Abigail is the supposed antagonist of the story. In Act 1 she manipulates and lies to the ones around her and attempts to murder the wife of her forbidden and married lover, John Proctor, by drinking a potion. Whether it is she that is the cause of the trials, if it is John Proctor who is at fault, or if it is perhaps everyone who does not question the evidence which the accusations are based on becomes clearer as the story goes on. However even then, once the story has ended, it is still up to your own judgment of which of the aforementioned are the cause of this American city which has fallen to mass hysteria.
Abigail lives with her uncle Reverend Parris who discovers her dancing naked in the woods with a bunch of other girls her age, and ‘conjuring’ Ruth’s dead sisters with Tituba’s help. All of those actions are sins which must have a reason because in Puritan society dancing is sinful, nakedness is sinful, and witchcraft, the conjuring of supernatural beings, is considered the worst of all because it is thought of as ‘devil worship’ which is punishable by hanging.
I do not believe that Abigail plans the deaths of all of the accused and hanged before the night of which she is caught dancing.
In Act 1 –<br />“Abigail, pulling her away from the window : I told him everything; he knows now, he knows everything.<br />Betty : You drank blood, Abby! You didn’t tell him that!<br />Abigail : Betty, you never say that again! You will never –<br />Betty : You did, you did! You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!<br />Abigail, smashes her across the face : Shut it! Now shut it!<br />Betty, collapsing on the bed : Mama, Mama! She dissolves into sobs.<br />Abigail : Now look you. All of you. We danced. And Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. And mark this. Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it; I saw Indians smash my dear parents’ heads on the pillow next to mine, and I have seen some reddish word done at night, and I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down! She goes to Betty and roughly sits her up. Now, you –sit up and stop this!”<br />
This excerpt makes it clear that the girls are panicking and deciding on what to do when they are caught. In this dialogue Betty reveals Abigail’s intentions of murdering Goody Proctor. Perhaps, if John had not broken one of the commandments and lead Abigail on, she wouldn’t have been in the woods that night drinking the potion to end Elizabeth Proctors life, and the girls wouldn’t have been caught in the woods by Reverend Parris.
All the actions that Abby partakes in are for two goals, two reasons which motivate her. The first is to protect herself and her name in the village. The second is to love. She cannot love John Proctor in the way she would like. John is a married man, a happily married man at that, and his wife a good wife. John lusts for her, and Abigail confuses this with love. This belief that he loves her drives Abigail mad. John is all that she has in her life to look up to. He is all that she wants and she has no one to love without him. The only obstacle is Elizabeth. Those two reasons are where the story begins. These reasons shape the story of the Salem witch trials. <br />Act 2, Scene 2 - “Abigail : Aye, there is one. You are good.Proctor : Am I! How am I good?Abigail : Why, you taught me goodness, therefore you are good. It was a fire you walked me through, and all my ignorance was burned away. It were a fire, John, we lay in fire. And from that night no woman dare call me wicked any more but I knew my answer. I used to weep for my sins when the wind lifted up my skirts; and blushed for shame because some old Rebecca called me loose. And then you burned my ignorance away. As bare as some December tree I saw them all –walking like saints to church, running to feed the sick, and hypocrites in their hearts! And God gave me strength to call them liars, and God made men to listen to me, and by God I will scrub the world clean for the love of Him! Oh, John, I will make you such a wife when the world is white again! She kisses his hand. You will be amazed to see me every day, a light of heaven in your house, a –He rises, backs away, amazed. Why are you cold?”<br />The first section of dialogue shows how her true desire is to become Proctor’s wife. She believes that he is the one whom God wants her to be with. Her confession of her admiration of goodness for him supports my thoughts of her looking up to him as a person. Also, what can be observed from that quote is how much she believes herself in these lies of which she is making up. If she must lie, she must lie to herself too. Because it seems as though she truly believes in what she is saying, although in reality she knows it is false.<br />Later in the same Scene…“Abigail : What will you tell? You will confess to fornication? In the court?Proctor : If you will have it so, so I will tell it! She utters a disbelieving laugh. I say I will! She laughs louder, now with more assurance he will never do it. He shakes her head roughly. If you can still hear, hear this! Can you hear! She is trembling, staring up at him though he was out of his mind. You will tell the court you are blind to spirits; you cannot see them anymore, and you will never cry witchery again, or I will make you famous for the harlot you are!Abigail, grabs him : Never in this world! I know you, John –you are this moment singing secret hallelujahs that your wife will hang!Proctor, throws her down : You mad murderous woman!Abigail : Oh, how hard it is when pretense falls! But it falls, it falls! She wraps herself up as though to go. You have done your duty by her. I hope it is your last hypocrisy. I pray you will come again with sweeter news for me. I know you will –now that you duty’s done. Goodnight John. She is backing away, raising her hand in farewell. Fear naught. I will save you tomorrow. As she turns and goes : From yourself I will save you.”<br />The second section of dialogue between the two shows the extreme point of obsession of which Abigail has reached with her perception of John’s love for her. She is so in denial of his regret of sleeping with her that even when he throws her down and insults her she brushes that off and tells him she hopes for when she may marry him. <br />
b. John Proctor
