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Abuse of Power in "The Crucible" by Arthur Miller

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Examples of abuse of power in the Crucible: Abigail
  3. Conclusion
  4. References


The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that tells a partially fictionalised and dramatised story of the Salem witch trials that occurred in the Massachusetts Bay Colony during 1692 and 1693. In The Crucible, a group of girls go dancing in the forest late at night with a Barbados slave Tituba. While dancing, Reverend Parris catches them. Reverend Parris’s daughter, Betty, falls deep into a coma-like state. Rumours of witchcraft start to float around the town while a herd gathers around Betty’s bed. Parris calls in witchcraft expert, Reverend Hale. Parris questions Abigail Williams, who is Parris’s niece, about the events that happened in the forest. Abigail, the ringleader of the girls, admits to only dancing in the forest. To protect herself and the other girls from being hanged, Abigail has to make up falsehoods and accuse innocent men and women of conjuring the devil. The first woman Abigail accuses of conjuring the devil is Tituba.

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Examples of abuse of power in the Crucible: Abigail

Many people are being killed because of the abuse of power being used in Salem, Massachusetts. Innocent people are being accused of false accusations because of other peoples personal problems. In the Crucible Arthur Miller displays most of the characters being exposed to using power or responding to it. Most of the power being used is used in an abusive way. The person who used the most power in an abusive way is Abigail. She uses coercive power to imply threats to someone to get what she wants. Abigail is a major character in the crucible who easily gets power just to abuse it. She uses her power in a manipulative and vindictive way. She wants to abuse her power to make people agitated to not mess with her. Throughout the acts Abigail mainly uses Coercive, Legitimate and Informational power to make people fear her so she could get what she wants.

Abigail is a manipulative person who will go out of the way to keep her reputation clean. In Act 1 she goes the woods to dance and practice magic. As stated in Act 1 Abigail tells the girls that “I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” because the girls are scared of witchcraft and wants to admit to dancing and conjuring. Abigail threatens to kill them if they ever tell a spick of words to anyone. Abigail uses coercive power to threaten the girls because she doesn’t want her reputation ruined, she knows she will be hung if the girls say a word so she tells them “I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” she basically implies she will kill them if they ruin her reputation. Abigail who abuses her power threatens the girls in a vivid way in order to protect herself. She only thinks about herself and what she wants. Abigail telling the girl she will kill them If they tell anyone about them conjuring and dancing in the woods proves she will take things into extreme measures to get what she wants. She’s a Vengeful, Egotistical and magnificent liar and she is capable of spreading false information in a revengeful way. Abigail puts her manipulation skills to test when she tells the girls “Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters”. She uses Legitimate power to make the girls believe Tituba conjured Putnam’s dead sister when she states “We danced and Tituba conjured Putnam’s dead sister” she wants them to all blame Tituba. She makes people fear her so she could have power over them. She used her power in an abusive and cruel way. Abigail tells the girls to blame Tituba for something she didn’t do so she could save herself and reputation. She makes the girls believe she has a right to control them. Abigail has already shown the lengths she’s willing to go through to get what she wants. Her motives shown throughout Act 1 is to save herself from being blamed.

Abigail uses false information to get Elizabeth accused of witchery because she wants to take her place as John’s wife. Abigail tells John “She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her!”. Abigail pretends she’s mad at Goody Proctor for trying to mess with her reputation. She tries to use legitimate power on John so he can cause a doubt in his mind when she tells him “She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman” but she’s just envious of her marriage to John. She tries to make people believe the Information she states in scheming, cunning way. Abigail tries to brainwash John so he can have a reason to leave Elizabeth for her. She knows she has the power to make people believe her words but it doesn’t work on John so she comes up with another way to get what she wants. Abigail will go to the ends of the earth to get what she wants, and that includes hurting someone or herself to get the results she wants. Abigail tells Danforth in Act lll that “Goody Proctor always kept poppets” so she could have an alibi when she false accuses Elizabeth. She uses Informational power when she tells Danforth that “Goody Proctor always kept poppets” because she knows Mary has taken the poppet into the Proctors home, so she uses that as a weapon to blame Goody Proctor. She knows that if she tries to insert that Goody Proctor has poppets as the truth she can frame her for using witchcraft. Abigail now has that as proof because she knows Mary stuck a needle in the poppet for safe keeping. If Abigail wants something she tries to go for it. She wants John all to herself but her plans backfire when John tries to save Goody Proctor from being hung and that’s results him to throw his reputation down the drain.

Abigail has kept her power all throughout the play because she manipulates several people into believing the lies she has told. Her power just grows stronger on forward. In order to save her reputation that Mary might ruin she tells the court “Mary please don’t hurt me” Pg. 115 so she could blame Mary for using witchery on her. After Mary and John Proctor throws everything on the line to prove that Abigail is lying she tells the court “Mary please don’t hurt me” so she could influence the court that she sees Mary’s spirit flying around in court. Abigail finds a way to shake the court so she could frame Mary for using witchcraft. She persuades the court that Mary used witchcraft so she could save her reputation. Abigail has Coercive power over the girls so they follow what she does and says. Her lies made the court believe that Mary actually used witchcraft that it made Mary crack. Abigail’s lies factored Mary Warren to switch sides and blame John for trying to overthrow the court and being a devil’s man. Afraid of being caught for her wrongdoings Abigail runs away in fear and takes all of her uncles belongings. Hawthorne states “She has robbed you” because Parris turns out to be penniless as soon as she vanished. Abigail took all of her uncle’s money and the rest of the power she had with her and disappeared. Hawthorne says to Parris “She has robbed you” meaning she took everything without consent to flea so she wouldn’t get caught. Abigail leaves and takes everything with her and left all the mess she had created behind her. She leaves because she’s afraid for her life. The main reason that made her leave is that she was afraid people would try to get rid of the witchcraft charges and she would be charged with stirring up the whole situation. Abigail throughout the play has shown her as a jealous manipulative person who’d do anything to get her way and to save herself from any troubling situation.

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In conclusion, power can be used in many types of ways. You can abuse power or use it in a way to help others. In Abigail’s case she abused her power easily to see what she wants. She used Legitimate, Coercive and Information power all to save her reputation and the way people viewed her as a person which backfired on her end towards the end of the play.


  1. Budick, E. M. (1985). History and other spectres in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Modern Drama, 28(4), 535-552. (
  2. Popkin, H. (1964). Arthur Miller’s” The Crucible”. College English, 26(2), 139-146. (
  3. Gerstle, G. (2017). American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (
  4. Curtis, P. (1965). The Crucible. Critical Review, 8, 45. (
  5. Bonnet, J. M. (1982). Society vs. the individual in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. English Studies, 63(1), 32-36. (

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