Study Guide

The Crucible Jealousy

By Arthur Miller


Act I
Abigail Williams

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.

Act II
Elizabeth Proctor

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.

Deputy Governor Danforth

PROCTOR, breathless and in agony: It [Abigail] is a whore!
DANFORTH, dumfounded: You charge—?
ABIGAIL: Mr. Danforth, he is lying!
PROCTOR: Mark her! Now she'll suck a scream to stab me with but—
DANFORTH: You will prove this! This will not pass!
PROCTOR, trembling, his life collapsing about him: I have known her, sir. I have known her.
DANFORTH: You—you are a lecher?
FRANCIS, horrified: John, you cannot say such a—
PROCTOR: Oh, Francis, I wish you had some evil in you that you might know me. (To Danforth:) A man will not cast away his good name. You surely know that.
DANFORTH, dumfounded: In—in what time? In what place?
PROCTOR, his voice about to break, and his shame great: In the proper place—where my beasts are bedded. On the last night of my joy, some eight months past. She used to serve me in my house, sir. (He has to clamp his jaw to keep from weeping.) A man may think God sleeps, but God sees everything, I know it now. I beg you, sir, I beg you—see her what she is. My wife, my dear good wife, took this girl soon after, sir, and put her out on the highroad. And being what she is, a lump of vanity, sir— (He is being overcome.) Excellency, forgive me, forgive me. (Angrily against himself, he turns away from the Governor for a moment. Then, as though to cry out is his only means of speech left:) She thinks to dance with me on my wife's grave! And well she might, for I thought of her softly. God help me, I lusted, and there is a promise in such sweat. But it is a whore's vengeance, and you must see it now. (III.374-384)

Proctor reveals Abigail’s true motivations, jealousy and desire, at great personal cost to himself. If had made the revelation earlier, perhaps it could have prevented the tragedy of the witch-hunt.

Deputy Governor Danforth

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.