The Crucible

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Abigail Williams Character Analysis

The 17-year-old niece of Reverend Parris. Marauding Native Americans killed Abigail's parents when Abigail was young. While a servant in John Proctor's household, Abigail briefly became John's lover before Elizabeth found out and fired her. Abigail is beautiful, intelligent, crafty, and vindictive. She's also a skillful liar. She is the leader of her group of girlfriends and is willing to do anything to protect herself.

Abigail Williams Quotes in The Crucible

The The Crucible quotes below are all either spoken by Abigail Williams or refer to Abigail Williams. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of The Crucible published in 2003.
Act 1 Quotes
I look for John Proctor that took me from my sleep and put knowledge in my heart! I never knew what pretense Salem was, I never knew the lying lessons I was taught by all these Christian women and their covenanted men! And now you bid me tear the light out of my eyes? I will not, I cannot! You loved me, John Proctor, and whatever sin it is, you love me yet!
Related Characters: Abigail Williams (speaker), John Proctor
Page Number: 22
Explanation and Analysis:

Left alone with John Proctor and the supposedly ailing and unconscious Betty Parris, Abigail reminds Proctor of their past adulterous relationship, insisting that Proctor still loves her. Abigail is furious at Elizabeth Proctor, John's wife, who has ruined Abigail's reputation in the village. Proctor, meanwhile, feels that his personal integrity has been destroyed because of his affair with Abigail and betrayal of Elizabeth, and he is dismissive of Abigail's pleas to return to her. Abigail places no such value on personal integrity; she is willing to make accusations of witchcraft in order to get out of trouble with Reverend Parris for dancing in the woods.

Abigail's speech also reveals that she has taken Proctor's opinions on Salem's hypocrisy and corruption to heart. From Proctor, Abigail has learned to recognize that the power of the Puritan church comes from its stifling of individual ideas that conflict with church doctrine. Abigail's understanding of the church's hypocrisy and paranoia will lead her to see how she can manipulate the church's fears in order to protect herself and to take revenge on the people she hates (like Elizabeth). In this speech, Abigail implies that the accusations of witchcraft she is going to make will be false, and are a calculated manipulation of the people of Salem.

Abigail fuses together her sexual awakening ("John Proctor that took me from my sleep") and her intellectual awakening ("and put knowledge in my heart"), using the Biblical language she is accustomed to (Adam and Eve's first sin was gaining "knowledge," and in the Bible sexual intercourse is often referred to as "knowing" one's spouse). Abigail shifts swiftly back and forth between the "light" of Proctor's love and the "light" of his teaching.


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I want to open myself! . . . I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!
Related Characters: Abigail Williams (speaker), Mrs. Osburn, Sarah Good
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Out of fear that she will be hanged, Tituba confesses to making a compact with the Devil and says that she has seen Sarah Good and Goody Osburn with the Devil. In these closing moments of Act 1, Abigail leaps up and offers her own confession: she too has been ensnared by the Devil, but she now accuses a long list of villagers of witchcraft. Betty immediately follows Abigail's lead, offering her own confession and accusations.

This passage shows that Abigail understands the way that Reverend Hale and Reverend Parris will carry out their investigations: anyone suspected of dealing with the Devil can simply confess, make another accusation of witchcraft, and automatically be "cleansed." The community's hysteria and mob mentality ensure that Abigail and all her friends will be believed.

In this moment, Abigail chooses to protect her reputation over her integrity, preferring to send the women she names to their deaths rather than face the consequences of her misbehavior. Abigail's accusations here also introduce the ripple effect that her actions will have throughout the play: as soon as she begins to make these claims, Betty Parris and the other girls do, as well, and it becomes increasingly difficult for the innocent to argue against the mounting hysteria and the testimonies of the "victims" of witchcraft in Salem.

Act 3 Quotes
A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her what she is . . . She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance.
Related Characters: John Proctor (speaker), Elizabeth Proctor, Abigail Williams
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

John Proctor, horrified by witnessing Abigail shriek that Mary's spirit is attacking her, publicly confesses to having slept with Abigail. He explains that Elizabeth dismissed Abigail because of the affair, and, in this speech, denounces Abigail, asserting that her hope is to have Elizabeth killed and to marry John. In confessing to his sin, John chooses to sacrifice his good reputation in an attempt to save his wife and the other innocents who stand accused.

The speech returns to John's language of "vengeance" in Act 2. Then, he claimed that the court's warrant for Elizabeth's arrest was borne out of vengeance, but now he endows that claim with scandalous specificity, insisting that Abigail's accusations are nothing but "a whore's vengeance." He finally carries out Elizabeth's wish that he reclaim his personal integrity and make it clear to Abigail that he has no intention of continuing their affair—but he acts too late. By now, Abigail has done her worst and the power lies in the hands of the court.

