Evaluate how Abigail Williams in The Crucible is responsible for Salem's troubles.

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From the outset, it is clear Abigail is in command. She is the one who instructs the girls about what to do, and they all answer to her. This is pertinently illustrated when she threatens them in Act One:

Abigail: Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam's dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. 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!

The girls are terrified of Abigail and follow her lead. More evidence of Abigail's central role is found in Act Two, when Elizabeth and John Proctor discuss Mary Warren's visits to the court to testify. Elizabeth tells John what she was informed by Mary about Abigail's new-found status in the village:

She speak of Abigail, and I thought she were a saint, to hear her. Abigail brings the other girls into the court, and where she walks the crowd will part like the sea for Israel. And folks are brought before them, and if they scream and howl and fall to the floor—the person's clapped in the jail for bewitchin' them. 

Whenever the girls are in a tight spot, Abigail takes charge by suddenly seeing spirits and acting as if she is being attacked. Once the girls do as she does, the court is easily convinced because the girls' actions and fear appear to be real. Abigail's power is vested in the group. If they do as she does, it is easy to turn suspicion away from her and focus on those she targets. This power is best illustrated in Act Three, when she turns against Mary Warren, who is testifying against the group. The other girls do the same.

Abigail, looking about in the air, clasping her arms about her as though cold: I - I know not. A wind, a cold wind, has come. Her eyes fall on Mary Warren.

Mary Warren, terrified, pleading: Abby!

Mercy Lewis, shivering: Your Honor, I freeze!

Proctor: They're pretending!

Hathorne, touching Abigail's hand: She is cold, Your Honor, touch her!

Mercy Lewis, through chattering teeth: Mary, do you send this shadow on me?

Mary Warren: Lord, save me!

Susanna Walcott: I freeze, I freeze!

Abigail, shivering visibly: It is a wind, a wind!

Mary Warren: Abby, don't do that!

In the end, many innocent people are arrested, incarcerated, found guilty, and executed because of the girls' malicious lies spurred on by Abigail's vindictive desire for vengeance. She succeeds not only in punishing the Proctors but also others who she felt wronged her in some way.

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