Fear is a significant element contributing to the witch trials and a motivating factor for several characters to offer false accusations and testimonies to avoid punishment. In act 1, Abigail Williams fears that she will be punished for dancing in the woods with the other girls and quickly shifts the blame to Tituba. In Salem's austere, religious community, women have few rights and dancing in the forest is strictly prohibited. Abigail realizes that by shifting the blame to Tituba, she will be able to avoid punishment and protect her reputation. Since Tituba is a black slave from Barbados, she has fewer rights than Abigail and becomes a scapegoat. Encouraged by Thomas Putnam and Reverend Parris, Tituba falsely accuses Sarah Good and Goody Osburn of witchcraft in order to avoid being hanged.
Along with Abigail Williams, Mary Warren and Betty Parris also fear being punished for their exploits in the forest. Betty feigns illness in order to avoid punishment and Mary Warren, along with Mercy Lewis, agree to corroborate Abigail's testimony in order to avoid punishment. As the hysteria rapidly spreads throughout the community, accused citizens present false testimonies to avoid being hanged. The accused citizens are aware that if they do not confess to witchcraft they will be hanged, which motivates them to offer false confessions and perpetuates the witchcraft hysteria.
In the First Act of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, we find Mary fearing that she might possibly be hanged for witchcraft.
Later in the same act, when Hale questions Abigail, she also seems afraid of punishment when he asks her if she has sold herself to the devil: "I never sold myself! I’m a good girl."
Abigail blames Tituba for the mysterious actions and when Tituba is questioned and threatened with whipping and hanging she also fears punishment: "No-no, don’t hang Tituba. I tell him I don’t desire to work for him, sir."
In the second half of the play, Mary and Abigail realize that they can deflect attention from themselves by accusing others of witchcraft.