The Salem Witch Trials in The Crucible by Arthur Miller



“The Crucible” is based on the event of the witch trials that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts during 1692. At the beginning of the story, a few girls are caught dancing in the woods. Afraid of getting in trouble, the girls claimed they were bewitched. This accusation resulted in the town going into a series of investigations to find out who could be the culprit of practicing witchcraft. Abigail Williams is one of the girls who will do anything in her power to make sure she will not get in trouble. Due to her fear of getting caught and maliciousness, she starts blaming numerous people in the town who are “guilty” for the witchcraft, which makes her the main instigator of the witch trials.

Early on, Abigail is depicted as a jealous girl who wants John Proctor all to herself. When John says, “Abby, I may think softly of you from time to time, but I’ll cut off my hand before I’ll ever reach for you again” (Miller 23), Abigail becomes infuriated because his wife, Elizabeth Proctor, is getting in the way of their love, and if she were dead, then Abigail and John could get married. In order to get rid of Elizabeth, Abigail sends Cheever to the Proctor's house in order to look for signs of witchery. Cheever then tells them the story,“...he goes to save her, and stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly, he draws a needle out. And demanding’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she-to Proctor now-testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in” (Miller 74), and basically implies that Eliabeth used voodoo to stab Abigail through the doll, even though Abigail knows that the doll was not used to stab her. She just wants Elizabeth to be out of the picture.

Throughout the play, Abigail has lied multiple times and hoaxes the town, which causes innocent people to get hurt. She threatens the girls from the woods by saying, “...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...I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!” (Miller 20). She does not want to be caught in her web of lies, so she intimidates the rest of the girls into not telling the truth, and following her deceptions. When Abigail goes against Mary Warren, she starts, “...looking about in the air, clasping her arms about her as though cold:  I-I know not. A wind, a cold wind, has come. Her eyes fall on Mary Warren” (Miller 108) in order to make it seem as if Mary was using witchery on her. Then the rest of the girls join in out of fear of being accused just like Mary. The lies and manipulation of Abigail cause many of the townspeople to get falsely accused due to her being able to scare many people, which leads to many witch trials. 

Overall, Abigail Williams actions are the ones mostly responsible for instigating the witch trials. Her selfishness, jealousy, lies, and greed made it too hard for her to face the truth, so as a result, she caused many good people in Salem, Massachusetts to suffer for her actions. Instead of running away from her fear of getting punished, she should not have accused people of being witches, or manipulated people who might have exposed the truth.