The Presentation of Abigail Williams in Act I of the Crucible by Arthur Miller

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How does Miller present the character Abigail in Act I?

We are first introduced to the ‘strikingly beautiful’ Abigail Williams in Act I of one of Arthur Miller’s most acclaimed works The Crucible. She is a dominant figure in the play who is both malicious and manipulative. She is astute and knows how to use power to her own advantage by all means possible. She is a marvellous antagonist with vengeful desires and vehicle for the mass hysteria which becomes a key theme later in the play.

Abigail’s dominance as a character is apparent from the opening scene when poor Betty Parris lies in bed overcome by a mysterious trance with both Tituba and Reverend Parris also present in the somewhat dull, ‘unmellowed’ room. The setting set by Miller is typical of the furnishings of Puritans; simple and functional with only ‘a chest, a chair and a small table’. As Abigail Williams enters the room Miller describes her as being ‘strikingly beautiful’. This is a particularly strong image as the room she has entered has nothing particular of interest yet Abigail is striking. This suggests that Abigail has a strong presence and foregrounds her role in the play. Throughout the first act, we learn more about Abigail’s dominance and authority over other characters within the play. We see the power that Abigail has over Betty Parris where she commands for Betty to ‘sit up now!’ and ‘stop!’, whilst shaking her. These short, snappy commands make Abigail appear to have authority. The way in which she orders Betty to ‘stop’ is almost like she is more of a surrogate mother angrily shouting her child, which in this case is Betty. Although we know that she is Betty’s cousin, some audiences may see Abigail as this mother figure involuntarily and subconsciously – giving Abigail a more dominant role and higher status. Progressing through the opening act, we learn that Abigail possesses a shrewd insight, as she is presented with a sharp awareness, as being astute and quick minded. We also...
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