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Arthur Miller relies upon several statements by his characters in Act 1 to inform his audience of prior events.
1. Through Rev. Parris's conversation with Abigail at the beginning of Act One, we discover that she, Betty Parris, and others were in the forest--not a setting for any decent Puritan girl. As the conversation advances, we also find out that the girls seemed to be dancing and performing some type of ritual.
2. The tension between Rev. Parris and the rest of the town becomes evident not only through the playwright's notes in Act One but also through his interaction with the Putnams, Giles Corey, and especially John Proctor.
3. Early on in Act 1, Miller makes it clear through Parris's questioning of Abigail that she was fired from the Proctor household and that has caused a lot of speculation in the town.
4. Finally, when Proctor and Abigail talk privately in Act One, they demonstrate that an adulterous affair occurred between them before the play's action/dialogue.
A few more examples:
1. When Abigail and Betty speak in private, with only Mary Warren and Mercy Lewis present, Betty reveals more details about the girls' activities in the woods: they didn't just dance and try to conjure the spirits of Ruth Putnam's dead siblings, Abigail also drank blood as a part of a charm to kill Elizabeth Proctor, the wife of her former lover, John.
2. We learn of Mr. and Mrs. Putnam's sad past and the deaths of seven of their eight children. All seven died within a day of their births, and lately, Ruth, their only surviving child, has been growing ill. This pattern of heartbreak and pain and loss has twisted Mrs. Putnam into the bitter, hysterical woman she is at the start of the play. This pattern has also contributed to Mr. Putnam's bitterness and anger—why should others have political and/or parental success and not him?
3. To that end, we also learn what brought the girls to Tituba and the woods in the first place: Mrs. Putnam admits to Reverend Parris that she sent her daughter to his slave in order to conjure the spirits of the dead babies and find out who was responsible for their deaths. Ironically, this woman who is so quick to point the finger and blame others for witchcraft actually initiated the first and only real act of (attempted) magic referred to in the play.
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