How is The Crucible a struggle of power and manipulation? Are there quotes to support this from main characters?

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Throughout most of the play, it is Abigail Williams who skillfully uses manipulation to remain in a position of power. It's no exaggeration to say that the witch-craze makes Abby the most powerful person in Salem. Just one word from her can be enough to destroy anyone. Little wonder, then,...

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Throughout most of the play, it is Abigail Williams who skillfully uses manipulation to remain in a position of power. It's no exaggeration to say that the witch-craze makes Abby the most powerful person in Salem. Just one word from her can be enough to destroy anyone. Little wonder, then, that she inspires so much fear among the townsfolk. Even those who know, or at least suspect, that Abby's lying through her teeth dare not to challenge her openly. They're scared that if they do challenge her, they could easily end up being falsely accused of witchcraft, with all the terrible consequences that would inevitably follow.

Nevertheless, John Proctor, in a last desperate throw of the dice to save himself and his wife, does try to expose Abby for the pathological liar that she is. He gets Mary Warren to testify in open court that the whole witch-craze is nothing but a total sham. Mary is scared stiff, however. She's already been warned by Abby to keep her mouth shut, or else, and knows full well what the consequences will be if she goes against her.

The full measure of Abby's power and manipulation can be see in Mary's petrified demeanor on the witness stand. Abby hasn't cast an evil spell on Mary, but she might as well have; when Abby shows up at the courthouse with the other girls, Mary starts acting hysterical. After accusing John Proctor of being "the Devil's man," she rushes over to embrace Abby as if seeking protection:

Abby, Abby, I'll never hurt you more!

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We can certainly see this dynamic in Reverend Parris. He seeks more authority in the town, more status, and he is both worried to lose what he has and willing to act dishonestly to gain more. 

Danforth also is involved in a bid for continued authority through the witch trials. He is not the manipulator of events, but rather is manipulated, yet he clearly voices a strong interest in power.

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A good question. This play is a work of power throughout, and of manipulation in various key places. The power is evident everywhere. Look at the very first lines of the play: Parris orders Tituba to leave. Now look at the last act: the community is putting people to death. You can't get more powerful than killing people and having the community go along with it, even think it is right. Now, as far as manipulation, that's more slippery, and it depends on how you are defining the term. Is it an attempt to get people to do something? Then sure—there is persuasion throughout. If it is an attempt to get people to do something they think is wrong, or that is inappropriate, that's more of a judgment call. Abigail tries to manipulate John into restarting their affair, but in other cases, the people believe what they are doing.

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