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In discussing potential scapegoats for Abigail, then, the list of possible targets could encompass the entire town. More concretely, though, Miller provides hints of individuals that might make more practical options for Abigail to implicate in witchcraft, beginning with her uncle, the Reverend Parris, whose position in Salem is clearly tenuous and who is desperate to clear his name following his discovery of Betty, Abigail and his black slave Tituba cavorting and acting strangely in the woods. More suggestive, however, are the characters of John and Elizabeth Proctor, the former the lover who has spurned her, the latter his jealous wife. During Scene I, Act I, Abigail hopes to resume the extramarital affair with which she was engaged with John Proctor, but the discovery of which resulted in her termination from his employ. Her intense hatred from Elizabeth Proctor is evident early in the play, as Betty exclaims her cousin’s hostile intent with regard to Abigail’s lover’s wife: “You did, you did! You drank a charm to kill John Proctor‘s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!”
It is during the scene in which John Proctor first encounters Abigail that the prospects of Abigail selecting one or both of the Proctors for the charge of witchcraft becomes even more apparent, as is evident in the following exchange:
ABIGAIL: (With a bitter anger.) Oh, I marvel how such a (Beating her fists against his chest.) strong man may let such a sickly wife be…
PROCTOR: (Coldly. Grabbing her wrists.) You‘ll speak nothin‘ of Elizabeth!
ABIGAIL: She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold sniveling woman and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a…?
PROCTOR: (Shakes her.) Do you look for whippin‘!
ABIGAIL: (Shakes free.) You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is you love me yet! (He turns abruptly to go out. She rushes to door, blocks it.) John, pity me, pity me!
The young woman scorned, the logical suspect on which she could pin the blame for her and Betty’s bizarre behavior could be John and/or Elizabeth.
Further muddying the waters, however, is the highly superstitious character of Tituba, the uneducated slave from Barbados. Breaking under the pressure of the interrogation imposed on her by the visiting Reverend Hale, summoned to Salem to ferret out the witches in their midst, Abigail begins to accuse Tituba of being the source of Salem’s problems, including the mysterious death of so many newborn babies:
ABIGAIL: She makes me drink blood!
HALE: Did Tituba ask you to drink it?
ABIGAIL: She tried but I refused.
HALE: Why are you concealing? Have you sold yourself to Lucifer?
ABIGAIL: I never sold myself! I‘m a good girl—I—(Ann enters with Tituba.) I did drink of the kettle!—She made me do it! She made Betty do it!
ABIGAIL: She makes me drink blood!
It is Act I, Scene II, though, that it becomes clear that Abigail has sought the anonymity of court to accuse Elizabeth, and thereby condemn her to imprisonment and, potentially, death by hanging. As the Proctor’s servant, Mary Warren, describes the day’s official court proceedings to her employers, it leaks out that someone has named Elizabeth – someone who could only be Abigail:
MARY: You were somewhat mentioned. But I said I never see no sign you ever sent your spirit out to hurt no one, and seeing I do live so closely with you, they dismissed it. . .
ELIZABETH: She wants me dead; I knew all week it would come to this!
PROCTOR: They dismissed it. You heard her say…
ELIZABETH: And what of tomorrow?-she will cry me out until they take me!
PROCTOR: Sit you down…
ELIZABETH: She wants me dead, John, you know it!
The Crucible, of course, is an allegory for the Red Scare that occurred during the late 1940s and into the 1950s, during which many individuals stood accused of communist sympathies, often by anonymous accusers. Elizabeth’s name being brought up during the court proceedings – the witch-hunt that would become synonymous with McCarthyism – suggests the atmosphere in which the town of Salem was now immersed. That Abigail was the instigator of this particular witch hunt, and given her bitterness towards Elizabeth Proctor displayed in Act I, it is clear that this is whom she has accused.
Here is a video analyzing the characters in Act I:
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