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ABIGAIL, with a bitter anger: Oh, I marvel how such a strong man may let such a sickly wife be-
PROCTOR, angered-at himself as well: You'll speak nothin' of Elizabeth!
ABIGAIL: She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold, sniveling woman, and you bend to her! Let her turn you like a-
PROCTOR, shaking her: Do you look for whippin'? (I.202-205)
Though Abigail pretends she’s angry at Elizabeth Proctor for damaging her reputation, the more powerful emotion is envy of Elizabeth for her marriage to John Proctor. Here she resorts to petty name-calling in order to cast doubt in John’s mind.
ELIZABETH: John, with so many in jail, more than Cheever’s help is needed now, I think. Would you favor me with this? Go to Abigail.
PROCTOR, his soul hardening as he senses..: What have I to say to Abigail?
ELIZABETH, delicately: John-grant me this. You have a faulty understanding of young girls. There is a promise made in any bed-
PROCTOR, striving against his anger: What promise!
ELIZABETH: Spoke or silent, a promise is surely made. And she may dote on it now-I am sure she does-and thinks to kill me, then to take my place.
Proctor's anger is rising; he cannot speak.
ELIZABETH: It is her dearest hope, I know it. There be a thousand names; why does she call mine? There be a certain danger in calling such a name-I am no Goody Good that sleeps in ditches, nor Osburn, drunk and half-witted. She’d dare not call out such a farmer’s wife but there be monstrous profit in it. She thinks to take my place, John. (II.162-168)
Elizabeth points out that Abigail’s behavior, and her sudden accusation of Elizabeth, is motivated by jealousy and the possible benefit she might gain if Elizabeth dies. Proctor has a hard time coming around to see the truth of this point.
DANFORTH, sharply to Parris: Bring her out! And tell her not one word of what's been spoken here. And let you knock before you enter. Parris goes out. Now we shall touch the bottom of this swamp. To Proctor: Your wife, you say, is an honest woman.
PROCTOR: In her life, sir, she have never lied. There are them that cannot sing, and them that cannot weep-my wife cannot lie. I have paid much to learn it, sir.
DANFORTH: And when she put this girl out of your house, she put her out for a harlot?
PROCTOR: Aye, sir.
DANFORTH: And knew her for a harlot?
PROCTOR: Aye, sir, she knew her for a harlot.
DANFORTH: Good then. To Abigail: And if she tell me, child, it were for harlotry, may God spread His mercy on you! (III.390-396)
Danforth is horrified by the realization that Abigail’s accusations may be based on personal revenge and jealousy. In order to preserve his self-respect, he has to ignore this possibility and focus on vilifying Proctor.