Miller attempts to create an outright contrast between the two protagonists – Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor.
Examine how he has established this dichotomy character, and what does it add to the dramatic quality and audiences involvement in the play.
In this essay I will be writing about Arthur Miller’s play “The Crucible”, particularly about the two women, Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor, and how they are absolute opposites. I would like to discuss how this affects the play and how this allows a more modern audience to follow and relate to this play.
These days, most people, do not actually believe in witches and witchcraft which can make it hard for a modern audience, like me, to follow and understand some of the actions and reactions of certain people in the play. That is why Miller has added this affair between Abigail and John so modern audiences can understand different aspects of the play. To make this play even more dramatic, Miller makes Abigail and Elizabeth completely different physically, mentally and in their beliefs about religion and life. Elizabeth in the play stands as this mother, homemaker figure whereas Abigail stands for youth, heat, passion, emotional and mischievous. Abigail is this young girl or child, “(gently pressing her from him, with great sympathy but firmly): Child –”, who lives on emotions, who is independent, but still willing to take risks, she almost enjoys danger. She is often linked to the woods and the devil, as a darker, mysterious character of the play. However Elizabeth is calm and controlled. She is almost without emotions; she is able to keep all her feelings bottled up inside of her, not showing love, passion or hate. Elizabeth represents the home, family and safety but in some aspects is a very plain woman which could be one of many reasons why John has betrayed his vows and strayed from his marriage. Elizabeth is often linked to coldness because she never shows these emotions, “It is winter in here yet.” Even Elizabeth, at the end of the play, realises this, “It were a cold house I kept.”
Abigail, this young attractive girl, who is linked with heat and passion, still feels for John even 7-months after the affair has past. She is always trying to get John back no matter what. “I have a sense for heat, John.” Abigail realises and understands what Elizabeth is like and believes John does not deserve this treatment and tries to tell John this, “You are no wintry man, John.” She wants John back and will attempt anything. “You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife.” She is so tempted by John she is prepared to kill for him which leads to disaster.
Abigail is often linked to the evil and this darker, mysterious side of life but yet, sometimes you can feel sympathetic towards Abigail. First of, when she was young her parents were brutally murdered right next to her. “I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine.” Inside, this alone, must make her feel distraught and emotionally scarred. Miller puts this in the play to try and explain a little bit about why Abigail behaves in such a wicked way. Abigail is very amoral and this is one of the reasons all the other girls are afraid of Abigail and fear her because they know Abigail won’t hesitate to use force, “(She sits Betty up and furiously shakes her.)”; She will threaten them, “I’ll beat you, Betty!” and in some circumstances she will hit them “(Smashes her across the face) Shut it! Now shut it!” Even after all this I believe you can still feel sorry for her because of her past. She is an orphan, who went through terrible emotional distress and now she has lost the one true love of her life, John Proctor. It is hard to understand how Abigail feels but it is possible, if you try and relate towards this and then you can feel the sympathy for Abigail.