The Salem witch trials caught the interest of playwright Arthur Miller; he saw relevance in the themes and was inspired to write The Crucible. The characters were drawn from a conglomerate of primary accounts, and based on reality. The play begins with a flustered Reverend Parris praying for Betty, his daughter, who is in a state of comatose. Earlier, Parris had heard a commotion in the forest and discovered his niece, Abigail, and her friends: Betty, Mary Warren, and Mercy Lewis, and Tituba, his Caribbean slave, swaying and dancing in the forest to Tituba's Barbados songs. Parris is shocked by their anti-Puritan actions and sinfulness. He reprimands Abigail, but the situation escalates once Betty's state is attributed to witchcraft. Reverend Hale, the walking encyclopedia on witchcraft, is called to quell the panic-stricken Salemites of their suspicion of witchcraft, but he cannot determine absolutely whether or not there has been some witchery. Busy-body Mrs. Putnam is convinced the devil is active in Salem, and she forces the notion upon Hale at every chance she can. On the other hand, Salem's resident logician, John Proctor, is irked by the inanity of the situation. .
Proctor is the voice of reason in Salem, but he has a secret; having taken part in coitus with Abigail, Proctor betrayed the sanctity of his marriage to Elizabeth. A panel of judges is set up to determine who is and isn't guilty, only, Abigail and her group of metaphorical sheep have transformed into God's agents, and the judges are prejudiced. The detritus of society is accused first, and those who refuse to pretend to save their souls by confessing, are hanged. Once those who have stance in society have begun to be accused, a problem arises. Rebbecca Nurse, the ideal Puritan and Christian, is accused of murdering Goody Putnam's babies. The court loses its credibility as more and more people are murdered, and riots spring up in defiance to the court.