Act I, Scene 2 Summary

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Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 493

John Proctor—a farmer and a relatively well-respected man in the town—enters the Parris home. When he sees Mary Warren, his servant, there, he yells at her for leaving his house again. He threatens to beat her, and he sends her home to work. Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren both leave, and Abigail Williams begins to flirt with Proctor, saying she had forgotten "how strong [he is]." He asks what's going on, and Abigail says that Betty has simply "gone silly somehow." When he tells Abigail that everyone is talking about witchcraft, Abigail tells him that they were "dancin' in the woods, last night, and [her] uncle leaped in on [them]. She took fright, is all." Proctor smiles and calls Abigail "wicked" and says that she'll be in bigger trouble by the time she's twenty.

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As she giggles nervously and he gives her a knowing look, it becomes clear that the two have had a sexual relationship. Abigail asks him for a loving word, but he declares that that's all over with. She claims that she waits for him every night, but he is adamant that she needs to forget about him. Abigail grows angry and says that she knows John still loves her and that it was Elizabeth, his wife, who fired her—she reveals that she's seen him looking up at her window at night. He denies it, at first, saying he hasn't left his farm in seven months (this is when Elizabeth found out about their affair and fired Abigail). John admits that he may still have some feelings for Abigail but that he "will cut off [his] hand before" ever reaching for her again. He assures her that their affair is over, but she will not accept it.

The people on the first floor begin to sing a psalm, and Betty, still in bed, begins to cry. Betty seems unable to bear to hear the Lord's name, which further convinces those present that she must be bewitched. Rebecca Nurse, a well-respected and pious woman, enters, as does Giles Corey, a farmer. Rebecca's tranquil presence seems to calm Betty right away, like magic. The Putnams are there, and Rebecca advises that they give the girls time; she thinks they are merely making mischief, as children do, and that they will come around when they are ready.

The Putnams, however, insist that something much darker is at work: witchcraft and the devil. Having lost seven children, they cling to the thought that witches must have killed their babies. Putnam, Parris, and Proctor begin to argue about several things, including Proctor's recent absences from Sunday services, how much Parris is paid, whether Parris deserved the deed to his home, the disputed boundary between Putnam's and Proctor's lands, and so on. When Parris accuses Proctor of leading a faction against him, Proctor laughs and says he'd like to join such a party, if one exists. They stop arguing when Reverend Hale arrives.

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Act I, Scene 1

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Act I, Scene 3