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Character of Abigail Williams in The Crucible

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Character of Abigail Williams in The Crucible Essay

The Crucible is a play about vengeance and power. Abigail Williams manipulates an entire town to do her bidding, stemming from her want to save her reputation and to be able to finally have the man she lusts over. Abigail becomes one of the main antagonists of the play through her deceitful and selfish antics. Abigail’s character traits, motivations and conflicts are key factors in driving the plot of The Crucible.

Abigail Williams can be described in a number of words. One is deceitful. The moment we meet Abigail, she is immediately described as one “with an endless capacity for dissembling”. This deceit and manipulative behavior is the main cause of the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials. Another characteristic is vengeful. Abigail loves John Proctor, but his wife Elizabeth threw her out and began starting rumors about her. To get back at her and to finally have John, Elizabeth accuses her of being a witch. Also, when Mary Warren tries to tell the truth towards the end of the play, Abigail feigns a spiritual attack and tries to deter Mary from speaking the truth. Finally, Abigail Williams is selfish. She shows no remorse for causing the death of 20 innocent people all because of her want for John and to save her reputation.

Abigail’s motivations stem from her character traits. Obviously, one of her main reasons for causing the Witch Hunts is to accuse Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft. Abigail believes that by doing so she will finally be able to be with her lover and “dance with me on my wife’s grave.” This motivation came from the moment Abigail and John Proctor first began their relationship where she was most likely lead to believe that they could be more than lovers. This motivation is shown when Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, and is resolved with John refuses to be with Abigail and admits to his adultery. Another motivation of Abigail is to save her reputation. During our first moments of knowing her, she says “There be no blush about my name.” and “my name is good in the village.”, and then flies into a temper when asked about rumors spread by Goody Proctor. Also, when discovered in the woods, instead of admitting to her own interest in witchcraft, she wishes to save herself by claiming she was forced to do it. This motivation carries throughout the play, as it begins the witch accusations and continues them throughout the play for whomever claims the girls are frauds or tries to debunk them are immediately accused of witchery. This is finally resolved when Abigail flees town to start a new life elsewhere.

Abigail’s motivations directly correlate with her conflicts throughout the play. The primary internal conflict is that of her own insecurity. Abigail is so unsure of her own abilities to secure John as her own, that she has to accuse his wife of a witch in an effort to kill her in order to be with him. Also, because of her insecurity of having a poor reputation and having her name be tarnished, she begins accusing others of lies and witchery. This is slightly resolved when Abigail finally leaves Salem. Her insecurity of having a “whore’s” reputation and being seen as a liar is too much and she flees. Her primary external conflict would be her love for John. She wants to be with him with all of her heart, but he rejects her and calls her a whore. She claims he “put knowledge in my heart” and wishes that he not tear that from her. This is never truly resolved for Abigail still loves him even at the end of the play, but he rejected her and she chose to run from that heartache.

Abigail Williams’ complex character and selfish acts are clearly demonstrated throughout the literary Salem Witch Trials. Through her character traits, conflicts and motivations, she orchestrates the hysteria of an entire town and deaths of many people. Abigail is the main antagonist of the play and is the puppet master behind the entire event.

Some people are in such utter darkness that they will burn others just to see a light. All throughout history people have tried to cheat and lie their way to success, to get what they desire. In 1693 a young woman named Abigail Williams caused the death of twenty-four innocent people. Nineteen of them were hung, one was brutally tortured, and four died awaiting trial including the fabled John Proctor. In Arthur Miller’s fictional play, The Crucible, he shows Abigail Williams causing death and destruction throughout the town of Salem Massachusetts. She is the definition of unconscionable! She is vengeful, selfish, manipulative, and an excellent liar. Abigail does not know the difference between love and obsession letting her jealousy get the best of her. Abigail’s obsession and wickedness led to the death of John Proctor.

From the beginning, Abigail Williams shows her ability to distort the truth. When she’s on the verge of being caught for fiddling with witchcraft, she manages to blame all of it on Tituba. When Parris asks if Abigail was conjuring spirits she reluctantly said, “Not I sir, –Tituba and Ruth… she made me do it!” (Miller 43). Although Tituba reacts by denying the use of witchcraft claiming, “somebody else be witching these children” (Miller 45). Tituba only denies the use of witchcraft because she is scared for her life so she claims other people of witchcraft. This is how the rumors of witchcraft were spread throughout the town of Salem, showing just how far Abigail will go to manipulate people to get what she wants. Abagail is realizing she can use the rumors of witchcraft to get John Proctor to herself.

Abagail Williams was one of the first afflicted girls in the Salem witch trials. Abagail shifts the focus away from herself when she is accused of witchcraft, by accusing others of witchcraft. Throughout the play Abagail seems to lose herself more and more. Abigail instructs all the young girls on what they can and cannot say about what they did with Tituba. She threatens to kill them if they reveal anything else. Abagail says “I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” (Miller 20). Abagail develops a somewhat relationship with these afflicted girls, and they accuse other low-class citizens of witchcraft. This leads to a corrupt society full of lying, envy and jealousy. The town of Salem turns dark, the towns people are out to get what they want no matter who dies in the process. Abagail was the match and accelerant that started the fire and the fire eventually led to the death of John Proctor.

Abagail will do anything it takes to eliminate any obstacle or person that stands between her and John Proctor. Abagail Williams claims that Elizabeth hates her and describes her as a dark, lying, sniveling woman. Abagail was kicked out of the Proctors house after Elizabeth found out that her husband an affair with Abagail. The affair caused Abagail to develop an infatuation with John Proctor, she became obsessed with him. Abagail developed a constant feeling of vengeance towards Elizabeth Proctor because she stood between her and John Proctor. Though Abigail pretends she’s angry at Elizabeth Proctor for damaging her reputation, the more powerful emotion is envy of Elizabeth for her marriage to John Proctor. Abagail Williams tries to tell John what a bad woman she is by calling her names and telling lies about her but, which does not work. Abagail is so wicked she stabs herself in the stomach and accuses Elizabeth’s spirit of stabbing her, which caused Elizabeth to be sent to jail. Once john discovers his wife has been arrested, he goes to court to try to save her. Abagail’s malicious actions ultimately led to John being accused of witchcraft and later death.

Some may say it is John Proctors’ fault for his own death, but that is illogical since Abagail caused his death. Abagail’s sexual desire and lust for power put John in jail, which ultimately led him to be hung. When Abagail got the chance to have power she is overtaken by the feeling and turned sinister.

Many people say Marry Warren is the cause of John Proctors death but that’s far from the truth. Marry Warren did say John Proctor was an evil man, but that was only because Abagail accused her of witchcraft. She claimed that Mary transformed into a bird. Keep in mind if you’re accused of being a witch and don’t confess, you are hung. Marry Warren only did this out of fear for her own life, she was scared and didn’t know what else to do.

John Proctor’s demise resulting from Abigail’s lies had a ripple effect on everyone and everything around them, causing greed, jealousy, and evil. Abigail Williams caused the death of John Proctor because she had a hole in her heart that couldn’t be filled.

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Character of Abigail Williams in the Crucible. (2022, February 02). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
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