Was Abigail Williams Solely Responsible

3 March 2017

In a town where people saw the devil lurking behind every corner and the reason behind all misfortunes being the result of some sin, when the cry of witchcraft rung through the town via the lips of Abigail Williams people were more than willing to believe that the devil was alive in Salem. But was it solely due to Abigail that the events that followed and consequently the witch trials took place? Though the primary offender it is not her actions alone that provoked nor exacerbated the situation.

There were many others involved that largely contributed to prolonging the witchcraft hysteria. Such people include Reverend John Hale and the leading judge of the trials deputy governor Danforth. Abigail bears most of the responsibility for the activities that occurred in the woods. Once discovered she finds herself attempting to conceal her behaviour for if she confesses she will be inclined to expose her affair with John Proctor, a married man. Instead she shifts the focus from herself by accusing others of witchcraft.

Was Abigail Williams Solely Responsible Essay Example

This desperate act of self-preservation soon becomes her means of power. With an unrelenting willingness to discard Puritan code, Abigail is independent and believes that nothing is impossible nor beyond her grasp. These qualities often lead to creativity and a thirst for life, but she lacks a conscience to keep herself in check. Possessing shrewd insight and a capacity for strategy, declaring witchcraft provided her with instant status and recognition within Salem, which transposed into power.

Using this new authority to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, she tells lies, manipulates her friends and the entire town in an attempt to hide her sins, threatening those who dare oppose here. (ABIGAIL: “mark this. Let 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”). It is due to these actions that suspicions were aroused and the Salem witch trials began.

Abigail may be wicked, but judge Danforth represents something much more antagonising; tyranny. Ruling the courtroom like a dictator, Danforth is an icy character that firmly believes that Abigail and the other girls are incapable of lying. His gullibility is exceeded only by his self-righteousness and belief that his perception is flawless. Dominating everyone who enters his courtroom and with an inability to comprehend the girl’s wickedness, Danforth yells and interrogates all who stand before him, with the exception of Abigail, whom he often appears to embarrassed to accuse of any lascivious activity.

Even in ACT 4 when it becomes blatantly clear that the allegations of witchcraft are indeed completely false, Danforth stagnantly refuses to acknowledge the truth. He continues to hang innocent people to refrain from sullying his reputation (DANFORTH: “postponement now speaks a floundering on my part reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them died till now”). Danforth is a stern yet practical man, more interested in preserving the dignity and stature of the court, then in executing justice or behaving with any sense of fairness.

He approaches the trials with a strict adherence to rules and law that obscures any sense of rationality. Danforth demonstrates that his greatest interest lies in maintaining the reputation of the court. As a result it is he who is accountable for the deaths and imprisonment of those falsely accused as well as holding responsibility for prolonging the witchcraft trials. Reverend John Hale’s faith and his belief in the individual divide him. He comes to Salem in response to a call for his expertise. His job, to diagnose witchcraft if it is present.

Hale devotes himself to his faith and his work, his good intentions and sincere desire to help motivated him. Unfortunately he is also vulnerable. His fanaticism to discover witchcraft allows others to manipulate him. The amount of what Hale believes to be evidence of witchcraft when he initially arrives in Salem overwhelms him. Although he remains determined not to declare witchcraft unless he can prove its existence, the expectations of the people of Salem consume him and as a result he believes their evidence without question, rather than investigating it himself. HALE: “have no fear now-we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face”). A committed Christian and hater of witchcraft, Hale allows the vigour of the community to prevail over his common sense and in doing so declares the presence of witchcraft and the devil in Salem. Consequently it is his arrival and his actions that follow shortly after that set the hysteria in motion. Although Abigail Williams may have instigated the Salem witch trials, there were other factors at work that helped to sustain their occurrence.

Reverend John Hale and Judge Danforth are both widely respected men, they both possess a critical mind and are very intelligent individuals. It is their weaknesses however that fail them. Both so intent on upholding their good names, they become blind to the truth and allow others to take advantage of them and in doing so aided the violent incident that was the Salem witch trials. Thus establishing that though Abigail’s role in the incident was great it was not her alone that partook in its incidence.

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