How is the Devil personified in the play?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The devil is personified from the beginning of the play. For example, Mrs. Putnam says that Betty is more than just sick. She says that "the Devil's touch is heavier than sick." Later in act one, Parris proclaims, by way of accounting for Betty's sudden illness, that "the Devil may be among us." He also says that he can't understand the constant arguments among the town's people, and admits to wondering "if the Devil be in it somewhere." When Hale enters the scene, he also blames the devil for Betty's illness, declaring that "The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone." From these examples, we can see that the devil is personified as something of a scapegoat for any seemingly inexplicable misfortune. If there is something amiss, and no apparent reason for it, the devil is summoned by way of an explanation.

Later in act 1, Tituba, under pressure from Hale, claims that she has conversed with the devil. She says that the devil spoke to her and told her that "Mr. Parris must be kill," and "You work for me, Tituba, and I make you free!" Hale tells Tituba that "the Devil is out and preying on (Betty) like a beast upon the mesh of the pure lamb." In this scene then, the devil is personified as cunning, manipulative, animalistic and predatory.

The devil is also personified as powerful. Hale proclaims that Betty is "in the Devil's grip" and Tituba says that he came "one stormy night" and told her that he had "white people belong to (him)." Tituba considers it a mark of the devil's power that he can seduce and enslave white people as well as black people. Abigail later says that she "danced for the Devil," implying that the devil also has a power to seduce, or charm. In act two, Hale reminds Proctor that the devil is also powerful because he is "a wily one." Indeed, "until an hour before the Devil fell, God thought him beautiful in heaven."

In one of his interjections, in act 1, Miller states that "the necessity of the Devil may become evident as a weapon, a weapon designed and used time and time again in every age to whip men into a surrender." Abigail uses the devil as a weapon against other women, realizing that if she accuses others first, she will more likely avoid being accused herself. In this way the personification of the devil as a real, living agent of evil, is used as a weapon. Abigail uses this weapon to deflect blame from herself and at the same time attack and do harm to others. Abigail frantically exclaims in the climax of act one that, "I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!"

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial