Heroism of Abigail and Elizabeth in the Play The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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In the world today, there are a large amount of double standards. One relating to the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller is dying for what you believe in or staying alive by self-preservation. Many characters in the play portray both sides of this double standard; good examples of this are Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams. According to Arthur Miller, certain characters’ heroism is based on their ability to refuse self-preservation.

Elizabeth Proctor is an honest and faithful wife to her husband, John. However, John has committed adultery, and after finding of his broken commandment she sends his mistress to the highroad- or fires her, and desperately tries to repair the marriage. John leaves to go into the town, and is gone longer than expected; having Elizabeth worried of another unfaithful act, she says, “You come so late I thought you’d gone to Salem this afternoon” (Miller 51).

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Elizabeth loves her husband dearly, enough to even talk to John about his actions and worry if it would ever happen again. She stays home all day and trusts him to make the right decisions while still keeping a Christian mind and home. Miller adds her doubt to show she hasn’t entirely trusted John yet but still she loves him dearly.

Later on in the book, after the accusations of witchcraft were spread throughout the town of Salem, it was no surprise that she was accused by her husband’s mistress, Abigail Williams. Once a suspect of witchery, Elizabeth stands for her innocence, she states to authorities, “I cannot think the Devil may own a woman’s soul…when she keeps an upright way, as I have” (Miller 70). Elizabeth at this point is knowledgeable of Abigail’s death wish upon her, but accusing another innocent person doesn’t suit to Elizabeth. She not only wishes to deny the accusation with the head of authority but also reasonat a logical and religious level. Miller adds in Elizabeth’s protest to amplify the intrepidness of her character.

Truly good souls unfortunately would not be embargoed from Abigail cruel and stern accusations. One of the most devastating souls however, is Mrs. Rebecca Nurse. During the play Rebecca Nurse tends to Betty and Ruth, two afflicted children of witchery, and awakens Betty. Mrs. Putnam, an odd woman who has only 1 out of 7 children alive, wonders if she could wake her child, Ruth. Her superstition of the Devil afflicting her womb leads to the accusation of Rebecca killing her late children.

At the end of the play while she awaits her death she states, “Why it is a lie, it is a lie; how can I damn myself. I cannot I cannot” (Miller 140). A kind and gentle woman was so bona fide to not only herself but to her loved ones that she was hung for not giving into self-preservation. Rebecca Nurse, along with many others, had been accused by Abigail Williams, and because they were bona fide or had a sense of pride they were hung. Miller adds in not only Rebecca’s death, but her character to show how corrupt and cruel the face of innocence can really be.

On the alternative side of the double standard, one character is the poster child for self- preservation; Abigail Williams. In the beginning of the play Abigail is caught dancing, with other girls from the village, and is questioned by her uncle Mr. Parris, whom caught her. In anger from him asking of Elizabeth Proctor putting her on the high road she yells, “My name is good in the village! I will not have it said my name is soiled! Goody Proctor is a gossiping liar!” (Miller 12)

Abigail has had an affair with Elizabeth’s husband, John, and she has fallen in love with him. Mrs. Proctor found out of the adultery afoot and put Abigail on the highroad. Miller added this scene to show the beginnings of Abigail’s’ rage and the source of her vengeance, that she despised Goody Proctor and would do anything to expel her from the romantic lives of herself and John. After she realized that accusing people would be the only way from the constant barrage of questions, she claims to see the spirits of witches and be stricken with curses.

During her first accusation she states, “She sends her spirit on me in church; she makes me laugh at prayer!” (Miller 44) Tituba is the first she accuses, not because she has a personal vendetta against her, but because she panics and needs a scapegoat for her crimes. Miller shows the intense self-preservation of Abigail Williams by having her blame an innocent woman, who is her family’s servant, to avoid punishment. She is quickly surmised since she is a child, although she takes advantage of her accreditation in the town.

In conclusion, Millers best representation of self-preservation is through three characters, Elizabeth Proctor, Rebecca Nurse and Abigail Williams. Elizabeth, the always truthful character shows complete restraint of self-preservation, as well as Rebecca Nurse. Abigail Williams however shows the side of self-preservation and how it can easily demolish a town by the act of mass hangings.

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Heroism of Abigail and Elizabeth in the Play The Crucible by Arthur Miller. (2023, Apr 12). Retrieved from


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