ABIGAIL WILLIAMS Analysis and evaluation Act One
Abigail Williams is the antagonist of the play.
1. “She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, snivelling woman, and you bend to her!” (p. 19). “You drank a charm to kill John Proctor’s wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!” (p. 15). Describe Abigail’s feelings about Elizabeth Proctor. Explain the reasons why she feels this way. What does this reveal about Abigail’s character? How does this explain what she does later in the play?
CLASS NOTES Abigail is jealous of Elizabeth and she wants Proctor to herself. She wants Elizabeth out of the way. She feels intense hatred towards her. She detests her. She feels resentful towards her. Abigail is jealous of Elizabeth as she is the reason that the affair ended and she is the reason that she cannot be with Proctor. She is in love with him but can’t have him. She knows that Proctor loves Elizabeth but doesn’t love her. Abigail believes that Elizabeth is responsible for rumours around Salem that she is promiscuous. She blames E for her poor reputation in the village.
She is immature and is motivated by jealousy and vengeance. She wants desperately to improve her standing in the village as her reputation has been so badly damaged. She is a cold-hearted, vindictive and malicious person who is willing to hurt innocent people to get what she wants.
TEACHER’S NOTES Abigail feels a great deal of resentment, hatred and jealousy towards Elizabeth Proctor. She wants to hurt Elizabeth and get her revenge on her. She wants Elizabeth out of the way so that she can take her place by Proctor’s side. Jealousy- she is in love with Proctor but knows that she can’t have him as he is married to Elizabeth. Resentment- when Elizabeth found out about the affair, she fired Abigail from her position as servant and cast her out of their home. Hatred- Abigail believes that Elizabeth has been spreading untrue and malicious rumours about her being promiscuous, which has caused her reputation to be damaged in the village.
Abigail’s reputation in the village is important to her and she does not believe that she deserves to have a poor reputation and be the subject of scorn or disapproval by others. The fact that she attempts to conjure spirits to kill Elizabeth suggests that she is a cruel and vindictive person who will stop at nothing to get what she wants. She is a young woman who holds a grudge and who seeks vengeance against those whom she perceives to have wronged her in some way.
Techniques used: -Dialogue. -Characterisation.
2. “If any of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word…I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you” (p. 15). What impression are we given about Abigail’s nature? How does this foreshadow what she does later in the play?
CLASS NOTES She is able to control, intimidate and dominate those who she perceives as being weaker than her. She has a violent and murderous side to her and is willing to do anything to prevent her reputation being further damaged. She is very deceitful and forces the other girls to lie in order to protect her. She is a hypocrite as she wants the village to believe that she is a good and proper Christian girl and yet she has been dabbling in the occult by attempting to conjure spirits.
She has Elizabeth arrested for witchcraft in order to remove the main barrier between her and John. This shows that she is willing to do anything to get what she wants, even if it means that an innocent woman is put to death. Her ability to control and dominate the other girls is shown later in the play when she becomes the ringleader behind all the accusations of witchcraft, forcing the other young girls to do her bidding.
TEACHER’S NOTES She can be a very intimidating young woman who is able to strike fear into people who are weaker than her. Abigail is able to completely dominate the other girls. She exerts a powerful influence over them and uses brutality and threats to control them. She has a violent and cruel side to her, as shown by the way she threatens to kill Betty, Mary and Mercy if they tell that they were trying to conjure spirits in the forest. Abigail is clearly willing to resort to violence and even murder in order to protect herself or get what she wants.
Later in Act One, Abigail does not hesitate to turn on Tituba and place the blame on her for the conjuring and dancing in the forest. She does this as she knows that this will allow her to escape the blame for what happened. This demonstrates how Abigail is willing to do anything in order to protect herself, even if it means that other people get harmed. Later in the play, Abigail becomes the leader of the group of young girls who are responsible for the many accusations of witchcraft in Salem. This demonstrates her ability to dominate, control and influence those weaker than her.
Techniques used: -Dialogue. -Characterisation.
3. It’s she put me out, you cannot pretend it were you. I saw your face when she put me out, and you loved me then and you do now!” (page 18). How does Abigail feel about Proctor? How does she feel about the affair?
