Abigail Williams is the very antithesis of the Puritan people of Salem. They are religious, she is not. They have to repress their desires, with a creed that “forbade anything resembling a theatre or ‘vain enjoyment’”, and she does not. She goes on to try to seduce John Proctor, having had an affair with him before. I get the impression that she is a very dissembling person. One moment, she can be very innocent and the next, she can be very aggressive and manipulative.
When talking to her uncle Parris, she pretends to be innocent and claims that she and Betty had merely been dancing in the forest, not doing anything related to witchcraft. Since dancing is a seemingly harmless activity, we see Abigail as the victim here as her Parris keeps on pressing her for information and causes her to “lower her eyes”. This also gives the impression that she is submissive and is meek and respectful of Parris. She also answers Parris “in terror” at one point. One would not think of Abigail as a bad person at this point.
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However, when Elizabeth Proctor is mentioned, her character takes a complete turn as she turns nasty and lashes out, calling her a “bitter woman, a lying, cold, sniveling woman”. She is a completely different person from who she was when talking to Parris in the opening scenes.. She hardly conceals her resentment at him and has lost the image of being the “victim” altogether. Here, we see Abigail as a nasty person altogether. The aggressive side of her personality is shown when she talks to the girls.
Obviously, she has authority over them and does not hesitate to use this to her advantage. She threatens them, to make them fear her and listen to her. She can also be seen as manipulative because she knows how to use her authority to scare and make the girls do what she wants them to do. In this case, it is to hide the fact that she is guilty of witchcraft from everyone else. She even resorts to physical means to do this, using violence against Betty and Mary Warren. With John Proctor, her bad side vanished for a while.
She spoke in a flirty tone and went to jelly in front of him. Her feelings played a part in this, affecting her emotions and thus, the way she spoke. Once again, she might as well be a different person altogether! However, the nasty side of Abigail surfaces again when Proctor declines her advances. Abigail is a different person with different people. Her emotions affect the way she acts. Who she speaks to also affects it. We can tell who she is fond of and who she is not fond of simply by the way she speaks.
I also get the impression that she has a strong character. This is shown when she declared, “I’ll be whipped if I must be. ” Being on one of the lower rungs of the Salem social ladder, she might be the subject of scorn by the people of Salem, causing her to build a tougher character. This may also explain the motivations for her use of violence against the girls. When she has authority, which is not often, she will take advantage of it. Thus, she abuses the authority she has. Overall, Abigail Williams is a very complex character.