Character Profile - Abigail



Opening Impression:

Abigail is Parris’ niece and an orphan who is “strikingly beautiful”. She is 17, although in real life she was 12 at the time of the witch hunts; Miller increased her age to make the relationship between her and Proctor seem more plausible. She used to work for the Proctors but was thrown out of the house by Elizabeth after she discovered the affair. Her attempt to get revenge on Goody Proctor by drinking blood and summoning the devil shows how strong willed she is and how willing she is to fly in the face of the behaviour expected at the time. This is accentuated by her willingness to dance in the forest, the ease with which she lies and the violence with which she threatens the other girls into silence. As she is young and a girl, she is expected to be naïve and innocent; however, she is portrayed as manipulative, evil and a forceful leader.



Quotations & Analysis:





Stage Directions: “An endless capacity for dissembling”

The diction choice ‘dissembling’ clearly portrays Abigail’s manipulative and deceptive character as it reflects her ability to disguise or conceal her emotions in order to “sport with” the individuals in Salem. Conversely, her ‘endless capacity’ outlines how her attitude and character remains constant throughout the text. Essentially, this quotation best encapsulates her manipulative and malicious character.



“Now she is all worry and apprehension and propriety”

Abigail has the ability to manipulate and convince people into believing her ‘act’ and this line effectively undermines any sense that she might feel sympathy for Betty.


From an alternative perspective, Abigail could be perceived as a mischievous and clever individual, due to her ability to deceive people within the society. In a heavily repressive world, perhaps Abigail is doing the only thing she can to carve herself a small niche of freedom.


Although Miller probably intended to write her as a villain, a feminist reading of her character might treat her more sympathetically, perhaps even heroically.



“It were sport, uncle!”

Perhaps shows Abigail’s innocence; as if she really did think that what the girls did in the forest was merely some fun. This idea may redeem Abigail the temptress/villain role. In addition it is a feeble retort to Parris, further emphasizing her youth.


Alternatively, her scheming and selfish nature may be outlined by the diction “sport” as it implies that she is inconsiderate of people’s feelings, as everything is something of a ‘game’ to her. The use of the exclamation mark highlights her desperation to convince her uncle. Tentatively, the sibilance in sport foreshadows her scheming and sinister nature, which is portrayed throughout the text.



“Do you begrudge my bed, uncle?

This quotation and the use of the question mark reveals how Abigail is challenging her uncle, which therefore suggests she is a more confident and powerful character than we would expect of an average 17 year old Salem girl. Miller specifically employs the use of the comma, in order to separate the diction ‘uncle’, which emphasises the sense of Abigail’s authority and control as she pointedly emphasises the word that reveals the hold she has over Parris. She is family: as a Christian minister Parris cannot admit to not wanting to help her further highlighting her manipulative character.



“I will not have it said my name is soiled! Goody Proctor is a gossiping liar!”

Highlights the importance of a person’s reputation within Salem and emphasizes how the witch hunts were caused by petty arguments and jealousy.


This further undermines the hysteria and shows the audience the ludicrous nature of the situation, which is paralleled to Miller’s view about the communist witch hunt during 1950s.


It is also an early indication of Abigail’s nature: to blame others and to ensure she does not get in trouble.



 Betty: “You did, you did! You drank a charm  to kill john Proctor's wife! You drank a charm to kill Goody Proctor!            


This quotation explicitly reveals Abigail’s sinful character, and we can clearly sense falsity due to how she acts with certain characters such as Proctor, and then with other characters such as Parris. The contrast between these two sides of her character helps to create as the audience are aware of her ‘true’ character, while the individuals in Salem are blinded by her lies.



“I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring a pointy reckoning that will shudder you.”

Due to the reference of witchcraft in this quotation, there are connotations of evil and malevolence, which mirrors Abigail’s character. This emphasizes her violence causing the audience to feel no remorse or sympathy for her. Furthermore, the repetition of ‘I’, as well as the definite modal verb ‘will’ highlights her power and control over the other girls, thus, emphasizing her ability to manipulate anyone.


There may also be a degree of sympathy towards her as she witnessed the death of her parents at a very young age. Perhaps a young girl left to fend for herself in the care of a selfish uncle has to resort to such measures to carve a place for herself in the world.



“I almost forgot how strong you are, John Proctor”

This quotation clearly underlines Abigail’s infatuation with Proctor.  This is further emphasized, as she was “wide-eyed” when he entered the room. In this quotation, we can also feel the flirtatiousness, as Abigail attempts to flatter Proctor. The line implies that Proctor and Abigail have been intimate in the past, and therefore, Abigail has continued to have feelings for him.



