The play begins with a group of teenage girls from the small Puritan village of Salem, Massachusetts dancing in the nearby woods with Reverend Parris's black female slave from Barbados named Tituba in the year 1962. Reverend Parris catches the girls in the act. The next day, Reverend Parris's daughter and Thomas Putnam's daughter fall ill and become inert. A rumor that witchcraft may play a role in their bizzare sicknesses spreads like wildfire throughout the small town. In an effort to prove the rumor false and save his reputation, Mr. Parris calls on Reverend Hale of Beverly, an expert at identifying witchcraft, to examine the girls. Since Abigail, Parris's niece, was the alleged "ringleader" of the group, Mr. Parris asks her if the girls were only dancing. She insists they were, and secretly tells the other girls to say the same if they are asked any questions. Soon, Betty Parris awakes and begins to scream at the sound of the Lord's name. Shortly after, an argument between the men in the room which includes Mr. John Proctor, Reverend Parris, Mr. Giles Corey, and Mr. Thomas Putnam ensues revealing the issue of land disputes and growing tension among the neighbors in Salem. Following many accusations of witchcraft, Abigail accuses Tituba of having dealings with the Devil. Tituba confesses to witchcraft and begins to accuse other women in the town of also being involved with the Devil. Soon, the teenage girls begin adding fuel to the fire by naming women in the town who they saw with the devil. Later, at the Proctor household, Mary Warren, the Proctors' servant and one of the girls involved in the accusations, warns Elizabeth Proctor that Abigail has accused her of being a witch. Earlier in the novel, through a private conversation between Abigail and John Proctor, the reader learns that Abigail and John had an affair while Abigail was the Proctors' servant. She was fired when John's wife, Elizabeth, discovered the affair. Abigail has wanted to be with John ever since. Later that night, Reverend Hale pays a visit to the Proctor household to question John and Elizabeth about their poor church attendance. Both John and Elizabeth know that Abigail only accused Elizabeth of witchcraft because she wants to be John's wife. To clear Elizabeth's name, John wants Mary Warren to testify in court that the girls' accusations are false. Instead, she accuses John of being a witch. Elizabeth is spared from the gallows because she is pregnant. In the fall, riots flare in nearby towns because the citizens feel that the witchcraft accusations are false. To escape punishment, Abigail and Mercy Lewis steal Reverend Parris's money and run away from Salem. Reverend Hale convinces Elizabeth to get John to confess to witchcraft so that he will not be hanged. John confesses, but he refuses to make his confession public. So, he is hanged at the gallows with the other accused witches. The trials end soon after his death.