How do personal rivalries and grudges operate throughout the play?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The setting of Miller's work and the emotional contagion that the accusations end up causing help to reveal the personal antagonisms that exist within many townspeople.  The personal agenda of people like Thomas Putnam becomes clear throughout the trials.  His desire and personal agenda of gaining more land and profit is revealed only through his practices to those who are accused and in need of selling off their property.  The townspeoples' dislike of Sarah Good and willingness to appropriate anyone "different" helps to reveal how intolerant the people of Salem actually are.  The fact that girls such as Mercy Lewis actually feel emboldened when they are making accusations they know to be false helps to bring out how personal agendas were fed through the frenzy of false accusations.  The best example of this would have to be Abigail who makes little concealment to the audience and to a select few that all of the chaos being caused is by her design and her hand in order to gain what she wants.  In seeking to claim John as her own, one sees how personal agendas and grudges, especially against Elizabeth, end up driving the drama.