What I find interesting about Abigail is the power of her conviction; she is after all only seventeen. Whilst all the time knowing she is a fraud. As an audience we are aware of everything that goes on in the play. We see the lengths that Abigail is prepared to go to in order to protect herself. She is prepared to sacrifice the lives of those around her in order to ensure that her own position is not marred. We learn that Abigail is an orphan, which allows Miller to create an opening through which he can draw upon sympathies from the audience.
Before Abigail even speaks Miller has created a character with a very appealing set of attributes. She is strikingly beautiful which gives her the ability to ensnare any man as John Proctor finds out. We know from the text that he has fallen victim to Abigail’s deadly charm before, and is still tempted by her even now, “I’ll cut off my hand before I ever reach for you again”. She is young only seventeen so she has all the ways of a woman and yet maintains the vulnerability of a child. This alone is a deadly combination as she can control how your response by playing upon each of these attributes to her advantage.
When trying to convince Parris that she didn’t conjure spirits she doesn’t hesitate to blame those around her, “(Whispering) Not I, sir – Tituba and Ruth” she uses another one of her useful attributes here her endless capacity for dissembling. This exploits the extent to which her dissembling reaches. She is able to convince her own uncle that other people conjured spirits and that she had nothing to do with the incident. By allowing the character of Abigail to have an endless capacity for dissembling, Miller intentionally creates a false barrier in front of Abigail.
This prevents those characters around her from knowing who Abigail really is. It is only as the other characters slowly raise the desperation out of her that we get closer to understanding her true motives. I also think that, occasionally Abigail may offer as an outlet for Miller’s own cynicism. “Uncle you’ve prayed since midnight. Why do you not go down and-” this shows the way in which miller doubts the effectiveness of religion on existent situations? It is as if miller is saying what good does praying do you have prayed since midnight and still your daughter does not wake.
I think Abigail is afraid of the situation that she now finds herself in. What started off as a playful adventure with some friends in a forest has quickly turned into very serious circumstances. We learn of Abigail’s dominance amongst the group of girls who were in the forest. Abigail tells Mercy everything that Parris knows, even bending the truth slightly. She tells Mercy that Parris saw her running through the forest naked while in actual fact all that Parris said was that he saw someone running through the forest naked.
The reason I think that Abigail said this was so that she could exercise some sort of authority over mercy, even if mercy was unaware of her authority. This is a very intelligent thing to do as it allows mercy to be completely at Abigail’s disposal. We also learn at the beginning of the act that Parris is very concerned about image amongst the village. It is not so apparent that Abigail is concerned with how the village view her. Until Abigail gets angry with Parris doubting that, “Her name is not entirely white amongst the village” she responds in a temper, “My name is good in the village! it is obviously important therefore, for Abigail to have an untarnished name in the village.
So when Mary warren threatens to tell the village that they were dancing in the forest, Abigail forces it upon Mary that it will not be taken lightly by the village. Abigail continually enforces the fact that the punishment will be collective, and not received individually. Mary obviously played a lesser part in the activities in the forest than Abigail did. Mary says to Abigail “you’ll be whipped” Mary understandably could get away with a much lesser punishment.
However, the dominant and persuasive Abigail denies Mary the thought of confessing when she says, “We’ll be whipped. ” With emphasis on the “we”. Miller does this, as it is a good way for him to express Abigail’s ascendancy over the other characters. Mercy then “moves menacingly toward Mary” this in light of Abigail’s actions makes her seem less vindictive as Mercy assumes the role of bully. However I think that it is Abigail who is the real bully toward Mary as she forces her to suffer using psychological means rather than physical means.
She lies to Mary saying that she’ll be punished just as harshly as all the others when all Mary did was look. Abigail’s dominance is borne out when she quashes anything which could jeopardise her image in the town and moreover her life. When Betty stirs she knows that Abigail didn’t tell her uncle that she drank blood. Abigail slaps Betty hard across the face commanding her to, “never say that again! ” (She smashes her across the face). Miller uses a very powerful word her “smashes” to emphasise the extent to which Abigail is willing to go to in order for her not be seen as a witch by the town.
I think that there is no question Abigail assumes dominance over the others. Miller does this by showing what lengths she is prepared to go to in order to save her own skin, “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. ” One of the most interesting things about the character of Abigail is the ease at which she is able to convince people into believing her.
At the close of act one when we see reverend Hale trying to revive Betty, Abigail comes under a lot of pressure and unlike most people surrender is not an option for Abigail. She doesn’t confess or even crumble under the pressure instead she switches the blame to Tituba who then incurs the brunt of blame and scepticism. Abigail is able to bring out the naivety of her character making her seem believable, “I’m a good girl! ” this apparent innocence is contrasted against the view that Abigail is in fact anything but innocent.
She knows that because Tituba is a black slave from Barbados Hale and Parris are more likely to believe her over Tituba. This is a very evil thing to do in my opinion as it traps Tituba and forces her into a corner that she can’t escape from. Also Miller depicts another side of Abigail’s character he encourages us to view Abigail in a sexual light, “Sometimes I wake and find myself standing in the open doorway and not a stitch on my body! ” The reason, I believe, that Miller is showing all these different aspects of Abigail’s character is to dispel any doubt in the audiences mind that she appears as she seems.
We know that Abigail has succeeded in convincing Reverend Hale (or more likely given him an excuse to accuse Tituba) that it was in fact Tituba who drank blood and forced the others to drink blood because Hale says to Tituba, “when did you compact with the devil? ” not even giving her the option to argue that it wasn’t her. Whilst all the time we know that it was Abigail who drank blood and forced the others to drink blood as well because Tituba says, “you beg me to conjure! She beg me to drink blood! ” as an audience we don’t for a second doubt Tituba’s words, we believe her to be telling the truth.
In the final “crescendo” of the scene where Abigail and Betty both report about seeing the devil it is difficult to see whether Abigail is genuine about wanting to free herself from sin or if she is just acting to make herself seem less guilty and more worthy of sympathy. Her and Betty’s accusations free themselves from most of the speculation but not all of it. During this crescendo we see the most interesting aspect of Abigail’s character. We can never really be sure if she is genuine or if she is appearing to be genuine. Therefore we may never really see Abigail as such.