Salem Witch Trials and Vengeance
In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, vengeance plays a major role in the actions of the characters through the witchcraft trials in the Puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Anger, jealousy, rejection, and betrayal all occur throughout the play and are all things that could provoke someone to seek vengeance on someone else. Abigail Williams, niece of Reverend Parris, is one of the main characters who is very guilty of wanting vengeance on others throughout The Crucible.
In Act I, the reader gets a taste of who each character is and the previous troubles they’ve had with each other at Reverend Parris’ house, where many of the characters have come to check on Betty who is supposedly ill after a night of dancing in the woods.
Abigail shows that she does not favor Elizabeth Proctor when Parris asks her why she was no longer a servant for the Proctor household. Abigail replied to him, “She hates me, uncle, she must, for I would not be her slave.
It’s a bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman! ” (Miller 1240). This statement foreshadows that there was an incident between the Proctor’s and Abigail while she was working for them. Then once Abigail and John Proctor are alone in Betty’s room, she speaks to him about his affair with her and how she waits for him every night. He then tells her, “Abby, I may think of you softly from time to time. But I will cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again. Wipe it out of mind.
We never touched, Abby. ” (Miller 1246). This greatly angered Abigail. Feeling a sense of rejection, she decided that she needed to seek vengeance on Elizabeth, since she is unable to be with John. Also, when Abigail was alone with Betty and Mary Warren, she threatened to get vengeance on them if either of them turned her in. “And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.
And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! ” (Miller 1244). After reading about Abigail’s anger towards the other characters, it is very evident that she will be a major problem throughout the rest of the play. Knowing that Abigail was very angry about John Proctor, it was like her character to get accusations in order against Elizabeth Proctor.
Not only did Abigail hate Elizabeth, but she also saw her as the only thing holding John back from being with her, which is selfish, yet typical. In Act II John and Elizabeth end up arguing about him going into Salem that day, which turned into an argument about John’s affair with Abigail. It is then, that Mary Warren comes home with a poppet to give to Elizabeth as a gift. Once Mary informs them that Elizabeth’s name was mentioned in court she automatically knows that Abigail has to be behind this searching for vengeance. “It is her dearest hope, John, I know it.
There be a thousand names; why does she call mine? There be a certain danger in calling such a name – I am no Goody Good that sleeps in ditches, nor Osburn, drunk and half-witted. She’d dare not call out such a farmer’s wife but there be monstrous profit in it. She thinks to take my place, John. ” (Miller 1274). When Elizabeth was about to get taken away after finding the poppet, John was angry and said, “If she is innocent! Why do you never wonder if Parris be innocent, or Abigail? Is the accuser always holy now? Were they born this morning as clean as God’s fingers?
I’ll tell you what’s walking Salem – vengeance is walking Salem. We are what we always were in Salem, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law! This warrant’s vengeance! I’ll not give my wife to vengeance! ” (Miller 1283). Act III of The Crucible takes place in court and John Proctor ends up confessing to having an affair with Abigail when he says, “She used to serve me in my house, sir. A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything. I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you – see her what she is…
She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance” (Miller 1309). Not only did this cause an emotional breakdown for John, it also disclosed that Abigail only set Elizabeth up with the needle in the poppet to get her out of the way so she could be with John. Even though Abigail had managed to get vengeance on Elizabeth Proctor, she still did not reach her goal of being with John Proctor.
Instead, all of her conniving tricks, ridiculous accusing, ealousy, lying and pretending led John to his death; leaving Abigail Williams with nothing but “his name”. In this play, the salvation of innocent people has been sacrificed for the satisfaction of one seeking vengeance on another; innocent or not, confession was the only way to get out of death. It goes to show that vengeance can go a long way if the hatred, jealousy and anger is strong enough. In Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible, vengeance plays a major role in the actions of the characters through the witchcraft trials in the Puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts in 1692.
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