In The Crucible, what is going on between Abigail Williams and John Proctor?

2 Answers | Add Yours

literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

One main conflict which exists in Arthur Miller's play, "The Crucible," is the relationship between John Proctor and Abigail Williams. In the opening of the play, an affair between the two is alluded to.

PROCTOR: Abby, you’ll put it out of mind. I’ll not be comin’ for you more. You know me better. (I,i)

This leads readers to believe that John and Abigail had an affair previously; it also leads readers to believe that John has decided against continuing the affair. Later in the play, John openly admits to adultery (which is used against him in both court and, ironically, when he is naming the 10 Commandments for Hale).

After the opening of the play, readers come to understand that although John is finished with Abigail, Abigail is not finished with John. This obsession with John, and Abigail's desire to be with John, foreshadows the accusations made against Elizabeth later in the play. Readers know that Abigail will do anything to have John. This is fleshed out when Elizabeth, herself, makes the connection between the accusation against her and Abigail's hatred of her.

Essentially, by the time the play opens, nothing is going on between John and Abigail. Everything between them has ended prior to Betty's peculiar behavior and the girls' dancing in the woods.

favoritethings's profile pic

favoritethings | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted on

By the time the play begins, the affair between Abigail Williams and John Proctor has been over for seven months. Elizabeth, John's wife, suspected them and approached him with her suspicions, and when he confessed to the affair, she released Abigail from their service; this is all alluded to in the conversation between the couple in Act Two.

Now, Abigail very much hates Elizabeth and wants to get her out of the picture so that she can have John to herself. Abigail blames Elizabeth for "put[ting] [her] out" and calls her a "sickly" and cold sniveling woman." When Abigail confirms, in Act One, that John still does have some feelings for her, this seems to give her some reason to hope that he'd return to her with his wife out of the picture. He admits that he "may think of [her] softly from time to time" and that he "may have looked up" at her window.  

In order to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail makes use of her knowledge that Mary Warren has made a doll in court, and that Mary stuck a needle into the doll's stomach for safekeeping. Abigail knows that Mary will take the doll home, and so that night, at dinner, Abigail stabs herself in the stomach with a needle and claims that it was Elizabeth Proctor's specter that pushed it in. When the clerk of the court comes to search the house, he finds the poppet with the needle and this seems to confirm Abigail's story. Her attempt to get Elizabeth killed backfires when John tells the court about their affair and eventually ends up convicted and sentenced to die himself.

We’ve answered 317,526 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question