Abigail In The Crucible is seen obsessed with the illusion of replacing her Rival Elizabeth, Abigail Williams, the orphan niece of Reverend Parris, is now a seventeen-year-old girl. Her parents Mr. and Mrs. Williams were cruelly murdered by the cruel Indians of Salem when she was hardly 12. She remained the Proctors’ maidservant till 35year old Elizabeth Proctor fired (dismissed) her in 1692 for having an immoral affair with her 35-year-old husband John Proctor. We are told that Abigail is 17 or so on the eve of her dismissal.
It was her first love with John Proctor and so she naturally dreamed of marrying him. Abigail naturally becomes the rival of her mistress because it is not her master John Proctor but her mistress Elizabeth Proctor who has ousted her on the charge of adultery with her husband, already the father of 3 sons. Abigail is as such seen as a malicious and revengeful girl. When her cousin Betty falls ill after Reverend Parris finds them dancing, it is in an attempt to protect herself from the punishment that Abigail instigates the Salem witch trials and leads the charge of accusations aimed only at the execution of her rival Elizabeth so that she may become Proctor’s wife as she is dead sure that he still loves her. In her rivalry, Abigail becomes an unabashed (shameless) liar who begins to charge witchcraft against all those who oppose her.
Abigail’s callous nature stems partially from her past trauma (shock) of having Watched the merciless murder of her parents. Abigail is obviously a malicious character. As a laundress (insulting), she shows an endless capacity for dissembling (concealing reality behind a false appearance) as revealed during the progression of her encounters with Reverend Parris, Reverend Hale, and John Proctor.
Before The Crucible begins, John Proctor has already drawn Abigail into the adult world by seducing her.
“I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart!”
she cries when John rejects her request for the resumption of lovemaking. His repentance is sincere enough, even if it does not stretch to what he has done to his 17-year-old servant. Elizabeth sees her adulterous husband as a good man being only somewhat bewildered, while Abigail was a prostitute. Being the driving force of the prayer, Abigail’s desire for John is a symbol of the anarchic (irrational) side of life that the Puritans tried so hard to repress. Her thwarted love makes her ruthless. She has already drunk a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife. By blaming Tituba for the adventure in the forest Abigail discovers a more dangerous aspect to the ascendancy; she holds over her friends. When she begins to name the witches, Betty picks up her lead without any instruction. Backed up by her hysterical followers, Abigail controls the adults who have previously controlled her.
ABIGAIL MISINTERPRETS HER FOREST-DANCE CAMPAIGN.
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Although Parris urges her to admit all the facts about the girl’s activities in the forest, Abigail only pretends to create a mysterious situation. Parris pleads with her, stating with dignity the seriousness of the situation and stressing the need for truth: “PARRIS: Now tej? me true, Abigail And I pray you to feel the weight of truth upon you, for now, my ministry is at stake, my ministry and perhaps your cousin’s (Betty’s) fife. Whatever abomination you have done, give me all of it now, for S dare. not be taken unaware when! go before them down there.
ABIGAIL: There is nothing more, I swear’, uncle.”
However, when questioned later by Reverend Hale, it becomes evident that Abigail knows well that “something more than” common dancing’ has taken place at the nocturnal (of the night) meetings in the forest. Her revelations, leading to the
incrimination of Tituba, shows a dissembling (beating around the bush) so extensive on Abigail’s pants that considerable lying is necessary to support the appearance she wishes to present. Abigail has indeed told a series of lies to her benefactor foster uncle Parris, despite his emphasis on the need for truth, and soon this capacity is to be used for incriminating other innocent people.
Superficially, Abigail is anxious to pretend about her ‘name’, or reputation for integrity. Rumors of a relationship with John Proctor have circulated since her dismissal from service in the Proctor household. Parris requests her to tell him the truth about this possible blemish on her reputation:
“PARRIS: Your name in the town—it is entirely white, is it not? ABIGAIL (with an edge of resentment): Why. I am sure it is, sir. There be no blush about my name.”
ABIGAIL’S JEALOUSY AGAINST ELIZABETH TURNS INTO REVENGE
Abigail attributes any aspersion (slander) cast on her character to Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail claims that John’s wife has tried to treat her like a slave, Abigail pretends that she has rebelled against such an attitude, asserting, in a temper: “My name is good in the village? I will not have it said my name is soiled.’ Goody Proctor is a gossiping liar. But in the brief, dramatically tense dialogue between Abigail and John Proctor when they are alone with the sick child, their past adulterous relationship is made quite explicit. In this encounter Abigail is shown not only to have lied to her guardian but also to have yet possessed a passionate desire to resume her past experience with ) John Proctor. She has a shrewd percipience (perceptive insight) in seeing “John Proctor’s weakness of character.
