What's going on between Abigail and John Proctor?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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This story is set in Salem, Massachusetts.  A group of girls have been accused of witchcraft. When the Reverend Parris questions his niece, Abigail Williams, about the accusation, Abigail tells him that the girls were just dancing in the woods. However, Betty, the Reverend's daughter and a participant in the dancing activities, appears to be in a comatose state. The Reverend demands to know if Abigail has been 'conjuring spirits,' but she vehemently denies it.

Eventually, Abigail is questioned by John Proctor about the witchcraft allegations. It is obvious that both Proctor and Abigail are sexually excited by each other. In fact, both Abigail and Proctor had an affair while she worked at the Proctor home the previous year. The affair was discovered by Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, who promptly fired Abigail for her treachery. Abigail propositions Proctor once more, but he refuses her advances. He tells Abigail that he cannot send for her anymore and that, basically, their sexual trysts are at an end. Abigail refuses to accept such an answer; she claims that Proctor has always 'sweated like a stallion' whenever she comes near to him, hinting that he has never overcome his sexual need for her.

Later in the play, Proctor's wife, Elizabeth, is called to the stand but refuses to provide testimony which would implicate her husband in the crime of adultery. Throughout the play, Proctor is shown to be a man who is torn between his lust for Abigail, his loyalty to his wife, and his conscience. Even though he does not continue his affair with Abigail after she leaves the Proctor home, he remains greatly affected by undercurrents of their former sexual and emotional connection.

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