John Proctor twists the usually extremely broad line between protagonist and antagonist into a tiny sliver which separates the two. On the protagonist side, John wants to save his wife, and himself. He wants to become good, even though he knows that it is an impossible feat to accomplish. He looks out for the wellbeing of others, and because of all the goodness in his heart, and all the attempts he makes to save his friends and village alike, it makes him a protagonist. The antagonistic behaviors are not portrayed in the current events of the book, but the history which happened before. The adultery which he commits sets the stage for Abigail’s obsession with him. Without his sin, no one would’ve been murdered. If he would’ve confessed sooner in church, no one would’ve been hung. If he had been Christian in his life, none of this would have every happened. John realizes this when Hale is in his house in Act 2 and makes this point –
“Hale : Proctor, I cannot think God be provoked so grandly by such a petty cause. The jails are packed –our greatest judges sit in Salem now –and hangin’s promised. Man, we must look to cause proportionate. Were there murder done, perhaps, and never brought to light? Abomination? Some secret blasphemy that stinks to Heaven? Think on cause, man, and let you help me to discover it. For there’s you way, believe it, there is your only way, when such confusion strikes upon the world. He goes to Giles and Francis. Let you counsel among yourselves; think on your village and what may have drawn from heaven such thundering wrath upon you all. I shall pray God open up our eyes.”<br />This speech which Reverend Hale makes allows John to see his logic of how every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This speech shows that John is the cause of all of this turmoil, that he is the antagonist of the story.<br />
John Proctor is the perfect example of human nature. Everyone makes mistakes and regrets a sin that they have committed in their life. Sinning is just one of humanities many flawed actions, and John Proctor is feeling the extended repercussions of his sinning with Abigail Williams. This is entirely John’s fault. He is the adult in this situation, and it is a sin in Christianity to commit adultery and in their community, it is a considered a sin to commit lechery as he did with Abigail. Both sins are the cause of his wife being accused of witchcraft.
When John confesses and answers the questions Reverend Danforth presents before him, he is not lying. He is still taking into account Hale’s speech (the aforementioned quote from the script). He sees himself as the Devil. He sees himself as Lucifer because he has caused his friend’s death. He has sinned. He has committed adultery, and he has caused so much of a hellish reality to impact the world around him. All in all, it is John’s fault that vengeance is painting the air in the form of fear.
John’s name is the last thing he has. If he doesn’t have his soul, at least he has his name. And his name is the only pure thing he has left. To the townspeople, to his friends, he would be remembered a sinner if his name was posted upon the church door on the signature line of a confession. Death by hanging is the only way to keep his name pure, and give him one piece of goodness to take with him to the grave.
c. Elizabeth Proctor<br />
To live in such a society in which God is the only person you must abide by, and His rules, His commandments, and His scripture are the only things you must take into consideration before you act is one where Elizabeth thrives. She is a woman who cannot lie, and in a sense she is almost heavenly. While John views himself as a devil, he sees her as an angel who cannot sin. And to have her husband, whom she dearly loves, to commit adultery is the most depressing thing in the world. Her heart is shattered and she must come to grips with the reality that it is his soul which will burn, not hers. She has to realize that it is not her fault that John knew Abigail. She must understand that it is John’s fault. As John said “Her only sin was she knew a harlot when she saw one.”
Elizabeth has rational reactions to everything that has happened to her. She becomes cold to John, as one should be to someone who cheats. She cannot bring herself to forgive him, which is a very common thing, because she knows that it is not her whom he needs forgiveness from.
d. Reverend Hale<br />In Act 1 he exerts a certain air of importance. He has a title to uphold. This soon diminishes as the story goes on. The excessive death warrants which he signs pile up. The people which are the accused are innocent and Reverend Hale, being a man of God, does not wish to have innocent people die. He counts himself the murderer of those people. In Act 2 he visits the Proctor home and makes the speech mentioned beforehand. He is a logical man, and he realizes that for every action there is a reaction. The book is based on a lot of this. The people of Salem are looking for reasons, and blaming their sins on the invisible sins of others allows the accusing to sleep more soundly at night. For example, Ms. Putnam accuses Martha Corey of the murder of her children.<br /> Reverend Hale recognizes that this has gone past whatever extent of witchcraft he believes in and is now fueled by a need for blame, and a want to extract vengeance. In Act 3 Hale decides he wants no part with the court. Hale doesn’t want to have any more deaths on his conscience. The 3rd Act ends with him denouncing the proceedings in which John Proctor is found guilty of witchcraft. <br />The next time he is seen he has thought upon what God thinks a bit and is looking for a way to save the lives of the condemned. Hale states, “It may well be that God damns a liar less that he who throws his soul away for pride.”<br />e. Reverend Parris<br />Parris is the uncle of Abigail and Reverend of the church in Salem. At first Parris is deathly afraid of the whole town shouting witchcraft, especially in his home. However, as events play out he finds that it is in his favor (once Abigail is the voice of God himself sent to extract and point out the evils of the world) to fully support the witch hunt. His morals become backseat and it appears as if he is only concerned about his social standing in the town of Salem.