CLASS NOTES She seems to be madly in love with Proctor and still has strong feelings for him. She is denial about the fact that the affair is over. She is convinced that Proctor still has feelings for her. She desperately tries to convince Proctor that they still have a future together and that it is only Elizabeth that is keeping them apart. She doesn’t view their relationship as being merely an affair: she regards it as being more serious and meaningful, built upon love rather than lust. While Proctor wants to forget it and wishes it never happened, she wants to rekindle their relationship and she sees a future with him.
TEACHER’S NOTES Abigail clearly feels a great deal of desire for Proctor and is in love with him. She seems besotted and obsessed by him. Moreover, she is convinced that he feels the same way about her and that the only thing that is preventing him being with her is his marriage to Elizabeth. Abigail wants Proctor to leave Elizabeth in order to be with her.
Abigail is clearly not over the affair and she desperately wants to rekindle it. Proctor wants to forget the affair and has no interest in resuming it, but Abigail does not have the same sense of closure. When Proctor rejects her, she refuses to accept that he does not want her and is convinced that Elizabeth is poisoning his mind. She is heartbroken and hurt and is not able to face the reality of the situation. She is in denial over the fact that it is over between her and Proctor.
Techniques used: -Dialogue. -Characterisation. -Key scene. -Conflict
4. “She made me do it! She made Betty do it!” (page 35). Why does Abigail decide to confess to taking part in the conjuring in the woods? Why does she blame Tituba for getting her involved? What does this scene tell us about Abigail?
Class notes Abigail confesses as she is being interrogated by Hale and Parris and feels like she has no other option. However, she places the blame on to Tituba. She blames Tituba in order to escape punishment and condemnation. She wants to protect her reputation. She makes Tituba a scapegoat as Tituba is a slave and has a very low social standing in Salem. She has no power or influence and is very weak and vulnerable.
She is selfish, uncaring, malicious, cruel. She is a coward and opportunist who does not care how much harm she inflicts on other people if it allows her to protect herself.
TEACHER’S NOTES Reverend Hale is closely interrogating Abigail about what happened in the forest and about the role that she played in it. Abigail realises that it is only a matter of time before she is found out, so she admits that she took part in conjuring spirits but places the blame on to Tituba, falsely claiming that she forced her and the other girls to do it. Abigail desperately wants to avoid blame or punishment for what took place in the forest. She does not hesitate to make a scapegoat out of Tituba, a foreign, black, slave who has a much lower social standing in Salem. Abigail knows that no-one will believe Tituba over her.
She is an opportunist. She sees an opportunity to escape blame or punishment and she does not hesitate to take it. She is willing to sacrifice others in order to protect herself. She feels no shame or guilt about causing harm to others, especially if they are weaker or more vulnerable.
Techniques used: -Dialogue. -Characterisation. -Key scene.
5. “I want to open myself! I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the devil” (page 39) Why does Abigail confess to witchcraft? How does it change her position in Salem? What do we learn about her character here?
CLASS NOTES She realises that she will gain a great deal of power by falsely confessing as she will be able to accuse innocent people of being witches, giving her an opportunity to take her revenge against those who have wronged her. Abigail now has power and influence in Salem, and will be viewed with fear and treated with respect by others. As a servant girl, Abigail would not have experienced such a lofty social standing before.
CLASS NOTES She is power-hungry, deceitful, vengeful, cruel, evil? She is childish and immature. She is willing to make innocent people suffer in order to get what she wants.
TEACHER’S NOTES When Tituba is forced into her confession of witchcraft she is asked to name other people in the village who are also witches. This gives Tituba a great deal of power as she is able to accuse anyone she wishes. Abigail sees how much power Tituba now has and she sees that confessing is an opportunity for her to increase her own power and influence in Salem. In other words, she lies about being a witch in order to improve her social standing in the village.
Confessing to witchcraft allows Abigail to falsely accuse those people in Salem who she perceives as being her enemies. She is able to take her revenge against those people who she believes have wronged her in some way. Over the following months, she proceeds to falsely accuse many innocent men and women of being witches, resulting in their imprisonment and/or execution. The fact that she is willing to falsely accuse innocent people of such a serious crime emphasises her cruel and vindictive nature. She is clearly a hateful and vengeful person who is willing to stop at nothing to get what she wants in life. She opportunistically sees confessing as a chance to improve her power and influence in Salem and she does not hesitate to take full advantage.
Techniques used: -Dialogue. -Characterisation. -Key scene.