Abigail is very adept at controlling situations to an extent, helping her own gains while hindering others. This is very well illustrated when she screams ‘Mary’ and changes the whole situation around, from concentrating on her to focusing on the person who accuses her. She also starts to accuse Proctor later on when attention shifts towards her and she is almost exposed, when Proctor admits to ‘lechery’.
Its alarming how Proctor changes the situation completely by ‘leaping’ at Abigail, an act of physical violence in desperation that for a moment turns sympathies towards the ‘suffering’ girl and away from Proctor. Abigail is a loan shark in this match, the one with bets all over the place. Whatever the outcome, she will be the one benefiting most from the fight. This simile is quite adept for this situation, as the tension in this Act is almost the same as that which might be present at a fight.
Abigail plays this scene, “crying to Heaven” when she thinks its appropriate and handing out threats left and right when that does not work. Some may think that judge Danforth is the one in charge of the proceedings, but it is in fact Abigail who plays Danforth’s emotions, using the fact he sees her as a ‘child’ some times to get to him. Miller uses these powerful characters, Abigail and Danforth, and their battle for supremacy as a sideline.
Danforth’s unending patience and calm always restore some peace in the proceedings, saying ‘this will not pass’, showing that his judgement is required for all things. But instead it is in fact Proctor who is the real voice of reason; he knows Abigail is a ‘whore’ and a ‘pretender’. Danforth is too easily swayed by the theatrics of the girls, asks if Mary ‘witches’ Abigail and has a real look of ‘engagement’, but Proctor fights with his last breath, for his last breath does depend on whether he convinces the judge the girls are fakes or not.
His ‘hysterical’ outbreak just before he admits his crime of lechery when he grabs on to Abigail by the hair instantly instigates a collective gasp from everyone. This feat of violence takes the tension up a notch, the tension then increased even further when he admits that he has ‘known’ Abigail, putting his name on the line, diverting feelings of empathy towards himself momentarily, wining a small battle, but not the war.