<br /> It is Parris’ slave which begins the conjuring. It is Parris’ niece who sleeps in his house who starts these accusations. Parris would be frowned upon so greatly in the community if Abigail were to be lying that Parris is willing to move his morals aside and not give a second thought to the support of condemning an innocent man to die.<br />f. Reverend Danforth<br />It appears that Danforth’s only goal in the story is that his claims are not overthrown. He has already sentenced people to be hung, and people have already hanged for the crime of witchery. If these claims would be considered false then his life would be over. His name would be completely blackened and he would lose his position in the church and as a judge. His whole being in the story of the witch trials have nothing to do with his own personal needs. The only purpose he has in the story is to make sure that everyone who is hanged is found guilty not only in the court, but is found to be guilty in the community.<br />2.<br />One of the many similarities that McCarthyism and Salem both hold is the gift to confess, and salvation from the punishment. Simply put, if you are the accused, whether it be for witchcraft in 1692 or Communism in 1953, and you confess and mention others which are communists or witches you would be sent home and viewed as a hero. You helped America. You helped Christ.<br />Another of the many parallels between the two is the two very definite and black and white opinions of those accused. Those who were against the rule of the country, or the rule of God were with Satan. Or if one was against the court, he was against God. In 1950s America, if one wasn’t American then he was Communist. <br />The first three witches who were accused held unimportant societal roles, just as the first few accused by Senator McCarthy did. However, as the people who were being accused of witchcraft became higher in social standard, the harder it was to sentence them to hang in front of the public. Witchcraft was being thought over. Actual evidence was being searched for, and the girl’s claims began to have less and less power. This also happened with Senator McCarthy. The beginning of the end of McCarthyism began once he started accusing the US Army of communist beliefs. The beginning of the end of the witch hunts were when Danforths’ and Hales’ wives were accused of witch craft. The higher McCarthy would go in the social food chain in his accusations, the more skeptic people get.<br />3.<br />The Crucible is written not to tell the story of what could’ve happened. The Crucible was written by Arthur Miller to tell the tragic story of first, John Proctor, and from that story of his life the reader can grasp the bigger picture of the story of the village. And once when the story of the village can be understood then the contemporary issues at hand (McCarthyism) can be comprehended. Every detail in the story, the rituals of accusations and in a sense mass hysteric fear can be found in McCarthyism. To change any detail of the conclusion would be an unneeded happy ending. John Proctors death tied the story together. His death gave The Crucible one of the few qualities that most plays do not posses, a beginning, middle, and a definite end.<br />John found his goodness, and through the entire struggle which Salem encountered it was all that the story really needed for a happy ending. Elizabeth has forgiven him, and I believe that her forgiveness in the story resembles the forgiveness of God for John. Because John views himself as the devil, he views Elizabeth as this pure angel sent straight from God who cannot sin. Her forgiveness of him and her acknowledgement of his goodness gives the story a much needed conclusion. This ending gives the soul a content feeling. It is a true end which ends as it should, with reason and rhyme.<br />4.<br />Mass hysteria is when a group of people have similar physical symptoms or emotional symptoms. I definitely believe in it. When in a panic, people tend to become scared to the point of suspicion of them to become ill, or to fall victim to the horrible crisis which may be spreading across an area. In McCarthyism the horrible crisis was communism and the Un-American Activities Committee was sent out to make sure that America was not overthrown. In Salem the horrible crisis was witchcraft and the Church of Christ was making sure that it would not overthrow the court, or their beliefs.<br />I do not believe that Abigail was struck with mass hysteria because she inflicted many of the wounds to herself in court and for mass hysteria to take effect on must lose all disbelief in the cause. However, I do believe that the other girls had fallen under her influence and had become enveloped with a sense of hysteria. In the beginning when Betty was scared and she was ailing it wasn’t only her, it was Ruth too. Both girls are affected by a miniature sense of hysteria in the beginning. This sense increases vastly from the accusation of a few to the accusation of hundreds. <br />Nineteen are hanged and so are two dogs. All sense of logic must be lost and a total panic invoked in society to accuse everyone, your own neighbors, or perhaps your own lovers, or even your own husbands and wives. The only reason you would do such a thing besides for vengeance or hate is a massive eruption of fear. In the girls who testified it was the fear that Abigail would murder them. (Quoted in question 1a.)<br />5.<br />Abigail William’s manipulative behavior and use of massive fear as a way to manipulate others is the same exact thing Charles Manson uses to control his followers. He uses his control over his followers to commit murders and if they don’t do his bidding, he says it will evoke the end of the world. Abigail William’s apocalypse that she will bring them if they do not testify is their own death. When she threatens to murder them, she uses the fear of death to manipulate what they say and do. The children she has control over obey her every word out of fear, just as Manson has his followers do. <br />Charles Manson created a sort of religion, a Helter Skelter type apocalypse as the punishment, and even though the entire world would not end for Abigail’s followers if they broke her charity, certainly their own lives would. (This can be seen when Marry Warren confesses that she has lied in court and Abigail is brought in and begins accusing her of witchcraft in Act 3.)<br />