At the beginning of the play, Reverend Parris summons Reverend Hale of Beverly to Salem to investigate the presence of witchcraft and black magic in the community. Reverend Parris's daughter, Betty, and Ruth Putnam are both suffering from unexplained ailments, which some people believe are connected to the dark arts. While Reverend Parris and the Putnams support Reverend Hale's investigation, prominent citizens like Rebecca Nurse and John Proctor are against the decision to allow Reverend Hale to search for witches. When Goody Putnam tells Rebecca Nurse that the local doctors are baffled, Rebecca responds by saying,
If so he is, then let us go to God for the cause of it. There is prodigious danger in the seeking of loose spirits. I fear it, I fear it (28).
Proctor also knows that Betty is not bewitched after his private conversation with Abigail Williams and does not believe that there are witches throughout Salem. Despite Rebecca and Proctor's appeal, Reverend Hale stays in Salem and immediately begins investigating members of the community in hopes of discovering a witch.