The play opens with Reverend Parris praying over his daughter's, Betty's, bed. Betty had been out at night, apparently dancing naked around a fire in the woods, with Abigail, Ruth, Tituba and other younger women from Salem. Betty wakes up and says that Abigail drank blood to make Elizabeth Proctor die. Mary Warren tries to convince the girls to admit only to dancing to make sure they don't get accused of witchcraft. Reverend Hale, who has experience with accusations of witchcraft is sent for. In the meantime, we learn that Abigail and John have had an affair and John fired her to end the affair. It becomes more and more clear that Abigail resents this and still is in love with John. Fearing for their own safety, Abigail and some of the girls begin accusing other women of witchcraft in order to same themselves and the hysteria in town increases.
Court proceedings begin about the accusations of witchcraft. Elizabeth pleads with John to settle things with Abby, fearing that Abby will add Elizabeth's name to the list but Elizabeth is named when Abby fakes a stomach ailment which she attributes to the voodoo doll Mary has planted in Elizabeth's home.
In Act III, people start accusing people of other things. The hysteria grows. Mary tries to recant her accusations. Abigail denies her affair with John Proctor, as does Elizabeth (in order to save her husband). Some, including Hale, call for the dismissal of charges against Elizabeth and others but Danforth overrules them. Many more are executed.
Abigail steals some money and leaves town. Elizabeth talks to John Proctor as he wrestles with answering the charges or not. Eventually, he chooses to be silent, not admitting to being an agent of the devil himself. Thus, aside from the affair, he retains some sense of dignity and honesty.