Act I of The Crucible establishes a number of conflict-ridden relationships that already existed in Salem before the events in the play, as well as showing how the girls’ dancing in the woods produced further conflicts. The first act presents Reverend Parris as a person given to resentment and sensitive about his reputation. His attitude has already put him at odds with many people in Salem, and these disagreements are exacerbated by his daughter’s involvement in suspicious activities.
Early in the play, a conflict between the minister and Abigail, his niece, is established. Reverend Parris insists that she tell him the whole truth about what she, his daughter Betty, the family’s servant Tituba, and other girls were doing in the woods. Abigail contradicts almost everything he says, insisting that they “never conjured spirits.” When he says he thought he saw someone naked, she says he is mistaken, and he shouts angrily, “I saw it!”
Gossip idea that the girls were caught doing some kind of witchcraft has already begun circulating through the town, which brings Ann and Thomas Putnam to the Parris house. Parris strongly discourages them from assuming that any witchcraft is being practiced, but they are already convinced. When Mrs. Putnam declares that Betty was seen flying through the sky, Parris denies it. The Putnams believe that his sending for Reverend Hale confirms the witchcraft, as he has identified witches before, but Parris urges them not to jump to conclusions: “I pray you, leap not to witchcraft.”
Having established Abigail as a young person who readily debates with adults, Arthur Miller then introduces John Proctor. Although she tries to act as though their relationship is warm and cordial, the conflict between them is quickly evident. Abigail first implies that, when she worked in his home, they had a closer relationship than master to servant. John insists that she is mistaken: “We never touched.” Abigail criticizes his wife, Elizabeth, and claims that John loves her.