Throughout the speech, John leans heavily on religious language, seeking salvation and forgiveness through God's grace. John has felt ashamed to sin in the sight of God; he is wracked with a personal guilt that differs sharply from the hollow repentance that the court seeks from the villagers who stand accused.

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Abigail Williams Character Timeline in The Crucible

The timeline below shows where the character Abigail Williams appears in The Crucible. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
...Parris, her father and the minister of the Massachusetts town of Salem, his 17-year-old niece Abigail Williams, and his slave Tituba. When Tituba asks if Betty will be all right, Parris... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...Reverend Hale from the nearby town of Beverly to come investigate. As Susanna leaves, both Abigail and Parris caution her to keep quiet about what she's seen. (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Abigail tells Parris about rumors that witchcraft caused Betty's faint: a crowd has already gathered downstairs... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...he should say he discovered his daughter and niece dancing "like heathen[s]" in the forest. Abigail admits they danced, but says that's all they did. Parris says that if the girls... (full context)
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Abigail insists there was no witchcraft, but Parris says he saw Tituba chanting over a cauldron.... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Parris asks Abigail why Elizabeth Proctor dismissed her from her job as an assistant in the Proctor household... (full context)
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Parris turns to Abigail, who admits Ruth and Tituba conjured spirits, but insists she wasn't involved. (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Mercy Lewis, the Putnam's servant, enters with word that Ruth has improved slightly. Putnam and Abigail convince Parris he should speak to the crowd gathered downstairs. Parris agrees to lead them... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
When Mercy and Abigail are alone, Abigail tries desperately to wake Betty. At the same time she and Mercy... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Betty suddenly wakes and huddles against the wall, calling for her dead mother. Abigail tells Betty not to worry because she told Parris everything. But Betty says Abigail didn't... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
When he's alone with Abigail, Proctor mentions the town's rumors of witchcraft. Abigail dismisses them, steps closer to Proctor, and... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Betty doesn't respond to Hale's question, so he turns to Abigail. She repeats that they were only dancing. When Parris mentions he saw them dancing around... (full context)
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Troubled, Hale asks Abigail if she conjured the devil. Abigail says Tituba did. As Mrs. Putnam goes to get... (full context)
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Tituba responds that Abigail begged her to conjure. But Abigail says Tituba often "sends her spirit out" and makes... (full context)
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Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Suddenly Abigail stands up and shouts that she too wants to confess, to return to God. She... (full context)
Act 2
Puritanism and Individuality Theme Icon
Hysteria Theme Icon
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...be hanged unless they confess. Proctor can't believe it, but Elizabeth assures him it's true: Abigail leads the other girls in identifying witches. She urges a resistant Proctor to go to... (full context)
Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...push Proctor to go to the judges, it comes out that he was alone with Abigail at Parris's house. Proctor had left that part out when he told Elizabeth the story... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
Proctor and Elizabeth know Abigail is behind the accusation. Elizabeth says Abigail wants to replace her as Proctor's wife. She... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Just as Hale is about to leave, Elizabeth persuades Proctor to speak up about Abigail. The news shakes Hale, who points out that many have confessed. Proctor counters by pointing... (full context)
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
...get Mary to explain, Cheever discovers a needle stuck in the poppet's belly—just that night Abigail fell screaming to the floor, and a needle was discovered stuck into her skin. Abigail... (full context)
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
When they're alone, Proctor tells Mary she will testify against Abigail in court tomorrow. Mary says that Abigail will charge Proctor with lechery (excessive and indulgent... (full context)
Act 3
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Reputation and Integrity Theme Icon
...Danforth that the other girls are lying. The girls are brought out to face Mary. Abigail denies the charge, but Proctor says Abigail has often laughed at prayer, and that Abigail... (full context)
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Danforth seems to believe Mary and turns back to question Abigail, but Abigail suddenly shudders and claims to feel a cold wind. The other girls follow... (full context)
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...and to make no signs of any sort. When Elizabeth enters, Danforth asks her whether Abigail and Proctor had an affair. Elizabeth hesitates, agonizing, then says no. As she's being led... (full context)
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Hysteria Theme Icon
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
Abigail screams again that Mary's spirit is attacking her. The girls start repeating whatever Mary says.... (full context)
Act 4
The Danger of Ideology Theme Icon
After a moment's indecision, Parris reveals that Abigail robbed him of thirty-one pounds and then ran off with Mercy Lewis. He thinks they... (full context)