Reverend Parris is in a state of deep concern about the condition of his daughter, Betty. She is lying inert on her bed and he has been unsuccessful in his attempts to awaken her. The Reverend had discovered Betty, Abigail Williams his niece, Tituba, his slave and a number of other girls from the village dancing around a fire in the woods in the dead of night. His sudden appearance had frightened the girls terribly and Betty was so much affected by his discovery that she fainted. She had been in this comatose state ever since.
The Reverend had called for Doctor Griggs to determine the nature of Betty's ailment and to obviously get her to wake. Unfortunately, Dr. Griggs failed in this and went to consult his books to determine what exactly was wrong with the girl. Reverend Parris had then sent Susanna Walcott to the doctor to enquire what he had discovered. When she returns, Susanna informs him:
He bid me come and tell you, reverend sir, that he cannot discover no medicine for it in his books.
Reverend Parris despairs upon hearing this. He insists that the doctor consults his books again, upon which Susanna says:
Aye, sir, he have been searchin' his books since he left you, sir. But he bid me tell you, that you might look to un-natural things for the cause of it.
The Reverend's eyes widen in shock and he blurts out that there are no unnatural causes present. He has already summoned Reverend Hale from Beverley who will determine this fact. Once again, Reverend Parris asserts that the doctor needs to consult his books once more. Before Susanna leaves, both Abigail and the Reverend ask her to speak nothing of unnatural causes in the village.
Once Susanna is gone, Abigail tells her uncle that there are rumours of witchcraft in the village. The Reverend then confronts her about their actions in the forest, stating that his good name was in the balance. The truth had to come out. He asks Abigail if they had been conjuring spirits. Abigail denies this and states that they were just having some sport. The Reverend is clearly afraid and insists that Abigail tells the truth for his enemies would use this as an opportunity to get rid of him.
Now look you, child, your punishment will come in its time. But if you trafficked with spirits in the forest I must know it now, for surely my enemies will, and they will ruin me with it.
Reverend Parris is paranoid about his position. He has been at loggerheads with a number of parishioners such as John Proctor, who had accused him of being materialistic and using the church to enrich himself. He bitterly resents Proctor's accusations and believes that John and his friends want to oust him from the pulpit. He is prepared to do everything in his power to safeguard his position.
The fact that three members of his household had been performing unholy acts in the forest, therefore, puts the Reverend in a terribly compromising position and in a desperate attempt to protect himself, he later turns against the very parishioners whom he should protect, resulting in the conviction and execution of many innocent villagers.