“John- I am waitin' for you every night”

Abiligal used to be a servant in Proctor household, but was thrown out when Elizabeth Proctor discovered their hidden relationship. This speech demonstrates that Abiligal is not the innocent little girl, it also shows that she is not over Proctor.



[Tauntingly] “You’ve come five mile to see a silly girl fly? I know you better.”

Shows special relationship with Proctor; the audience can see the flirtation between the two: she is an outsider too and she understands the outsider Proctor. It shows Abigail as confident and duplicitous; she previously was concerned about Betty, but with Proctor, she refers to Betty as a “silly girl” which re-emphasises her affection for Proctor.



“How do you call me child”

Here Abiligal is angry because she doesn't want Proctor to see her as a child. She wants more from him because she is in love with him.



“I want to open myself!” I want the light of God… I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!”

This quotation outlines Abigail’s devious and manipulative character, as she realizes that by confessing her actions, she can escape from the blame and will not be punished.


Her obviously empty desire to ‘open’ herself to God is used in order to undermine the Salem witch-hunt in the eyes of the audience, and in parallel, the communist witch-hunt of the 1950s. The fact that Abigail managed to fool the other characters in the room highlights fact that Salem (Modern America) is so caught up in hysteria that it cannot see through the lies of those in power to the obvious truths.


The repetitive use of the exclamation marks increases the pace of her speech and serves to emphasise the absurdly melodramatic nature of her confession.


It is also moments like this that highlight Abigail’s intelligence, as she is able to see how society functions, and manipulate it, in order to benefit herself.



“Abigail Williams charge her”

Abigail’s jealousy of Elizabeth Proctor is clear as she accuses her of witchcraft and sets her up with evidence that she was unable to explain and justify.  Although this portrays her as a vicious character, her jealousy has driven her actions, which may cause the audience to feel some remorse or sympathy for her.










“Let you beware, Mr. Danforth






Stage directions (stepping up to Danforth): “What look do you give me?”


This quotation suggests a clear sense of authority, and reveals how Abigail is in control of the situation. The use of the diction ‘beware’ as well as her attempt to target Mr. Danforth creates a threatening tone, making it all the more clear that she is challenging Mr. Danforth.


Similarly, ‘stepping up” suggests her authority and her ability to challenge one who is superior to her.



Stage directions: “suddenly, from an accusatory attitude, her face turns, looking in the air above- it is truly frightened”

Here we can clearly sense her artificial character, due to the diction ‘suddenly’ which suggests a change in attitude and character. Conversely, her ability to play an act and still manage to fool everyone is quite impressive. Miller employs the use of punctuation such as commas in order to create a rapid change, and further emphasize her false character.



“Oh, Heavenly Father, take away this shadow!”

The hypocritical reference to God in order to trick the individuals in Salem reinforces Abigail’s cunning and devious character but once again the audience are given a sense of Abigail’s intelligence as she manages to perfectly manipulate the situation to her advantage. At times in Act Three, especially when he admits that he is a ‘lecher’, it seems as though Proctor has the upper hand. However, after Elizabeth’s lie has undermined Proctor’s confession the balance of power shifts back in Abigail’s favour and she is quick to take advantage of this.




Role in the Play:

She is a classic temptress/ evil woman. Her “endless capacity for dissembling”, and the way in which she manipulates her friends and has the ability to fool her fellow Salemites who are caught up in hysteria mark her out in clear contrast to the Proctors and the other innocent victims of the witch hunt. The fact that the rest of Salem are taken in by an Abigail that we see through so clearly is used as a tool to convey Miller’s message about how ludicrous the society in Salem (and modern America) is.


Furthermore, the fact that it is clear to Proctor that Abigail is a selfish and spiteful character is used to help mark Proctor out as a clear-sighted character. In addition, Abigail’s role as a temptress is used to humanize Proctor for he is seen to struggle against his sin (lechery.) The audience can therefore relate to Proctor as a hero, as he is flawed, like most humans.


However, it could be argued that the reason Abigail is the temptress and the villain of the play is due to society pushing her into assuming that role. Her dancing in the woods was merely a form of freedom from the rigid suppression that children felt within Salem. Therefore, she may not be seen as purely evil. Nevertheless, society did not force Abigail to drink blood and curse Goody Proctor and her earlier actions vilify Abigail and so, although they are both individuals, Proctor’s individuality is perceived in a positive light whilst Abigail’s individuality is frowned upon.


Her hatred of Goody Proctor also emphasizes how the witch hunt in Salem and the communist witch hunt in the 1950s were caused by petty arguments, resentments and jealousy between people.