It is clear in act 1 of The Crucible that Abigail Williams has the status of a poor relation in Mr. Parris's house and that she has had to manipulate him in order to avoid being treated as a servant. When he asks about her reputation in Salem, she lies about Elizabeth Proctor's reasons for dismissing her and then, on the basis that attack is the best form of defense, suddenly changes the subject:
They want slaves, not such as I. Let them send to Barbados for that. I will not black my face for any of them! [With ill-concealed resentment at him] Do you begrudge me my bed, uncle?
A little later, Abigail manipulates Betty and Mary into corroborating her story as to what happened in the woods, reminding them of her traumatic past, and the power and resolve she has drawn from it:
I have seen some reddish work done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!
When John Proctor enters, Abigail cannot quite believe that he means to leave her completely, despite the fact that their affair effectively ended seven months ago. She quickly compels him to admit his continuing desire for her (against his will):
ABIGAIL: I have a sense for heat, John, and yours has drawn me to my window, and I have seen you looking up, burning in your loneliness. Do you tell me you've never looked up at my window?
PROCTOR: I may have looked up.
ABIGAIL [now softening] And you must. You are no wintry man. I know you, John. I know you.
Even halfway through act 1, therefore, we have seen something of Abigail's armory of manipulative behaviors, including her use of guilt, shame, fear, sex, pity and remarkable skills of dissimulation to get what she wants. This armory is about to be redeployed from a petty domestic setting to cause universal terror in Salem.
In act 1, all the adults leave Betty's room, and Abigail demonstrates her manipulative personality by threatening the other girls in order to force them to corroborate her story. Abigail knows that she is a dominant, intimidating person and realizes that the other girls are timid and afraid of getting into trouble. Abigail uses this to her advantage by telling them,
"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)
In act 2, Ezekiel Cheever and some court officers travel to Proctor's home to arrest Elizabeth. After searching for a specific poppet, Cheever discovers a needle inside a doll and is astonished. Abigail had watched Mary Warren stick the needle into the doll during a court hearing and uses it to her advantage knowing that Mary Warren will be in the Proctor home later on. That evening, Abigail stabs herself with a needle so that she can place the blame on Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail manipulates the court officials into believing that Elizabeth's spirit stabbed her with a needle. Cheever finds the needle in the poppet and says,
"The girl, the Williams girl, Abi-gail Williams, sir. She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris’s house tonight, and without word nor warnin’ she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to hear. And he goes to save her, and, stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draw a needle out. And demandin’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she—to Proctor now—testify it—were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in." (74)
In act 3, Elizabeth lies to protect her husband's reputation, and Abigail immediately begins to pretend to see Mary Warren's spirit in the form of a bird. Abigail once again illustrates her ability to manipulate the court officials and the timid girls by acting hysterical. Abigail begins to shake, backs away, and yells at the ceiling, saying,
"But God made my face; you cannot want to tear my face. Envy is a deadly sin, Mary . . . Oh, Mary, this is a black art to change your shape. No, I cannot, I cannot stop my mouth; it’s God’s work I do." (115)
One distinct example of Abigail's manipulation can be found in the shift in personality from the start of Act I, scene one to the end of it. As the play opens, she is demure and appearing to be very obedient. Yet, when she is with the other girls, her manipulation is evident. She is able to bully the other girls into submission of what she wants. She is able to wrangle their wills, threaten them with violence and exclusion, and shows her manipulative side. This is also seen in the second scene of the First Act, when she is with John. She is able to coyly and so easily talk about how there is no fear of witches, but rather kids having fun. Her confrontation with John starts off as tender and innocent, and then moves into sexual and quite manipulative when she starts to insult he and Elizabeth. I think that the best example of manipulation is how Abigail is able to twist Mary Warren's testimony in open court. The fear of "the yellow bird" and the way in which she is able to use the group to break Mary's will, to the point where she runs into Abigail's arms and a small smile cracks across her face in the process, demonstrates the height of her powers of manipulation.