In The Crucible, what is Abigail's relationship with the other girls as compared to her relationship with John Proctor?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Abigail Williams is the leader of the group of girls who accuse innocent citizens of being involved in witchcraft. Abigail controls and manipulates the other girls to follow her lead after threatening them in Act One. In Betty's room, Abigail tells the girls,

Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! (Miller, 20)

Abigail also enhances the hysteria of witchcraft by dramatically acting out in court, which makes the other girls believe spirits are also attacking them. Essentially, Abigail uses the girls' fear of being punished to her advantage and threatens to harm them if they do not follow her lead. Abigail then creates an hysterical environment in the courtroom, which affects the girls' mental state and perception of reality.

In regards to Abigail's relationship with John Proctor, she attempts to tempt him when he visits Reverend Parris's home at the beginning of the play. She still has feelings for John and even drinks blood to put a curse on his wife. Abigail also accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft in an attempt to get rid of her. She does not directly threaten John the way that she does the other girls but attempts to manipulate his behavior by attacking his wife. In both instances, Abigail uses her status and threats to manipulate and control both the girls and Proctor's behavior. However, Proctor decides to challenge Abigail rather than capitulate to her like the other girls.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The difference in these relationship dynamics can be stated in terms of power. In her relationship with John Proctor, Abigail has far less power to influence his behavior than she has in her relationships to the other girls. This difference can be seen rather clearly in the first act of the play. 

In the first act Abigail runs the group. She instructs Betty, Mercy Lewis and Tituba as well, telling them what to do to avoid punishment for what they were caught doing in the woods. Her authority is strong and aggressively enforced. 

"[S]he forcefully insists that the girls stick to the story that they were only dancing and that Tituba and Ruth alone conjured her dead sisters. She threatens great harm to anyone who breathes a word of the other things." (eNotes)

In the same act, Abigail attempts to convince John Proctor to renew an affair with her. He refuses. This refusal is a large part of his power in the situation, but he also is older and was once her employer. With Proctor she is the supplicant seeking agreement and approval (albeit a demanding and threatening supplicant) and with the other girls she is a domineering and forceful authority.