What is the role of Abigail Williams in the play ‘The Crucible’ and to what extent did she cause what happened in Salem? As an actor or director what qualities to you consider important for this role? “The Crucible” is a play written by Aruthur Miller as an historical allegory for the 1950’s communist ‘witch hunt’ in America. However, “The Crucible” is mainly a play which allows the reader to see deeply into the human condition, the good and the bad and makes the reader think about loyalty, their own and the loyalty of others as they continue through the play.
Throughout the play we see many sides of Abigails character which changes and develops as the situation in Salem does. In the play Abigail is evidently the villian; lying and manipulating her friends and other people in the village. Abigail plays one of the most important parts in ‘the Crucible. ‘ She is a catalyst and a protagonist fuelling the fire, and starting many of the accusations in Salem. Abigail is first introduced as ‘seventeen’ and ‘strikingly beautiful,’ she is also decribed as ‘an orphan’ which makes us initially feel sorry for her.
Also from her description we assume she has good intentions. This stereotype is confirmed when she tells Parris, on page seven, that she “did dance” and that he should tell the town she “confessed it. ” This is partially so that she would not get into any more trouble but also to stop the talk of witchcraft in the town, therefore meanning she began with good intentions. The fact that she did begin with good intentions gives the reader an idea that she did not intend to let the happenings in Salem get that far.
During the play she sees an oppurtunity to further her station in the society of the time and to take revenge on the one person who is keeping her from the man she loves: John Proctor. Throughout the play Abigail shows one pure emotion which is love. I think that she truly believes John loves her as she is convinced he’ll ‘love her yet’ as he ‘knows her’. She also feels quite vunerable as she saw ‘Indians smash’ her parents heads’ and cannot believe that the man she loves has used her. Also one can argue that a corrupt society breeds corruption and this is so in the case of Salem.
Compaired to some of the other so called role models in Salem, Abbie is not particularly corrupt. In some aspects Abigail is rebelling against a corrupt society, combatting modesty with running ‘naked running through the trees’ and the working ethic by ‘dancing’ in the ‘forest. ‘ Miller has filled Salem with corrupt people. Ironically, the most corrupt soul is infact Parris the reverend of Salem a popous, proud man. He appears to only care about his repuation, and repeates ‘ my ministry’ to Abigail showing that he does not care for his job only his position.
Also the Putnams, both ‘twisted,’ greedy ‘souls’ who in the play accused people so that they may buy their land. It seems that even though Abigail sent people to her deaths she did so in the name of love; not for pride or money. This is ironic as Miller shocks the audience by his use of twisted unrequited love and how far a person would go to try to be with the one they ‘love. ‘ However, Abigail definatly sees a weakness in the society and exploits them as she slowly manipulates and gains control of the town for a time before she decided to ‘run off’ to avoid a punsihment.
During the course of the play, she sentences 17 people to their deaths where she could have confessed that she was lying, rather than reap a ‘whores vengence’ on Elizabeth, John and the rest of the town. Abigail is menecing and spiteful, this means she showed no remorse toward the dead, but rather run away. We can see this towards her treatment of the girls. She uses the hysteria of the ‘witchcraft’ they did to manipulate the girls as they are scared of her ‘pointy reckoning’ and the fact that witchcraft is a ‘hanging offense’ as in Salem society it is going against the thing they all believe they live for, their God.
Abigail manipulates the questions asked to her by Hale and turns them to her own advantage to avoid being accused herself. When hale accuses her of witchcraft she blames Tituba, the black slave, saying she hears her ‘singing her barbados songs. ‘ However when she decided she wants the spotlight back on her again she takes control of the situation again, this is key after Tituba confesses to working with the devil. Being a good christian, the main ideal of Salem’s society, Hale forgives her in the name of the lord and she starts to name witches.
Abbie who is afraid takes control again so she cannot be named herself. She puts herself on a pedestal so that she can be in control of a life that would have been set for her otherwise. She becomes so powerful that Mary Warren ‘cannot charge murder’ on her because Mary is afraid that Abigail will ‘kill her. ‘ During court she changes the subject to suit her motives. This allows the judges to see only what she wants them to see. On page 87, at court when she believes she is being ‘mistrusted’ she turns the arument around and acts as a victim.
This shows great disrespect for the people she has sentenced to their deaths. She also changes the subject and refuses to answer questions regarding John, shouting that she will ‘not have such looks’ and turns to leave when she is accused. To sentence many people to their deaths and create lies and deceit Abigail causes a great extent of what happens in the town of Salem using the lies and gossip in the town to her own advantage. Abigail has many different qualities throughout the play. I think the most important qualities is her outward appearance.
The most noticable aspect of her outward appearance are her ‘strikingly beautiful’ looks. If it wasn’t for these John Proctor wouldn’t have ‘thought of her softly’ therefore her idea that John loved her would not have put her in so much trouble. Also her looks made her resent the corrupted society of Salem, mainly because of the way the men of the town treat her. We see this especially in the film, where she is wolf whistled at on the way to the Putnam’s house. She also appears to look innocent throughout the film and hides her feelings well.
This enables her to lie convincingly to everyone in the village. We associate angels with being ‘beautiful’ like Abigail, this strengthens the idea that she is infact ‘with God’ instead of doing the ‘devil’s witch’. Abaigail also has the ability to be a convincing and manupulating. This is the other key quality to performing this role. She is convincingly threatening when she talks to the girls. This is her first main outburst, scaring the girls with a ‘pointy reckoning. This fear she instilled allows her to control the girls.
She also controlles Danforth outside the courtroom with a similar technique telling him to ‘beware,’ realising what she has said she quickly changes the subject. However I believe that Danforth was very aware of Abigails power after that. Crutially Abigail has to be convincing in the courtroom or she would not have had such power of the town. This is crucial to the whole plot. If nobody had believed her then the plot would have taken a completely different turn; stopping the allegory as Miller had intended.
There was many separate causes to what happened in Salem in the crucible. Many people believe it was completely Abigails fault. They are partially right due to the fact on the first few nights of her being in charge ‘thirty-nine’ women were accused. But the question still stands to what extent of her fault was it. Abigail confessed to dancing and pleaded Paris to allow her to in the beginning. However this has to be weighed against her plotting and manipulating of the town which came to her at her beckon call.
Also other characters in the town used the hysteria to their own advantages, for things like land. I believe that Abigail was mostly to blame, however she did not start the mess that happened, however acted at a catalyst, quickening the pace of the accusations and excecutions which eventually lead to the hanging of John Proctor and Rebecca Nurse, two fairly upright names in the town. Her acting as a catalyst also lead to ‘the power of theocracy’ breaking and good names being soiled because of her childish lust.