Abigail Williams (Salem witch trials)
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|Born||July 12, 1680|
|Died||Unknown, possibly by 1697|
|Known for||First accuser in the Salem witch trials|
|Home town||Salem, Massachusetts Bay Colony|
Salem Witch Trials
Abigail and her cousin, Elizabeth Parris, were the first two accusers in the Salem Witch trials of 1692. Williams was eleven years old at the time and she was living with her uncle Samuel Parris in Salem after a raid by Native Americans resulted in the kidnapping of her parents. According to Rev. Deodat Lawson, an eyewitness, she and Elizabeth began to have fits in which they ran around rooms flailing their arms, ducking under chairs and trying to climb up the chimney. It is claimed that her body contorted into apparently impossible positions.
This troubled many of the villagers of Salem. Rev. Samuel Parris, the local minister, decided to call in a doctor to determine whether or not these afflictions were medical. The physician, William Griggs, had difficulties understanding the actions of the two young girls. Griggs believed it was not a medical issue, rather, he suggested it must be witchcraft. One of Parris’ slaves, Tituba, was then asked to bake a witch cake — rye mixed with the afflicted girls' urine— and feed the mixture to a dog. The theory was that if Abigail and Elizabeth were bewitched, the dog would exhibit similar symptoms and prove that witchcraft was indeed present and being practiced.
Because of Abigail and Elizabeth's claims to be possessed, false accusations would soon be made, resulting in 20 deaths. On February 29, 1692, three women were arrested for suspicion of witchcraft: Sarah Good, Sarah Osborne and Tituba herself. They were all found guilty, but the only one to confess was Tituba. Since the other two women did not confess, Good was hanged, and Osborne died in prison. Tituba was released from jail a year later, when an unknown person paid her fees for release. Abigail and Elizabeth's accusations rapidly spread throughout Salem and nearby villages (especially Andover), leading to the imprisonment of many people and the deaths of 19 during that period (1692-93) alone.
In 1976, Linnda R. Caporael put forward the theory that these strange symptoms may have been caused by ergotism, the ingestion of fungus-infected rye. This explanation has not been widely accepted.
Abigail Williams is a major character in the play The Crucible by Arthur Miller, but she is portrayed as 17 years old. It is gradually revealed that she has been dancing in the woods with the girls of Salem and performing voodoo rituals with her uncle's slave, Tituba. When rumors begin to circulate that there is witchcraft in the town, Abigail and Betty Parris start to name people as witches in order to divert suspicion from themselves. Additionally, in The Crucible, Abigail has previously worked as a maid at the Proctor household and had an affair with John Proctor. Hoping to marry John, Abigail accuses John's wife Elizabeth of witchcraft in the hopes that Elizabeth will be executed. In the 1957 and 1996 film adaptations of the play, Abigail was portrayed by Mylène Demongeot and Winona Ryder, respectively.
She was also featured in the 2010 film The Sorcerer's Apprentice as a minor antagonist. Horvath, the film's main antagonist, releases her from a magical prison called "The Grimhold" and uses her to kidnap the love interest of the main protagonist, Dave. After the kidnapping is complete, Horvath absorbs Abigail's powers and steals her pentagram amulet which channels her power. By doing so, Horvath becomes more powerful and is finally able to free his master, Morgana.
- Yost, Melissa (2002). "Abigail Williams". Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project. Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia. Retrieved 16 March 2014.
- Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974 (pp. 2-3)
- Boyer and Stephen Nissenbaum, Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974 (p. 3).
- Games, Alison. Witchcraft in Early North America. Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010 (p. 176)
- Hall, David. Witch Hunting in Seventeenth Century New England. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1999 (pp. 280-81)
- Ergotism: The Satan Loosed in Salem? - Science, vol. 192, April 1976
- "Were the witches of Salem a result of poisoning with ergot fungus?". Retrieved June 18, 2015.
- "1702, Exploring Aftermath of The Crucible, Will Play Cincinnati".
- Bowar, Chad (November 19, 2008). "Abigail Williams Interview: A Conversation with Thomas G. Plaguehammer and Ken Sorceron". About.com: Heavy Metal. About.com. Retrieved February 6, 2010.
- "iTunes - Music - Abigail's Cross". apple.com. Retrieved May 22, 2015.