So in this short meeting, Abigail shows her active willingness to manipulate Proctor to satisfy her own passion for lovemaking. She reminds him of his own deeply emotional nature, recalling their hidden sexual experiences in the stables of his cattle. She even asserts that he is no “wintry” man in this immoral domain.
She attributes the quality of female frigidity to his wife Elizabeth Abigail has already referred to her earlier as a lie-telling, cold sniveling (tearfully complaining) woman and she repeats this to John.
“ABIGAIL (with a wave of bitter anger): Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be an obstacle in my way. PROCTOR (angered at himself as well): You’ll speak nothing of Elizabeth? ABIGAIL: She is blackening my name in the village? She is telling lies about me? She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her?“
Abigail’s ability to turn events to her own advantage increases with practice. Her refusal to accept John’s rejection combines fatally with the rising social panic. The accusations eventually bring down her real target; Elizabeth Proctor. Once embarked on this course, Abigail cannot draw back, even when the man she wants is condemned to die. In the end, all she can do is to leave the town in a hurry. With a last, bold gesture she ensures a comfortable future by emptying her uncle’s strong box. Abigail has courage, intelligence, and a magnetic personality, but employs these gifts only in destructive ways. She exerts a totally malign influence on the terrified villagers. Most of them do not realize that the only witch in their midst is Abigail Williams.
ABIGAIL’S DISPLAY OF VIOLENCE
Abigail always displays a remarkable Firmness of purpose. Her passion, now frustrated by John’s return to sexual Fidelity with His wife is a driving force, a violent, pent-up power that has given her temporary influence over Proctor and a larger influence over the other girls. She is the leader among them When urged by Mary Warren to tell the truth about their activities in the forest and provoked further by Betty’s garbling (confusing words), she reasserts her domination by an act of violence. She takes the sick child Betty who has wandered from the bed to the window and smashes her across:
the face’. It is this tendency to violence that most deeply characterizes. Abigail. The imagery Abigail uses to describe imaginatively her sexual experience with Proctor suggests the mating of wild, hot, untamed animals:
“I know how you Clutched my back behind your house and sweated like a.. i stallion whenever ; came near Or did I dream that? … A wild things may say and do wild things. But not so wild, I think… I have a sense for heat, John, and your sexual heat has drawn me to my window… I cannot sleep for dreaming; I cannot dream but I wake and walk about the house as though I would find you coming through some door. (She clutches him desperately.)”,
Fulfilled passion may have offered a healthful integration of Abigail’s emotions but, since John’s rebuttal (non-acceptance) of her advances of carnal love, the psychological violence is sure to break out into new manifestations. The extension of dissembling and lying to arouse her innate violence require the increasing use of this disintegrative force. Unfortunately, Abigail’s disintegrative force enters the community. Consequently, the reputation of others tends to be blemished, while that of Abigail grows for ‘goodness’. Can any defense be made of such a savagely sexual girl? Arthur Miller has already told us that as a tender baby Abigail had witnessed the murder of her parents:
“I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night.”
The psychological impression of violence and its ineradicable finality seem to have remained with her. As an adolescent, to prosecute her private vengeance against Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail connives at judicial murder. And this may seem no unnatural thing to Abigail. She alone is violent enough to run away from the Salem jail.
ABIGAIL’S TERRORISM FRIGHTENS EVEN THE JUDGES IN THE COURT
The success of Abigail’s first denunciations, the later trickery to implicate Elizabeth by means of the doll, and her supreme commanding power in the courtroom merely convince her that the form of verbal violence she has by chance discovered is an extremely effective weapon. So effective is it, and so great is her final power in suggesting the violent presence of diabolical disorders, that she can perturb even Deputy Governor Danforth. During the trial in Act Three, when Mary Warren has denied seeing spirits and, by implication, is invalidating the testimony of the girls, Danforth urges Abigail to re-consider her previous statements.
However, his suggestion that Mary Warren may, unintentionally, have harbored illusions is rejected by Abigail as a ‘base question’. Abigail’s utterances in this context are those vehement expostulations that contain further images of violence:
ABIGAIL: I have been hurt; Mr. Danforth; I have seen my blood running out. I have been nearly murdered every day because I have done my duty pointing out the Devil’s people. and this is my reward? Po be mistrusted, denied, questioned like a__
DANFORTH (weakening): Child, I do not mistrust you
For a moment, the all-powerful Danforth is impressed by her violent remarks and is made defensive. At this, Abigail asserts herself yet more violently by adopting an accusatory attitude to the Deputy Governor:
ABIGAIL (in an open threat): Let you beware, Mr. Danforth. Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits?
Shortly afterward, when Proctor openly accuses her of plotting Elizabeth’s death and enacting the vengeance of a whore, Danforth asks her if she will deny these charges. Abigail replies: “If I must answer that, I will leave this earth and I will not come back again!”
The judge falters before this – new disclosure and seems ready to doubt Abigail’s evidence.
