Act one begins with Reverend Parris praying over his daughter,
Betty Parris, who lies unconscious on her bed. Through conversations between
Reverend Parris and his niece Abigail Williams, and between several girls,
the audience learns that these girls, including Abigail and Betty, were
engaged in occultic activities in the forest lead by Tituba, Parris
slave from Barbados. Parris caught them and jumped from a bush startling
the girls. Betty fainted and had not recovered. During this session, Abigail
drank chicken blood to kill Elizabeth Proctor. She tells the girls that
she will kill anyone who mutters a word about what happened. The townspeople
do not know exactly what the girls were doing but there are rumors of witchcraft.
John Proctor enters the room where Betty lies faint. Abigail
is still in there and she tries to seduce him. Proctor is a farmer who has
had an affair with Abigail a while ago, but now he wants to forget it.
Reverend John Hale is summoned to look upon Betty and research
the incident. He is an expert in occultic phenomena and he is eager to show
his knowledge. He questions Abigail who accuses Tituba as being a witch.
Tituba, afraid of being hanged, confesses faith in God and accuses Goody
Good and Goody Osborne of witchcraft. Abigail and Betty, who has woken up,
claim to have been bewitched and confess faith in God. They name several
other people whom they claim they saw with the Devil.
The play begins by introducing the lifestyle in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692
and the main characters. The Puritans were an extremely pious group of people
who believed that it was important to stifle all natural human desires and
any form of individuality was condemned. Supernatural powers were used to
hold people in line and spread fear within the town. People in the town allowed
their fear of witches and the devil to interfere with their rational thinking.
Women were expected to obey men and sublimate any of their own needs.
The Puritans were very religious and the church was very important in their
daily life. Most people were scared of modern things as they felt that any
form of change could destroy the church. They believed in the devil and that
you could make pacts with him. It was a horrible sin to lie.
John Proctor, is a rational man with a brusque manner who, like Giles Corey,
has no qualms about expressing his opinion. He had to deal with the fact that
he had an affair with Abigail and broke the trust between Elizabeth and him.
He sinned, and the people of the town would have condemned him, if they knew.
Abigaila is portrayed as a vicious young woman who will do and say anything
to keep herself out of trouble. She has no qualms of lying and cheating and
eagerly pushes for having the witch trials.
The themes of revenge and fear are introduced. The girls and the accusers
named people whom they did not like and wanted to harm them. Fear of the devil
allowed the witch trials to materialize..