Summary and Analysis
Act I: Scene 2
Abigail and Mercy, the Putnams' servant, try to wake Betty. Abigail tells Mercy what to say when she is questioned about what she was doing in the woods. She informs Mercy that Parris knows they were dancing in the woods. She also says he knows Tituba called to Ruth's dead sisters. Abigail reveals that Mercy is the female that Parris saw running naked through the woods.
Mary Warren enters the room and tells Abigail that everyone in Salem blames witchcraft for Betty's illness. The idea that the townspeople will label her and the other girls witches frightens and worries Marry Warren. The three girls begin to argue and Betty wakes.
Abigail tells Betty that Parris knows everything they did in the woods. Betty confronts Abigail and accuses her of not admitting she drank blood. She also accuses her of casting a spell in order to kill Goody Proctor. Threatening to practice witchcraft on Betty, Mercy, and Mary Warren if they tell anyone about the spell, Abigail tells them to say that they only danced, that Tituba raised Ruth's sisters from the dead, and that nothing else happened. Betty collapses again in a stupor.
As the action of the play begins, the girls' behavior in the woods introduces deception as a major theme. Abigail is the instigator. Whereas the other girls may have participated in the rituals out of curiosity, Abigail has a definite agenda. She has experienced sexual pleasure with John Proctor and now wants to kill Proctor's wife, Elizabeth. Abigail realizes that the Puritanical society will never permit Proctor to leave his wife for her, and that he does not want to leave his wife anyway. The only way that Abigail can legitimately obtain Proctor within the bounds of society is for Elizabeth to die, giving Proctor the opportunity to marry again. Thus, from the very beginning, Abigail's desire to possess Proctor motivates her, driving her to drink blood and cast a spell on Elizabeth. Once Parris discovers her in the woods, Abigail resorts to deception in order to prevent others from discovering that she practiced witchcraft and to hide her affair with Proctor. Either one of these offenses would result in severe punishment at the hands of society.
Abigail uses intimidation to create an atmosphere of fear that pervades the entire play. Abigail first demonstrates her penchant for terrorizing others in her threat to the girls: "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 . . . I can make you wish you had never seen the sun go down!" This threat foreshadows Abigail's accusations of witchcraft against others. Just as she threatens to harm the other girls through conjurings and witchcraft if they do not do as she says, so Abigail later carefully eliminates her enemies by accusing them of witchcraft. What begins as a simple act of self-preservation quickly turns into an opportunity to achieve power — and, ultimately, John Proctor.
grand peeping courage behavior or attribute of someone who is too frightened to participate in a ritual, but will watch others participate..
pointy reckoning the act or process of getting even or getting revenge.