What is Abigail's motivation in The Crucible?

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Abigail Williams is not a likeable or admirable character, but she is a thoroughly understandable one. Her parents were brutally murdered, and she has had to live as a poor relation in the house of the selfish, tyrannical, and close-fisted Reverend Parris. She lives in a community of boring, uncharitable,...

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Abigail Williams is not a likeable or admirable character, but she is a thoroughly understandable one. Her parents were brutally murdered, and she has had to live as a poor relation in the house of the selfish, tyrannical, and close-fisted Reverend Parris. She lives in a community of boring, uncharitable, sanctimonious hypocrites, where her beauty is held against her and any attempt to enjoy herself is doomed to failure. She enters the Proctor house with the status of a servant (we see how brutally John Proctor treats Mary Warren, her successor) and notices that the man of the house, still comparatively young and virile in his mid-thirties, is attracted to her. It is only to be expected that they should have an affair, and one might think that Proctor, who is twice Abigail's age, might take some responsibility for it. However, the Proctors simply send her away, and the gossips of Salem are determined to paint her as a scarlet woman.

Abigail's beauty gave her some power over John Proctor, but, in the end, not enough. She was still vanquished and sent back home to her disagreeable uncle by the power of respectable Salem. The witch-hunt, however, gives her much greater power: the power of life and death over the very people who scorned her. We see how puffed up with self-importance Mary Warren becomes in act 2 after a few days in court, and Abigail is a stronger, sharper, more malicious character than Mary. Her motivation to hate respectable Salem society and to want to destroy it is all too clear.

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Abigail has always been something of an outsider in Salem. An orphan from an early age, and now with a bad reputation after her affair with a married man, she feels that she doesn't really belong in this town. Add to that her participation in the weird cavortings that took place in the forest that night and it's clear that she's destined to remain, at best, a marginalized, powerless figure.

The witch-craze, then, represents a great opportunity for her to hit back at a society which has done her no favors. She senses a chance to be someone in a town where she's always been a nobody.

Playing such a leading role in the witch-craze gives Abigail something she's never had before in her life: power, and lots of it. The judges in court hang on to her every word; the ordinary townsfolk quake in their boots for fear that she'll point the finger of suspicion at them; even an experienced witch-hunter like Reverend Hale dare not challenge her.

For once in her short life, Abigail has the power to shape her destiny, and she's not about to let it go—hence the utter ruthlessness with which she intimidates others into doing her bidding.

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Throughout The Crucible, Abigail Williams is the leading voice accusing innocent citizens of being involved in witchcraft while simultaneously increasing hysteria throughout the community of Salem. Initially, Abigail begins accusing innocent citizens of witchcraft in order to avoid being punished for dancing in the forest, which is forbidden in the austere community of Salem. Abigail uses social outcasts as scapegoats and falsely accuses them of colluding with the Devil.

As the play progresses, Abigail becomes a revered, popular citizen throughout Salem, and she begins enjoying her position of authority. Abigail uses her influence to draw attention to the trial, which only increases her celebrity. It is possible that Abigail is also motivated by her new position of authority. 

Abigail then accuses Elizabeth Proctor of witchcraft in an attempt to get rid of her. Previously, Abigail had relations with John Proctor, Elizabeth's husband, and she is still attracted to him. Abigail is motivated to have John Proctor to herself, which is why she is willing to testify against Elizabeth.

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Abigail is clearly the villain of the entire play. Her accusations sent 19 innocent people to their deaths. Her entire reasoning behind this, is selfishness.

Abigail was raised as an orphan after her parents were killed by Indians. She went to work as the housekeeper for John and Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail and John Proctor end up having an affair and she is convinced she is in love with him. Elizabeth finds out about it, and dismisses her from the job. This makes Abigail angry and very jealous of Elizabeth. Her desire to be with John, leads her to do some horrible things.

"I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I can not! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!"

Clearly, Abigail is quite delusional. Yes she and John had an affair, but it is never said that John told her he loved her. We just don't know this. Abigail is bent on getting Elizabeth charged for witchcraft and executed, so she can take her place and become John Proctor's wife.  

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Abigail and John Proctor had an affair when she worked for the Proctors, and she believes that John loves her. In her mind if she can get rid of Elizabeth Proctor, she can become John's wife. This angle is one of her motivations.

Her other motivation is her need to control. When the girls are caught in the woods and Betty Parris fakes a catatonic state, Abigail has to come up with some explanation for what has caused it. The men accuse Tituba of witchcraft when it becomes clear that the girls were engaged in a ritual led by her. Tituba, of course, pleads that she did only what the girls asked, but when she is threatened with death, she confesses and even names others involved with the Devil, once other names are suggested. Abigail sees how much attention Tituba is receiving and perversely wants that concentration directed to herself; she has a need to control others, and she is successful. As the play unfolds, she will control the girls' behavior as well as that of most of the adults'.

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