somewhat flawed. But when Parris asks her “Your name in the town – it is entirely white, is it not,” Abigail answers “I am sure it is, sir.
There be no blush about my name. ” Abigail’s response was clearly another lie because she was fired as the Proctor’s servant after Elizabeth discovered her affair with John. Abigail is a malicious, vengeful girl who, in an attempt to protect herself from punishment and to achieve her ultimate goal of replacing Elizabeth as John Proctor’s wife, instigates the Salem witch trials and leads the charge of accusations. Unlike the other characters, she is not very complex and is clearly the villain of the play. Her motivation is simple jealousy and her desire to be with John Proctor.
Abigail’s cruel nature, however, is due partially from past trauma. She is an unmarried, orphan who watched as her parents were murdered by Indians. Therefore, she ranks low on the Puritan Salem social ladder, and the only people below her are the slaves and social outcasts. The witch trials, in which the girls are allowed to act as though they have a direct connection to God, empower the previously powerless Abigail. Once shunned and scorned by the respectable townsfolk, Abigail now finds that she has authority, and she takes full advantage of it.
Throughout the play many of the events, in some way or another, have to deal with Abigail or occur as a result of something that she did. She is the most memorable character of the play simply for that reason. Even when Abigail leaves town for the Barbados when her hopes of being with John Proctor are shattered, her previous actions still have tremendous effect on the lives of the accused. Although Abigail Williams is the cause of many problems, her influence in The Crucible is undeniable.
Author: Christen Curtis
The Crucible – Character Essay: Abigail Williams
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Arthur Miller was one from the community of people who fought against the Congress Committee, which took place in the 1950s and also known as McCarthy Trials. This historical period was also known as “Red Hunt” for communists and occurred in Washington D.C. From this event, Arthur had drawn parallels to the Salem Witch Trials in the late 1600s. He wrote a play called The Crucible where he had told the story of the Salem people who were bound by the Devil. The Salem-town (nowadays Salem) situates in Massachusetts state and during Witch Trails it was under the influence of Puritans church and traditions. In other words, The Crucible is the play about fears of social isolation and the unknown, and how hysteria spread fast among people. These all spirits were felt among people during Salem-town time, Red Hunt and in some cases nowadays.
The most notable character of the play is Abigail Williams. This character is a prototype of real Abigail Williams which was one of the central figures during the Witch Hunt in Salem. According to historical notes because of Abigail and several other young girls’ strange behavior the Salem court and community accused about 57 people of witchcraft. Abigail was one of the people who reported to be a witness of the crime against God, and as a result, she was bewitched. Her state showed up in psychological disorder, but because of undeveloped medicine such diseases had not been diagnosed and treated by the doctors. No one knows what had happened with real Abigail at the end, but it is known, that she had died at the age of 17-18 years several years after she left Salem.
However, in Arthur Miller’s play Abigail is different; she is a prudent person with her aim. Abigail believes in witchcraft, and she is the leader of girls’ group, she tells them what to do and when they should do it. With the help of these girls, she blames others about witchcraft and does it successfully. For example, when girls testified against Marry Warren, they repeated and did everything Abigail told them to say or do. The majority of people living in Salem, hated Abigail because they knew about what had happened between her, John Proctor and Elizabeth Proctor, John’s wife. Nevertheless, some people still believe her.
To fully understand Abigail character and what led to her actions, we need to analyze her position in the Puritan society. Abigail is an orphan, and she is an unmarried girl. According to the Puritan society ladder, she has a low rank. Only slaves and social outcasts are below her. The male adults in Salem for her and other girls are God’s representatives on the Earth. Abigail doesn’t like this state of affairs and when she finds out that witch-hunt is the way to get power and authority she uses this chance. Moreover, she fully believes that she can get rid of Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail is sure that John Proctor truly loves her and will marry her, she just needs to gain more power to get everything she wants. And this power she feels in her accusations against interfering her plans citizens of Salem.
I can characterize Abigail as lying, ill-intentioned and selfish person. She thinks about herself and her aims only. Her first lie in the place was regarding her dancing in the woods and blood drinking. And not looking at the fact that Parris had seen her, she insisted that she and her company were just dancing and it had nothing to do with witchcraft. Moreover, she told everyone that it was Tituba who cast spells. And that Tituba was one of the Salem witches. Of course, Tituba was not entirely innocent because she did Voodoo, which is a witchcraft according to Puritans believes. But yet, she didn’t any sacrifice to devil or magic to injure anyone in the town.
Probably, Abigail is the principal evil in the play. She does everything to achieve her wicked goals. It is possible to compare her with a Biblical character, for example, Jezebel, who is driven only by a lust for power and sexual desire. She wants to rule people’s fates in Salem and get a man whom she wants to have, not looking to his needs or desires. She does everything to make herself look good and put down the people who prevent her from goals’ achievement. And in a case when she is in troubles she lies to get out of them. On the other hand, she seemed to be the person with psychological disorders, who does not fully understand the harm she is making to others.
If she did, she could have saved a lot of lives during the Salem Witch Trials because she had the power to influence the community decisions. But she preferred lie instead of truth and many innocent people died. When Judge Danforth asked her if she was lying: “Is it possible, child, that the spirits you have seen are illusion only, some deception that may cross your mind when.“-She just acted insulted. Of course, later in the play, when Abigail thought that Puritans were close to catching her in the lie, she took her uncle’s money and ran away. She stayed completely unpunished for her crimes against Salem’s people.
The figure of Abigail from The Crucible unites worst of human characteristics, like selfishness, credibility and jealously. Her behavior and actions resulted in the real horror and more than a dozen of lost lives during the Salem Witch Trials. The deaths of women and men could have been avoided if Abigail had told the truth. Arthur Miller had paralleled these deaths with “Red Hunt” which took place during the 1950s in the USA. The “McCarthyism” is still discussed and used against recent important local and world events.
1. Miller, A. (1953). The Crucible. [online] Available at: http://eienglish.org/crucible.pdf [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].
Brooks, R. (2016). Abigail Williams: The Mysterious Afflicted Girl. [online] History of Massachusetts. Available at: http://historyofmassachusetts.org/abigail-williams-salem/ [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].
2. Brown, A. and Ojalvo, H. (2016). Teaching ‘The Crucible’ With The New York Times. [online] The Learning Network. Available at: http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/12/teaching-the-crucible-with-the-new-york-times/?_r=0 [Accessed 7 Nov. 2016].