The time between Act I and II is just a few short days, but that is all it takes for witch hysteria to completely engulf Salem. What began as a few girls pointing their fingers at some people in town has turned into people being jailed and even sentenced to execution.
At the end of Act II, Elizabeth's greatest fear has come true; she is arrested for witchcraft because of a claim issued by Abigail Williams.
At the end of Act II, Cheever comes to arrest Elizabeth. His warrant is based on a claim that Abigail says that Elizabeth sent her spirit out and stabbed her with a needle. He tells Hale that
The girl, the Williams girl, Abigail Williams, sir. She sat to dinner in Reverend Parris’ house tonight, and without word nor warnin’, she falls to the floor. Like a struck beast, he says, and screamed a scream that a bull would weep to hear. And he goes to save her, and stuck two inches in the flesh of her belly he draw a needle out. And demandin’ of her how she come to be so stabbed, she… (To Proctor.) testify it were your wife’s familiar spirit pushed it in.
At the beginning of the act, Mary Warren gave Elizabeth the poppet (a handmade doll) as a good will gesture. Mary Warren even testifies that Abigail saw her making the doll in court. However, Cheever is deaf to her pleas. Even Hale, begrudgingly, admits that if she is innocent, she will be set free.
At this point, Hale still believes in the trials and the courts; however, the audience now sees how far Abigail will go to get what she wants. Elizabeth was afraid that Abigail would point the finger at her in hopes of getting her out of the way. The poppet gave Abigail just the opportunity she was looking for.