We are first presented to the ‘noticeably gorgeous’ Abigail Williams in Act I of among Arthur Miller’s a lot of well-known works The Crucible. She is a dominant figure in the play who is both malicious and manipulative. She is astute and understands how to use power to her own benefit by all means possible. She is a marvellous villain with vengeful desires and vehicle for the mass hysteria which becomes a key style later on in the play.
Abigail’s dominance as a character is apparent from the opening scene when poor Betty Parris lies in bed gotten rid of by a mystical hypnotic trance with both Tituba and Reverend Parris likewise present in the rather dull, ‘unmellowed’ space.
The setting set by Miller is typical of the home furnishings of Puritans; simple and practical with just ‘a chest, a chair and a little table’. As Abigail Williams gets in the room Miller explains her as being ‘strikingly stunning’. This is a particularly strong image as the room she has actually gone into has absolutely nothing particular of interest yet Abigail stands out.
This suggests that Abigail has a strong existence and foregrounds her role in the play.
Throughout the first act, we learn more about Abigail’s supremacy and authority over other characters within the play. We see the power that Abigail has over Betty Parris where she commands for Betty to ‘stay up now!’ and ‘stop!’, whilst shaking her. These brief, stylish commands make Abigail appear to have authority. The method which she orders Betty to ‘stop’ is almost like she is more of a surrogate mother madly yelling her kid, which in this case is Betty. Although we know that she is Betty’s cousin, some audiences may see Abigail as this mother figure involuntarily and subconsciously– providing Abigail a more dominant function and greater status.
Advancing through the opening act, we find out that Abigail possesses a wise insight, as she exists with a sharp awareness, as being astute and fast minded. We likewise see that Abigail has the capability for method, this can be seen when Abigail rapidly points the finger to “view her own back” at Tituba– something she quickly got away with as in such times being a black slave was most likely one of the most affordable status’ to stand at. In possessing these strengths, Abigail can be seen to be beyond other characters, and truly does set her apart providing her an advantage over numerous other characters in the play.
As an outcome of Abigail’s supremacy in the play, she holds great power over other characters- however she abuses this power and can be seen as a typical bully. She can be viewed as afraid, intimidating and persuasive. She presents pictures of fear such as when she speaks about seeing her own parents heads ‘smash’ on the pillow next to her– perhaps scare the younger, more susceptible characters. She presents destructive and aggressive behaviour throughout the act and as a result of this behaviour she can be seen as the lorry behind the mass hysteria as she understands that her fellow characters will do as she says; creating a snowball impact of hysteria. Her selfishness is another element to consider, this is a quality something lots of bullies posses. We can see this clearly when Abigail is threatening Betty after she yells out ‘Mother, Mother!’– she says ‘I’ again and once again, which really stresses her self- centred personality.
Throughout the act she then seizes the day to take care of herself and utilizes situations to her benefit likewise, which can be seen in the event where she blames Tituba regardless of Abigail being the one motivating the chanting in the first location– to conserve her own neck. She then uses her accusations versus Tituba to her benefit obtaining somewhat recognition from those of a much greater status in the courts. Abigail’s bullying behaviour can be seen most clearly when she threatens Betty Parris after her hysterical outburst. She is harsh with her words and seems to be both commanding and necessary in the manner in which she speaks.
When she is threatening Betty, she uses dark and overbearing imagery such as her parent’s heads being smashed versus a pillow, ‘reddish work’ which might likewise suggest murders and something ‘dreadful’ that might simply take place to the girls’ in the black of some dreadful night’. Her bullying behaviour can likewise be seen when she states ‘I can make you wish’– a term frequently related to bullies in other books and films alike. Minor sentences are utilized practically in a staccato which makes her dark oppressing words appear much more threatening, going likewise in line with Millers phase instructions for Abigail to shake Betty approximately.
Another quality bullies appear to have is to be manipulative. When Miller presents Abigail he makes a point in saying that she has an ‘unlimited capacity for dissembling’. This means that Abigail has the ability to act, she has the ability to change into numerous characters yet still be Abigail Williams. It is essential to note that Miller utilizes the word ‘endlessly’ when he says this; this implies that Abigail wasn’t at all restricted by the variety of times or the different acts that she could perform. By having this capability, Abigail’s character within the play can be seen as nearly metamorphic– able to alter type as and when required.
Having the ability to alter type and act, Abigail is able to be manipulative and throughout the act a spooky sense of controling by Abigail can be seen. She quickly recognizes individuals flaws, weaknesses and bias to get control over them. With this knowledge, she then ends up being mercilessly controling and utilizes this to her benefit. Abigail’s skill for controling and changing types can plainly be seen upon her encounter with John Proctor. In a short area of time Abigail exists to be ‘softening’ and gentle to then be bitterly ‘angry’ to then be ‘in tears’. Here we see Abigail playing the part, something she seems really comfortable in doing.
An important thing to remember about the way in which Abigail acts is the truth that Abigail appears rather dauntless in what she is doing, she seems brave of the repercussions some of her actions may have, nor does she seem to be extremely frightened by other characters so much that she pulls back. An example of this is Abigail’s fantasy of Proctor’s love and her cruel desire to remove Elizabeth so that she might have Proctor to herself. She even ‘consumed an appeal to eliminate Goody Proctor, this would’ve been entirely against Puritan beliefs. Her determination to dispose of Puritans social constraints sets her apart from other characters and recommends that nothing is difficult for Abigail, absolutely nothing is beyond her grasp, not even God’s word.
Due to the context of the play; a time of deeply religious Puritan environments in New England Massachusetts, Miller consists of lots of spiritual undertones and frequently utilizes Scriptural language. With such strong Biblical links, Abigail Williams’ character can be seen to resemble that of Jezebel in the Bible. In Christian lore, a contrast to Jezebel suggested that an individual was a pagan or an apostate masquerading as a servant of God. By control and/or seduction she misguided the saints of God into sins of idolatry and sexual immorality. In particular Jezebel has actually become connected with promiscuity and in contemporary use; the name of Jezebel is often utilized as a synonym for sexually promiscuous and often managing women. The idea of Abigail resembling Jezebel, links in as she is in truth manipulative and within the first act, we are told of Abigail’s affair with the married John Proctor, years her senior.
As manipulative and harmful Abigail is, one must ask whether she is entirely bad? As we are told when we are introduced to Abigail’s character, she is an ‘orphan’ she is likewise unmarried, which at the time would indicate that she was low rung on the Puritan Salem social ladder, with only social outcasts and servants like Tituba listed below her. This leaves Abigail in a vulnerable position. We must question whether stating witchcraft was truly a malicious act or whether it was a cry for attention and some power? Declaring witchcraft in such times would result in immediate status and recognition which later on could result in power. Another cry attention that should be thought about is the concept of Abigail’s fantasy for Proctor’s love.
Being a girl, maybe this reflects on her age? Along with thinking about if Abigail is entirely bad, one need to try to comprehend why Abigail behaves like this. The concept of Abigail being susceptible is perhaps a reason for why she is so manipulative and dauntless. As we are introduced to Abigail we are made award that she is an ‘orphan’, Abigail later on goes on to speak about seeing ‘Indians smash’ her ‘dear parent’s heads on the pillow’. As she has actually seen the worst, it might indicate that Abigail feels the requirement to be self sufficient and strong as she has actually grown up with little or no love and lonesome; normal of Puritan’s nature -and being a difficult faced independent remains in truth Abigail’s only option.
As a conclusion, we learn in the opening scene of The Crucible that Abigail holds an authority as a character within the play who is presented by Arthur Miller to be a normal bully; who presents threatening, self-centered, challenging and manipulative behaviour. We learn that Abigail has a capacity for method and an ‘endless capacity for dissembling’ making Abigail quite an appealing character, a character to certainly watch throughout the later acts, as we are left to consider, just what will Abigail do next?