Arthur Miller also allows the audience to view Abigail Williams as a tragic victim.

It can be considered that due to relevant background details she could be portrayed in a more sympathetic light. Abigail’s parents died when she was young, hence defining her as an orphan. A traumatic experience such as this may well have affected her in many ways. It is known that children who have suffered from trauma at a young age are more likely to be rebellious as they grow up. Miller towards this, when she first enters the play in Act I, [an orphan, with an endless capacity for dissembling], which tells the audience that she is capable of accomplishing fraud.

Although Miller uses the word choice of ‘dissembling’, therefore the audience already associates Abigail with the theme of deceit, the fact that she is an orphan seems to alleviate these presumptions, and helps us to contemplate her as a victim. Moreover, Abigail has not had a strong female figure such as a mother present in her life, and as result has had no strong, moral person to look up to. She detests Elizabeth Proctor, branding her a, ‘bitter woman, a lying, cold, snivelling woman,’ and this hatred could be explained by the lack of a female figure and motherly attention in her youth. Afterall, Elizabeth and many other women in the play who she accuses, embody the exact qualities that she was not familiar with, growing up.

Abigail’s motivations never seem more complex than simple jealousy, and a desire for revenge, but by unpicking important background details, they make her actions seem more understandable, and those of a victim, rather than a villain.

Another approach presented by Arthur Miller, is of Abigail Williams as a victim of society in the play. It could be said that the members of society and the male characters in particular, have had an impact upon her, and therefore could be a justification, generating her as a victim during ‘The Crucible’. First of all, the character of Parris, Abigail’s Uncle and guardian, seems to care very little for her, and as a result she has most likely had a neglected childhood. In Act I, Miller presents Abigail as a rather timid and nervous girl around him, [quavering as she sits] and [in terror], which could perhaps be related to her need for attention, as she has been shown little of it herself. A further character is John Proctor, with whom she committed the sin of adultery. It could be argued that, Abigail is still of an innocent age at seventeen, and she could well have been taken advantage of by Proctor. His presence around her in the play often gives evidence to this, [the faintest suggestion of a knowing smile on his face], and [his smile widening], are examples showing that he may have knowingly led her on and manipulated her to believe she truly loved him. In ‘The Crucible’ and at the time that it was set, the strict Puritan religion pervaded every aspect of life, and the men enforced the Puritan laws upon the women. It was also a religion that lacked a ritual outlet to manage emotions such as anger, jealousy and resentment, which are emotions seen often in Abigail’s character. The suggested reason for these emotions and from the fact that she lived in a very oppressive society, ‘I never knew what pretence Salem was…pity me, pity me!’, helps the audience to  also see her as a tragic victim.


In conclusion, having explored the character of Abigail Williams, as both tragic villain and victim, I believe that although Miller does allow the audience to see her as a victim in some ways, her character as a villain has greater prominence. She is clearly the villain of the play, driven only by sexual desire and a lust for power. I think Arthur Miller finds little humanity within her, afterall, she flees Salem after the trials, and steals Parris’ money, not to be heard of again.

February 5, 2018


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