The Crucible Questions and Answers
by Arthur Miller

The Crucible book cover
Start Your Free Trial

What evidence is used to support Abigail Williams's assertion that Elizabeth Proctor is guilty of witchcraft?

Expert Answers info

Wallace Field eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

calendarEducator since 2016

write7,353 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Arts

When Ezekiel Cheever arrives at the Proctors' home to arrest Elizabeth, he collects the poppet—a small rag doll—that Mary Warren made for Elizabeth in court that day. He lifts the doll's skirts and finds a needle stuck deeply into the middle. He goes on to tell the court the following:

[Abigail Williams] sat down 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 . . . testify it were your wife's familiar spirit pushed it in.

Despite John Proctor's protests that Abigail clearly stuck the needle into her own stomach and that this is not proof of Elizabeth's guilt at all, both Reverend Hale and Cheever seem to think of it as absolute evidence.

Something called spectral evidence was allowed during the Salem Witch Trials. Spectral evidence could only be offered by the afflicted, a witch's victim, and it consisted of the victim's testimony that he or she was visited and harmed by the witch's specter or spirit or the specter of her animal familiar. (When Abigail claims in act 3 that Mary Warren is sending out her spirit as a yellow bird, she is providing spectral evidence against Mary, and this is why Mary gets so scared.)

Even when Mary explains that she stuck the needle into the poppet herself for safekeeping and that Abigail saw her do it, it makes no difference. When Elizabeth, realizing Abigail's treachery, says, "The girl is murder! She must be ripped out of the world!" Cheever considers this to be evidence against her as well. She has appeared to threaten Abigail, who is believed by the town to be entirely truthful.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write35,413 answers

starTop subjects are History, Literature, and Social Sciences

The main piece of evidence that is used to back up Abigail Williams's claim that Elizabeth Proctor is a witch is the "poppet" that is found in Proctor's home.  This is a doll that Proctor has allegedly been using like a voodoo doll.

Abby says that Proctor has used the doll to bewitch her.  She screams with pain and says that Proctor has done something to make her stomach hurt.  When the men go and find the poppet and Proctor's home (it was put there by Mary Warren) they find it has a needle stuck in its stomach.  This is the proof they need to arrest Proctor.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial