In The Crucible, how is Abigail Williams presented as the evil force?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Throughout the play, Abigail Williams is portrayed as a malevolent, wicked individual, who falsely accuses innocent citizens of witchcraft and increases the hysteria throughout the community. Initially, Abigail is depicted as a rebellious child who gets caught dancing in the woods with other girls her age. Later on, it is revealed that Abigail drank blood to curse Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail's affair with John Proctor is revealed and motivates her to harm Elizabeth later in the play. Abigail's true nature is portrayed when she threatens the other girls so as to corroborate her story. Abigail says,

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, 30).

Abigail then casts the blame on several innocent citizens to avoid being punished for her rebellious exploits in the woods. Once Abigail is given the authority to accuse citizens, she begins to manipulate the community and court officials by fainting and acting like she sees spirits. In act 2, Abigail attempts to get rid of Elizabeth Proctor so that she can have John to herself. Abigail notices that Mary Warren made a poppet in court and stuck her needle inside it. Later that night, Abigail, knowing that the poppet will be in the Proctor home, stabs herself with a needle before she blames her wound on Elizabeth's spirit.

In act 3, Proctor reveals that he has had an affair with Abigail in an attempt to tarnish her honorable reputation, but she immediately begins to act like she is being attacked by spirits. Abigail's vengeful, nefarious personality is portrayed throughout the play and her false accusations create an atmosphere of hysteria throughout Salem. Innocent citizens die because of Abigail's false testimonies, and consequently, she is depicted as a villain throughout the play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Abigail wants revenge on John Proctor because he decided to end their extramarital affair. She channels her petty desire for retribution into an attack on his wife, accusing her of being a witch and trafficking with the devil. Abby knows that her actions could well result in Elizabeth's death or at least imprisonment, but is so blinded by her own jealousy and desire that she doesn't consider the impact of her lies. She also manages to get the other girls to play the game along with her, threatening to expose or accuse them if they resist. This behavior is at the heart of the travesty of justice that characterizes the Salem Witch Trials: selfish emotions were at the heart of many of the accusations, and Abigail's manipulation of the court magistrates and the community were, in Miller's portrayal, the main cause of the madness. But Miller is making a point about the actual historical events, and the fact that the accusations against those who were executed came from the young servant girls in the village who felt a sense of disempowerment.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial