How would you describe the most important character traits of the Abigail Williams, John Proctor, and Reverend Hale of The Crucible? use textual evidence from the story to prove your point. Ideas...

How would you describe the most important character traits of the Abigail Williams, John Proctor, and Reverend Hale of The Crucible?

use textual evidence from the story to prove your point. Ideas & explanations should be insightful,thorough,convincing, and strongly supported by compelling evidence

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Set in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts, The Crucible is a play that focuses on charges of witchcraft made against a number of people and how these charges develop into other conflicts.

Here are the character traits of some of the main personages in the drama:

  • Abigail

A self-centered young woman, Abigail is the niece of Reverend Parris. She is a beautiful girl, but she is a liar "with an endless capacity for dissembling." For instance, when her uncle asks Abigail in Act I what she and the other girls have been doing in the forest, she tells her uncle that they were just dancing and omits that Tituba was trying to conjure dead spirits. Later, Parris asks Abigail about her behavior: 

PARRIS Whatever abomination you have done, give me all of it now...
ABIGAIL There is nothin' more, I swear it, uncle.

Abigail also fabricates what has occurred at the Proctor home where she used to work before being sent away. When her uncle wonders if her name is "entirely white," she assures him that it is. But he informs Abigail that he has heard that Goody Proctor rarely comes to church because "she will not sit so close to something so soiled."

PARRIS What signified that remark?
ABIGAIL She hates me, uncle, she must.... It's a bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman, and I will not work for such a woman!

Then, when Parris asks her why no one else in the village has called for her service, she has no reply.

Abigail continues her deceptions as she threatens the other girls if they reveal her true reason for being in the forest and drinking blood as a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor, John Proctor’s wife. Later, she accuses Tituba of forcing her to drink this blood. Also, she fabricates more lies about the poppet Mary Warren has made, and she is willing to do anything to implicate Elizabeth after she accuses her of witchcraft but is not believed. She wants to eliminate Elizabeth and have John Proctor all to herself.

  • John Proctor

In Act II, John Proctor identifies revenge as the true evil that afflicts Salem. In Act III, burdened with his sin of having lusted after Abigail, John Proctor tries to get Mary Warren to expose Abigail's evil intentions against his wife Elizabeth, but Mary cannot do it. So, he must confess his sin of lust. In Act III, Proctor finds that he must reveal his transgression in order to discredit Abigail and earn the trust of his wife Elizabeth. He indicates to the judge that Abigail just wants to be rid of Elizabeth:

I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her for what she is. . . . She thinks to dance with me on my wife’s grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore’s vengeance. 

Later, Proctor is accused of witchcraft and is told if he confesses he can live, but Proctor refuses because his good name is too important to him: 

How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul; leave me my name! 

  • Reverend Hale

A noted investigator of witchcraft, Reverend Hale comes to judge who is guilty in Salem. Hale is a man who has always insisted upon justice, but after he has been in Salem for a while, he realizes that Abigail is a fraud. So he tells others to confess, hoping that one lie will cancel out another. He tells Proctor to confess to being involved in witchcraft in order to save himself:

It is mistaken law that leads you to sacrifice. Life, woman, life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it . . . it may well be God damns a liar less than he that throws his life away for pride.

Proctor calls Hale a Pontius Pilate, and he refuses to sign a false confession. Hale does not realize that such action would compromise Proctor's integrity. Hale must admit that his beliefs have been shaken by the girls, and he has sent innocent people to death. This burden of knowledge, however, does change Hale for the better.

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Crucible is the story of human beings from every point on the human spectrum.  Each of the three characters you mention is on a different spiritual journey, and the primary characteristics of each reflect that. 

Abigail is self-absorbed and unrepentant about the trouble/damage she's caused.  She has, according to Miller, "an endless capacity for dissembling," and she lies with regularity and conviction.  Her lies are motivated by selfishness and they cause great destruction--something she wants to escape only because it might cost her something to stay.

John Proctor is a sinner who is perfectly aware of the blackness of his soul.  He is strong and straightforward, supportive of the church but not of hypocrisy.  When faced with a choice to, in his own mind, "sin" again, John chooses to die instead, having made peace with God before he does.

Rev. Hale is a man of God who seeks only to serve Him the best way he knows how.  He is a crusader for right, and his only swerving is to encourage Proctor to lie to save his life--understanding what that means but thinking God would forgive a lie in the face of a worse lie.  He is just and passionate and  fervent in his faith.  He eventually loses faith in man (the court) but not in God.