Whilst we are appalled by Abigail Williams, we are fascinated by her as well
The antagonist Abigail Williams appals and shocks ‘The Crucible’’s audience with her manner, from the very start already embroiled in opposition of Salem’s common society and its members, remorselessly bringing down anyone that dares to challenge her, with numerous deaths ensuing. Yet despite this, she remains the same character who turns the tables over in regards to their supressing patriarchal society, and against all odds rising from the belittled position of an orphaned woman to one that dares to challenge the theocratic ‘weighty judges’, and attempt to break free from the extreme restrictiveness imposed upon females within the society.
Abigail initially is presented as a flawed character, and understandably so, as despite her initial outcry that she would ‘never hurt Betty’, it is revealed that she is clearly deceptive when Abigail violently ‘smashes her across the face’ in a fit of fury. It is seen that Abigail does indeed have a clear sense of her moral duties, she becomes obvious that she does understand that her very intentions to kill Elizabeth Proctor are simply outrightly wrong, and yet she decides to ahead with this. She frequently exercises her expert ability to repel any accusations of this towards her, instead often pushing allegations towards the original accuser; the shift of power in speech is constantly turned towards her, and from the very start we already see Parris being struck by Abigail’s refusal to bow to his demands, and eventually reducing him to only murmurs of ‘No…no’.
Miller quickly builds upon this character as one that is flawed; her limited moral upstanding shown in the initial parts of the play only seem to grow even worse as it is revealed that she has had an affair with Proctor, both considered a ‘sin’ for the two, and yet Abigail knowingly commits this. Proctor’s presence also shows Abigail to have a questionable character in that she is often emotionally unstable, being extremely quick to have ‘[flashes] of anger’ at any given point, indicating that much of her future decisions are purely based on the anger residing within her. Abigail’s later accusations of witchcraft carry the ultimate aim of convicting Elizabeth Proctor for her own benefit- Proctor, and from this we also see her inner selfishness; she is willing to murder another person for her own gain, and as the audience we find this disturbing and somewhat sickening. Despite this, Abigail’s character provides a fascinating image for the audience; the overture presents Salem’s theocracy as one of repression, and interestingly we do see her actively trying to break free from this. From the lowly position of an orphaned and unmarried woman, we see that she effectively attempts to bring her own form of justice to the town. Proctor describing this as ‘little crazy children jangling the keys of the kingdom’, and Abigail’s intentions simply using ‘common vengeance [writing] the law’, and rightly so, yet as the audience we can only be fascinated that what initiates as a simply baseless lie is in reality believable in Salem; only a select few of the community realise that it is in fact completely false.