The Crucible – Abigail Williams

Of the major characters, Abigail is the least complex.
She is clearly the villain of the play, more so than Parris or Danforth:
she tells lies, manipulates her friends and the entire town, and
eventually sends nineteen innocent people to their deaths. Throughout
the hysteria, Abigail’s motivations never seem more complex than
simple jealousy and a desire to have revenge on Elizabeth Proctor.
The language of the play is almost biblical, and Abigail seems like
a biblical character—a Jezebel figure, driven only by sexual desire
and a lust for power. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out a few
background details that, though they don’t mitigate Abigail’s guilt,
make her actions more understandable.
Abigail is an orphan and an unmarried girl; she thus occupies
a low rung on the Puritan Salem social ladder (the only people below her
are the slaves, like Tituba, and social outcasts). For young girls in
Salem, the minister and the other male adults are God’s earthly representatives,
their authority derived from on high. The trials, then, in which
the girls are allowed to act as though they have a direct connection
to God, empower the previously powerless Abigail. Once shunned and
scorned by the respectable townsfolk who had heard rumors of her
affair with John Proctor, Abigail now finds that she has clout,
and she takes full advantage of it. A mere accusation from one of
Abigail’s troop is enough to incarcerate and convict even the most
well-respected inhabitant of Salem. Whereas others once reproached
her for her adultery, she now has the opportunity to accuse them
of the worst sin of all: devil-worship.