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As Abigail speaks, a psalm is heard; it is being sung in the background. Betty begins screaming. Parris rushes in, followed by the Putnams and Mercy Lewis. Abigail tells Parris that Betty began screaming when she heard him sing his psalm. Mrs. Putnam claims that Betty is unable to stand hearing the Lord's name and that she is undeniably possessed. Parris sends Mercy to report to Dr. Griggs.
Rebecca Nurse, a good and sincere woman, enters and is followed by Giles Corey, a local farmer. Putnam has some grudge against Rebecca and her husband, Francis, as a result of some land dispute. Putnam is also against Parris, for he was selected as minister over another candidate whom he had sponsored.
Rebecca assures both Parris and Putnam that their daughters will soon be well and that there is no cause for worry. She says that in childhood some unusual sicknesses are common and that there is no need to go looking for spirits as a cause. John Proctor supports her. Parris declares that in order to stop the rumors that the Devil is present in the community, he has invited Reverend Hale, who is an expert in such matters, to come and take suitable action. Proctor objects and says that he should not have done so without having had a village meeting first. Putnam, however, supports the action and accuses Rebecca of being in league with the Devil, for all but one of his children have died in infancy while none of her children or grandchildren have died.
Putnam instructs Parris to start looking for witches when Reverend Hale arrives. Proctor says that the citizens of Salem "vote by name...not by acreage" and that Putnam cannot order Parris to do something not sanctioned by a town meeting. When Putnam accuses Proctor of not attending church, Proctor answers that Parris' sermons are more about Hell than God and that Parris is more concerned about his own well being than the welfare of his parish. Parris, in turn, complains that the town is not meeting its contractual obligations to him and accuses Proctor of creating a clique against him. Rebecca Nurse tries to diffuse the tension.
Proctor starts to leave, saying that he has some lumber to bring in. Putnam objects, saying that the lumber is from land belonging to him. Proctor maintains that he recently purchased the land from Rebecca Nurse's husband. Putnam counters by saying that Nurse had no ownership right over the land. Giles Corey sides with Proctor and offers to help him bring in the timber.
Just then Reverend Hale arrives from Beverly, carrying several books. He recognizes Rebecca, though they have never met, and praises the good work she is doing, about which he has heard much in Beverly.
Putnam and his wife are introduced to Hale and report that their child is also suffering. Proctor leaves, expressing his hope that Hale will decide the issues sensibly. Giles remains to consult Hale about some matter.
Reverend Parris informs Hale that his daughter tried to leap from the window and was found roaming on the road, waiving her arms as if to fly. Putnam adds that she cannot stand hearing the Lord's name. Hale declines to listen to these rumors and superstitions and says that he will ask questions to ascertain facts without any prejudice. On being questioned by Hale, Parris says that he saw ten to twelve girls, including his daughter and niece, dancing in the forest the previous night. Mrs. Putnam says that she had sent her daughter to Tituba to raise the spirits of her seven daughters so as to find out who had caused their deaths.
Reverend Hale consults his books and promises that he will crush Satan if he is present. Rebecca leaves, fearing Hale's rituals may hurt Betty. Giles mentions that his wife reads some strange books at night and hides them from him. He also says that when she is reading the books, he is unable to remember or recite the words of his prayers. He wants to know why this happens. (In the written commentary in the script, Miller suggests that this is due more to Giles' own difficulty concentrating than anything his wife is doing.)
On being questioned by Hale, Abigail admits that Tituba had called the Devil the previous night, but claims that neither she nor Betty had participated in any rituals. Tituba is summoned, and Abigail accuses her of making her drink blood. Tituba denies this; she is still is threatened with being whipped to death or hanged. Being cornered, she admits that the Devil comes to her. When asked by Hale whether the Devil is accompanied by anyone from the village, she names Sarah Good and Goody Osburn under Putnam's prompting. Suddenly, Abigail cries out dramatically that she too was with the Devil but now wants to return to Jesus. She and Betty alternately begin calling out the names of a large number of respectable people of Salem as having been seen by them with the Devil.