Abigail Williams in the Crucible Essay:
Abigail Williams (1681 – 1697), niece of Reverend Samuel Parris, played a significant role in the case of the witches of Salem and is a central character in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible.
Although this piece is based on the true facts of the Salem witch trials, it is nevertheless not entirely accurate a historical perspective. To accentuate the dramatic tension, Arthur Miller’s Abigail Williams was an older character. In the play, she has indeed 17 years old and has an affair with John Proctor, who was younger, too, about thirty years old. The real Abigail was only 11 years old and lived more than 18 miles from the farm Proctor: distance very significant at the time, making almost impossible any link.
Real Abigail Williams was an orphan, having lost their parents in a clash with Indians. She lived in the house of her uncle, the revival preacher Samuel Parris. Her uncle Parris came from London and emigrated in the early 1660s with his family for religious reasons. After studying at Harvard and entered after the death of his father on his legacy in Barbados, a sugar plantation. There he bought the Caribbean slave Tituba. After 1680, when a hurricane had destroyed his plantation, he sold some land and returned to Boston and took Tituba with him. He married Elizabeth Eldridge, with whom he had three children named Thomas Parris, Elizabeth “Betty” Parris (1682 – 1760) and Susannah Parris. The income from his trade and the plantation were not enough and he looked around for a pastorate. 1689 he was appointed pastor of the strict Puritan community of Salem.
The focus of his sermons was on the battle between God and Satan’s chosen people. Between Parris and his church there was a tension, so this tension led among other things to the persecution of witches, whose first victims were his daughter and niece.
In winter 1691/1692 Abigail Williams and Betty Parris began to behave erratically. According to the eyewitness Deodatus Reverend Lawson, Parris predecessor, the two children had seizures during which she ran with her arms flailing through the room, ducked under chairs, trying to climb up the chimney, spoken strange languages and contorted their bodies unnaturally. The villagers of Salem was worried. Abigail was accused by the neighbors to hex her cousin. The physician William Griggs diagnosed after detailed examination and the exclusion of all the known mental disorders that the girls were possessed by the devil. The girls seemed to be dislocated by the invisible hand of the devil. Abigail and Elizabeth confirmed this by describing how they should be tormented by invisible hands.
However, it is possible that there was a food poisoning with ergot, which the children could have taken during their voodoo games where they were involved by Tituba.
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