In The Crucible, What is Abigail's problem with Elizabeth?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Honestly put, Abigail has many "issues."  In this particular setting, her primary problem with Elizabeth is that she covets John Proctor, evidenced by their affair prior to the play's commencement.  On another level, Abigail might be envious of Elizabeth's strong sense of moral compass.  Abigail herself is the product of a broken and ruptured home life.  Her parents were brutally killed, and there is little in the way of emotional guidance she receives.  She is craving for love and attention, and at the same time, possesses a fairly corroded sense of identity.  Her problems with Elizabeth might also stem from the fact that she sees Elizabeth as morally upstanding and courageous, two realities that she cannot be given her background and her sense of identity.  She uses her strong social exertion of power and control as a way to compensate for what she lacks.  It is not surprising to see that Elizabeth remains loyal to her husband until the very end while Abigail leaves Salem and becomes a prostitute in Boston, reflective of the potential envy of moral compass that one possesses and for which the  other  yearns.