Abigail Williams the Crucible
In the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller it is very easy to cast all the blame on Abigail Williams for the events surrounding the Salem Witch Trials. She is the first one to make an accusation and led the girls on their lying rampage. Abigail is selfish, manipulative, and concerned only with your own image. However, she is just a child who does not have the moral decision making skills of an adult. Two other men play an instrumental role in what unfolds in the story; Judge Dan Danforth and Thomas Putman. Together, these three characters represent the culture in the town. This culture of chasing demons and placing blame is responsible for the tragedies that unfold.
Abigail Williams started the events that led the Salem Witch Trials. She was the ring leader of the other teenage girls in the town. Abigail led the girls to dance naked in the woods, and was the first one to accuse Tituba of witchcraft. Abigail commands to the girls on what to say to the community and threatens them, “….we danced. And to Tituba conjured Ruth Putnam’s dead sisters. And that is all. Let either of you breath a word. I will come to you in the black of the night” (Miller 113). This set the girls on a path of no return, because now they were in too deep. With Abigail threatening them, she sets the stage for what is to happen, a wild witch hunt. Later, Abigail is confronted by Betty as she screams at her for drinking blood. Abigail screams back as she hits Betty across the face “don’t you ever say that again…shut it” (131-132). This physical confrontation makes it very clear that no one in the town is to tell the truth and if one wishes to repent for their lies, they will be physically harmed. With these actions Abigail sets the tone for what is to come.
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Although Abigail Williams played an instrumental role in the Salem Witch Trials she is not entirely to blame. Judge Danforth deserves some blame as well. Danforth states, “A person is either with this court or he must be counted against it” (85). This indicates Danforth’s ignorance and his ability to only see black and white. He has a narrow view of justice, which makes him unfit to head the investigation. Danforth also shows he is an extremely prideful man. He displays this pride by saying, “near four hundred are in the jails…and upon my signature..and seventy two condemned to hang by that signature” (80). This demonstrated pride shows he will find the accused guilty, just to sustain his own personal image. This pride that Danforth conveys will allow him to sentence someone to death even when they are not guilty.
A third party that must be held accountable for the witch trials is Thomas Putnam. Putnam holds grudges against many of the citizens of Salem. He encourages town officials to make arrests saying, “Now look you sir. Let you strike out against the Devil and the village will bless you for it” (125-126). Putnam pushes town officials to hold the trials because he wants to take the land of those found guilty of witchcraft. Specifically, the Proctor’s land who he has had a long standing feud with. To Putnam, the struggle between good and evil in the village means nothing. He is greedy and only cares about getting richer by taking land of the accused. Later, he even screams, “This women must be hanged!” (44). This call for death is not out of justice. Thomas Putnam wants the accused put to death simply for his own personal gain and wealth. The fact Putnam pushes for the trials and unjust deaths show he is partly responsible for the mass hysteria that unfolds in the town of Salem.
In the Crucible by Arthur Miller Abigail Williams, Judge Danforth and Thomas Putman together contribute to the social unrest in Salem, Massachusetts. Each characters actions play into the cultural mob mentality that leads to catastrophic loses in the town. Each character is fundamentally flawed and display selfish, greedy and cruel actions throughout the play.