At this point, she steps up to him and asks, “What look do you give me?” Danforth is unable to speak. Abigail is at the height of her power and can easily terrorize Mary Warren’s ‘peeping courage’.
When Abigail manipulates the girls in the court, she is able to make Danforth “horrified’ so that even he grows hysterical. In these encounters with her, his responses state to Deputy Governor Danforth, “That woman will never lie.” He repeats the assertion later: “In, her life, sir, she has never lied. There are women that cannot: sing, and them that cannot weep–my wife cannot lie”.
Then, in an effort to protect her husband’s reputation, Elizabeth sacrifices the principle she holds most dear: she tells a lie and by the terrible irony of the situation, assists in the condemnation of her husband. Elizabeth is both gentle and practical. Despite her pity for the poor rabbit, she kills and cooks it for John’s supper. She tries to save Mary by whipping. After her arrest, Elizabeth gives orders for the household and tries to conceal her fear, concerned more for the children than herself. She is the first to understand Abigail’s intentions and braves her husband’s anger to urge him into action. Unfortunately, it is already too late.
ELIZABETH CAN NEVER FORGIVE HER HUSBAND’S ADULTERY WITH ABIGAIL :
Elizabeth’s continual suspicions of her husband render their marriage tense. However, Elizabeth admits that being a sexually frigid (cold), psychologically nagging (fault-finding), and financially demanding woman, her chilly demeanor (conduct) may have driven her husband to adultery. On account of her jealousy of his affair with Abigail, the 17year old niece of Reverend Parris, she has deliberately been cold for him, so her frigidity caused his sexual perversion, Elizabeth’s self-examination has given her a deeper knowledge of her tribulation (suffering) caused by her unjust accusation as a witch, her husband’s imperiling (endangering) himself to save her, her own unintended condemnation of her husband, her imprisonment during pregnancy.
All this has certainly contributed to her painful self-knowledge. Against the general reversal of values in Salem town, a person can only seek and live by inner goodness! With this discovery, Elizabeth’s basic feminine speciousness is reduced. A profound awareness replaces her negative suspicion. Like her husband in the final moments of his life, she has her better now and no human force can take it away.
ELIZABETH ADMITS HER FRIGIDITY FOR HER HUSBAND
The period of physical separation and imprisonment, during which Elizabeth’s pregnancy takes its course brings a change in her. When she visits her husband before his execution, she still refuses to judge him, although she is confronted with a situation in which her fundamental principle is opposed. To save his life, John Proctor considers the possibility of telling a lie by signing a confession of his guilt.
Elizabeth is however quietly resolute in the face of this possibility: “It is not my soul, John, it is yours. Only be sure of this, for ! know it now: Whatever you will do, it is a good man does it”. Perhaps her resolution has come from thinking ironically about John’s “goodness” with Abigail. Thus the confounding of her own principle in the courtroom, and the condition of pregnancy have induced her to read her heart. As a consequence, she has become aware of a past ‘coldness’ in her attitude to her husband. As a girl, she had thought herself so plain that she feared she might never marry. So deep had been this sense of inadequacy that, when John did offer her marriage, she did not believe the truth of his proposal and always remained suspicious of him.
In cadenced (musical) prose, possessing the softness of poetry, Elizabeth finally reveals to John with pathetic frankness this aspect of herself: “I counted myself so plain, so poorly made, no honest love could come to me! My suspicions kissed you when I did. I never knew how I should say my love to you. It was cold: the house I kept for you… Forgive me, forgive me, John-I never knew such goodness of warm marital love in the world.” It was her continued suspiciousness, a central trait in her character—which founded her feminine frigidity which she called ‘coldness.’
The same may have impelled her husband Proctor to seek the warm arms of Abigail. He is no ‘wintry’ man, and therefore could not be profoundly happy within a ‘wintry’ relationship. When did. Elizabeth realizes this truth? It is only during her three months in prison that Elizabeth comes to realize that her own coldness has provoked John’s adultery. “I never knew how I should say, my love. I kept a cold house. Going against all her beliefs, she lies to save her husband’s reputation, unaware that he has already made his adultery public.
In the last Act, Elizabeth resists all types of pressures: from John himself, from court officials, and from her own longing to save him from the gallows. She insists that her husband must decide for himself. On the other hand, miller gives us two facts about Abigail.
She is strikingly beautiful and she has an endless capacity for dissembling. Abigail is one of a band of Salem girls, most of whom are orphans. Their childhood has been joyless, subject to strict Puritan discipline. Although adolescent, these girls are addressed as ‘child’, willful suppression of their developing sexuality. They suffer the drudgery of adult labor without adult freedom. They cannot work off their energies in the outdoor pursuits available to their brothers, nor express their frustrations. Their rebellion takes the form of expeditions into the danger zone of the forest to arouse the thrill (anxiety) of adults if they are found out doing it.