What really causes the initial "crying out" of Abigail and Betty? How are they reacting to the mounting conflict around them? How culpable are they?
theres another part to it
What might this show us about hysteria in times of perceived crisis?
You tagged Act I. In Act I, Betty eventually "comes to" when just the girls are in the room with her, but later, she comes to again with Hale, Parris, and Putnams in the room. The girls do have different motives for "crying out" at this point.
Abigail seems to be faking allegiance to God. She acts like she wants to come clean, and the adults are asking questions about who it is that "haunts" them. The girls begin spewing names. Betty just conforms to Abigail's lead. If she didn't follow Abigail, Abigail might bully her later. She has a healthy fear of Abigail.
I think the adults are looking for an answer to the children's curiosity. The kids don't want to admit they were sporting with the Devil for the fun of it. They almost let the adults suggest that they have been influenced by evil people in the community. The girls quickly fall into this trap and instantly accuse people of witchcraft. The girls know better, but as do most children, they want to get rid of their guilt. Rather than coming clean through confession, they place blame elsewhere.
They are responsible for this, but the suggestive Putnams might also bear some of this blame.
Of course, we do not really know what causes this. But here is my opinion.
Betty does this because she is in a lot of trouble if she does not. It is a good way to divert trouble from herself. If she admits to what she has been doing, Rev. Parris will be extremely angry with her.
With Abigail, I think there are two things. First, she is a person who seems to want attention. Secondly, I think she sees a chance to get back at Elizabeth Proctor for firing her and maybe a chance to get John Proctor for herself again.