Divergence in Character: Abigail Williams vs. Elizabeth Proctor

Categories: Abigail Williams


The exploration of difference, a central theme in Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible," unfolds through the contrasting characters of Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor. This theatrical masterpiece delves into the historical backdrop of the Salem witch trials, illuminating a diverse array of characters. Abigail emerges as the deceptive accuser, driven by malice, while Elizabeth stands as the virtuous victim, wrongfully accused. This essay delves into the profound distinctions between these characters, analyzing their motivations, actions, and the consequences of their choices.

Deception and Motivations: Abigail Williams

The stark differences between Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor are rooted in their divergent motivations and approaches to deception. Abigail, the teenage adulteress, epitomizes deception as a means of self-preservation and manipulation. Discovered in an affair with John Proctor, Elizabeth's husband, Abigail resorts to fabricating stories and falsely accusing others to evade the consequences of her actions. Her cunning nature surfaces as she uses the hysteria of the witch trials to her advantage, exploiting the fear and paranoia gripping Salem.

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Abigail's deceptive tactics are fueled by jealousy, scheming, and loneliness. The affair with John Proctor leaves her yearning for more, and her jealousy drives her to maliciously accuse Elizabeth of witchcraft, hoping to eliminate her romantic rival. Abigail's actions reveal a complex character motivated by personal desires and a willingness to manipulate others to achieve her goals. Her character stands as the antagonist, embodying the darker aspects of human nature.

Furthermore, Abigail's deceit extends beyond personal desires to a broader desire for control and dominance.

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In the tightly-knit community of Salem, where social structures are rigid, Abigail seizes the opportunity to wield power through manipulation. The witch trials provide a platform for her to control the fate of others, instilling fear and establishing herself as a figure to be reckoned with. This power dynamic adds layers to Abigail's character, showcasing her as not only a deceiver but also a shrewd opportunist.

Virtue and Forgiveness: Elizabeth Proctor

In stark contrast to Abigail, Elizabeth Proctor exemplifies virtue and forgiveness. Her character is defined by religious devotion, trustworthiness, and a deep sense of love for her family. Despite the profound betrayal of her husband's affair with Abigail, Elizabeth does not resort to creating problems through deceit. Instead, her concerns revolve around the well-being of her husband and children. Elizabeth's actions are guided by a genuine and forgiving nature, especially when faced with the challenge of saving John's life.

Elizabeth becomes aware of John's confession and impending execution. This moment becomes a turning point where her forgiveness shines through. She forgives her husband for his transgressions, recognizing the depth of his love and the complexity of human frailty. This act of forgiveness stands in stark contrast to Abigail's vengeful and manipulative behavior, emphasizing Elizabeth's role as a guiding and mentoring character in the narrative.

Moreover, Elizabeth's resilience and strength in the face of adversity further distinguish her character. Wrongfully accused of witchcraft, she maintains her composure and refuses to succumb to the pressure of the false accusations. Elizabeth's stoicism becomes a symbol of moral fortitude, challenging the prevailing narrative of Salem and standing as a testament to the enduring power of integrity.

Consequences and Morality

The consequences of Abigail and Elizabeth's actions reverberate throughout the narrative, reflecting the broader moral landscape of Salem. Abigail's deceit leads to chaos, with innocent lives being destroyed in the wake of her false accusations. The pervasive fear she instills exposes the fragility of morality in the face of manipulation and unchecked power.

On the other hand, Elizabeth's moral compass becomes a guiding light, even in the darkest moments. Her forgiveness becomes a catalyst for redemption, influencing John Proctor's decision to maintain his integrity and refuse a false confession. In this pivotal moment, the play underscores the transformative power of forgiveness and the resilience of virtuous character in the face of moral quandaries.

Furthermore, the juxtaposition of Abigail and Elizabeth serves as a commentary on the complexities of human nature and morality. Abigail's descent into deceit and manipulation exposes the darker impulses within individuals, driven by personal desires and a hunger for power. In contrast, Elizabeth's moral strength reflects the potential for redemption and the enduring capacity for forgiveness, even in the crucible of false accusations and societal hysteria.


In conclusion, the characters of Abigail Williams and Elizabeth Proctor in "The Crucible" embody the profound divergence in human character and morality. Abigail's deception and manipulation reveal the darker facets of human nature, driven by personal desires and a hunger for control. In contrast, Elizabeth stands as a symbol of virtue, forgiveness, and resilience, showcasing the enduring power of morality even in the face of adversity.

As the play unfolds, Arthur Miller crafts a nuanced exploration of morality, deceit, and redemption, using Abigail and Elizabeth as vessels for these profound themes. The contrasting paths these characters take serve as a mirror to the complexities inherent in the human experience, inviting the audience to reflect on the choices that define individual character and the consequences that ripple through society.

Written by Liam Williams
Updated: Jan 18, 2024
Keep in mind: this is only a sample!
Updated: Jan 18, 2024
Cite this page

Divergence in Character: Abigail Williams vs. Elizabeth Proctor. (2016, Nov 27). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/love-over-lust-elizabeth-proctor-vs-abigail-williams-essay

Divergence in Character: Abigail Williams vs. Elizabeth Proctor essay
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