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.
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