In "The Crucible" how would you describe the encounter between Danforth and Abigail? Who “wins”? Why?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The encounter between Abigail and Danforth could be described as a power struggle of sorts.  Abigail clearly enjoys the power that her participation in the trials has conferred upon her, and Danforth, as the deputy governor of the province, already has a great deal of power that he'd surely like to retain.  When he asks her to consider that "the spirits [she has] seen are illusion only, some deception that may cross [her] mind [...]," she is instantly offended, despite the fact that she is lying.  She wants to be known as a martyr, not a liar, and she responds,

I have been hurt, Mr. Danforth; I have seen my blood runnin' out!  I have been near to murdered every day because I done my duty pointing out the Devil's people - and this is my reward?

Abigail claims that she is the victim, of course, that she is only trying to do what she knows to be right in pointing out witches who are hurting people.  In the face of her righteous anger, Danforth "weaken[s]" and tries to say that he doesn't "mistrust" Abigail, but she continues "in an open threat" to him,

Let you beware, Mr. Danforth.  Think you to be so mighty that the power of Hell may not turn your wits?  Beware of it!

Now, Abigail actually threatens the deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, an incredibly dangerous thing to do in any other scenario, but here, now, she seems to imply that she could cry out on him next, that she could actually accuse him.  She then deflects attention away from any doubts about herself by accusing Mary Warren of sending out a "cold wind" in the courtroom.  This distracts everyone from the idea that Abigail and the other girls are lying, and she has put Danforth in his place: she is in control. 

In this way, Abigail seems to "win."  She has made the deputy governor, a powerful man, quail before her, and she has redirected the proceedings to benefit herself. 

mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The argument between Danforth and Abigail can be described as two people struggling for ultimate control.  Danforth is a proud man, especially of his courts and their "justice". He likes to be in control of the courts and who has their say.  Abigail is the master orchestrator of many of the accusations; for quite some time she has had free reign and total power-when she writhes, people are arrested. 

So, Danforth, when presented with the possiblity that Abby might be faking, questions her, and it becomes very tense.  Abby, when asked if it is true that she had an affair responds indignantly with "If I must answer that, I will leave and I will not come back again!"  Danforth doesn't like that, and as she prepares to storm out, demands that she stay put.  Danforth brings Elizabeth in and questions her about the affair.  After Elizabeth's lie, Danforth very quickly turns against Proctor, and then Abby and he work in conjunction together to discredit Mary, and eventually John Proctor.  So, Abby "wins", but Danforth sure makes it easy for her by very quickly believing her "bewitchments" and not accepting the idea that Elizabeth would have lied to protect her husband's honor.  He is probably grateful, because if she had been proved a fraud, it would have also proved his court, and all of his judgments, false and cruel.