Salem and witchcraft

The main female characters of the dread Crucible, who accuses many villagers in the town of Salem, of witchcraft. Arthur Miller skilfully allows the audience to see her as both tragic villain and victim, through the means of stage direction and language.

Abigail Williams could be seen as a tragic villain throughout ‘The Crucible’. She embodies numerous qualities typical of a villain, and Miller presents these qualities strategically through the course of Acts I and III of the play. From the very beginning, in Act I, she is put forward to the audience as a ringleader, as she manipulates the younger, more naïve girls around her to do as she wishes. This trait then dramatically develops further in the court scene in Act III, [But Abigail, pointing with fear is now raising up her frightened eyes, her awed face, toward the ceiling – the girls are all doing the same.] This piece of stage direction is an example of how Abigail is always presented at the centre of the drama, and how the other girls follow her consistently. She is clearly a bully; picking on weaker and more vulnerable characters, for instance, Tituba and Mary Warren. Her violent nature is demonstrated through both her actions and language, [smashes her across the face], and ‘I’ll beat you Betty!’. In particular, her response towards Mary Warren, who she terrorises throughout the play. Abigail repeatedly reduces her to pleads, [terrified, pleading], showing how her controlling ability turns the girls in fear of her. She also ridicules her, [mimicking the exact tone of Mary Warren’s cry], and is adamant when she accuses her of witchcraft in court, ‘I have nought to change, sir. She lies.’ revealing herself to be cold and harsh directly to an innocent young girl. The audience can see that as the play progresses, so do the villainous actions of Abigail, as she viciously accuses many of witchcraft, starting first with the outcasts of society, Tituba, elevating to the more respected members of the community, Elizabeth Proctor. Abigail is not afraid to threaten Danforth, a judge in the court, [in an open threat]: ‘Let you beware, Mr Danforth,’ here the italics emphasise her menacing manner. Furthermore, it indicates to the audience through the tone of her voice that she possesses an unusual level of authority for her age and gender.

Furthermore, we are led to see Abigail Williams’ fierce loathing of the town of Salem, and throughout the Crucible the audience gains sight of this from her villainous attributes, as she gains her revenge. Abigail skilfully manages to constantly shift the focus away from the less virtuous part of herself, that is adultery and engaging in witchcraft, in order to avoid punishment. She does this by using the town’s fear to her advantage; accusing others of witchcraft, and therefore willingly sacrificing the villager’s lives for herself. These actions are clearly ones attributed to a villain, showing her as selfish and highly self-centered, and furthermore, the fact that she sends innocent people to their deaths purely on account of her vicious lies. In the character of a villain, Miller presents Abigail as very much aware of her actions, which indeed increases the horror of them. For instance, in the court scene of Act III, Mary Warren is described through the stage directions, [she glances at Abi, who is staring down at her remorselessly]. The choice of the word ‘remorselessly’ is important as it indicates to the audience that she is without deep regret or guilt for a wrong she has committed. Therefore, by Miller giving the impression to the audience that she is without guilt, highlights how callous she is and worthy of the name of a villain. Abigail is seen to stop at nothing to attain her demented goals, and amongst them is her plan to win back her lover, John Proctor. Her motivations are fuelled by resentment and a fierce jealousy towards his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, who she desires to have revenge on. Abigail gradually tempts John Proctor, in Act I, when, [winningly she comes a little closer, with a confidential wicked air]. This stage direction shows how she is cunning, and how her movements are of a flirtatious manner, particularly emphasising her consciousness of what she is doing, adding to her darkly charismatic and villainous character. Her actions towards him are all very forward and persistent, determined to push him apart from Elizabeth. Her tone of voice is described as [tauntingly], suggesting her attempts to keep Proctor close, but in an unkind way, again showing another example of how she manipulates people.

February 4, 2018


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