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In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, the key accusers of the infamous Witch trials that occurred in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692 were a group of young girls and their ringleader was Abigail Willaims, the antagonist of the play. They symbolize how the United States feared Communism in the 1960s during the Cold War, and how many accusations were raised about certain American citizens being Communist spies.
In The Crucible
Prior to the events of the play, Abigail Williams and her associates went into the forests with Parris' housemaid Tituba to practice witchcraft. Their intention was to create a charm and use it to kill John Proctor's, our protagonist's, wife Elizabeth "Goody" Proctor. When Abigail's uncle, Reverend Samuel Parris, was walking through the woods at night, he witnesses his daughter Betty and his niece Abigail dancing around the bonfire with these other girls all while Tituba was leading them in a song which was sung with her Barbados tongue. All of a sudden, chaos ensued, and one of the girls stripped naked, and Betty fell into unconsciousness.
Fearing that there might be witchcraft in his house, Parris called the witchcraft expert Reverend Hale into Salem to diagnose his daughter. Abigail later manipulates her accomplices into helping her accuse other people of witchcraft and then threatened to murder them all if they resisted her plan to get John Proctor.
Throughout the play, hundreds of people are accused of witchcraft, and many were executed while some were thrown into prison to await their trials. Eventually, as Abigail had hoped, Elizabeth is accused of being a witch and is thrown into prison. Mary Warren did feel some remorse for everything that had transpired because of her and the other girls' lies and admits to John that they had deceived the people into believing that those accused were indeed witches.
Feeling confident about Mary's confession, Proctor takes her to the court in Salem to confess to the judges about the girls' lies. However, the girls and Abigail were brought into the court, and they immediately started pretending that Mary's spirit had come out of her body and was attacking them. Fearing for her life if she was accused of being a witch, Mary immediately proclaimed that John himself was the Devil's man, and he is sentenced to hang. Both Reverend Parris and Reverend Hale attempted to convince John to lie to save his own life, but John chooses to hang, and he is hanged the next day. The girls were not punished for their crimes, even though it's believed that the girl's ringleader, Abigail, became a prostitute at a young age, and died soonafter.
Members of Abigail's Group of Girls
- Abigail Williams (ringleader, Reverend Parris' niece)
- Mary Warren (servant of the Proctor home)
- Betty Parris (Reverend Parris' daughter)
- Mercy Lewis (servant of the Putnam house)