What does the exposition reveal in the opening scene of The Crucible?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The opening scene of the play offers information about the strict code of conduct in Salem, especially regarding the occult, as well as developing the characters of Abigail and Reverend Parris. 

Abigail and Parris discuss (argue about) Abigail's tenuous position in Salem. She has a bad reputation after being fired by the Proctors. Now Abigail and Betty Parris and others have been caught doing something that looked like witchcraft in the woods at night. 

We learn that several of the teenage girls of Salem were caught dancing naked in the woods with Tituba, Parris’ slave from Barbados. The girls were discovered by Reverend Parris, who had seen Tituba “waving her arms over the fire” and had heard “a screeching and gibberish coming from her mouth.” (eNotes)

The potential scandal makes Parris fear for his own position in town. We learn that he also is not very popular in Salem. It is his top priority to maintain his position, however, and if he has to sever ties with Abigail he makes it clear that he will do so. 

Abigail plays upon his fears and demonstrates her ability to manipulate when she suggests that Parris is simply being stingy. She puts a fine point on the issue, saying:

"Do you begrudge my bed, uncle?"

Abigail's ability to dominate and manipulate others is further explored in the first act and proves to be a central element of the play.