How Arthur Miller Establishes the Character and Motivation of Abigail Williams in Act One and How She is Not to be Trusted
Arthur Miller wrote ‘The Crucible’ in the 1950’s during the Cold War.
The play is a study in the mass hysteria which led to the 1692 Salem
witchcraft trials. It shows the consequences of being accused as a
witch. The reason for a witch hunt is because it is a sign of the
devil and in Salem no one is more superior than God. The people of the
town live for God, respect God and die even for God.
Abigail Williams is the main character in ‘The Crucible’. She is 17
but despite her age she is very deceitful, fraudulent and malicious.
She only cares about herself and will do anything to get what she
wants even if it means lying when in the house and court of God.
The way that Arthur Miller shows us that Abigail is not to be trusted
throughout the play is by the use of language, the stage directions
and the way she contradicts herself. In the first few introductory
lines Arthur Miller describes Abigail as ‘A strikingly beautiful girl,
an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling’ this instantly
makes the reader form a negative opinion of Abigail and makes them
suspicious of her character.
In the first scene Tituba ‘Negro slave’ enters the room where Abigail
and Reverend Parris are standing around the bed in which Betty lays.
Reverend Parris is the most respected man in the village due to the
fact that he is the minister (highest priest). Betty is his daughter
who is seemingly bewitched and will not wake, Abigail; his niece.
Abigail and other girls were seen by Reverend Parris dancing in the
virgin forest which ‘Salem folk believe was the Devil’s last
preserve’. All the villagers are scared because not only did these
girls go into the forest but they danced too, and in those days this
was seen as a sin, a sign of the Devil. The fact that the girls were
dancing in the forest away from the town, shows the Salem folk they
were afraid of being caught, therefore encouraging suspicion.
When Reverend Parris confronts Abigail that he saw her and Betty
“dancing like heathen in the forest”, she admits that it is true, but
she denies everything else, “Let you tell them I confessed it – and
I’ll be whipped if I must be … We did dance … And there’s the whole of
it … We never conjured spirits.” This is a tactic which becomes
familiar throughout the play and she insists the dancing was mere
“sport” but tells Parris nothing more. Parris is afraid of what other
people will think because he is their minister.
Reverend Parris then questions Abigail about whether her name in the
town is “entirely white”. He is hinting to her that there has been
gossip, and he is worried it might be true. When she replies ‘there is
an edge of resentment’ and she finds it hard to conceal her...