After being caught dancing in the woods with Tituba, Reverend Parris' black slave, the teenage girls of Salem claim that they have been touched by the devil and that Tituba is to blame. As rumours of witchcraft begin to spread in the town, Reverend Hale, a Boston expert on witchcraft, is called to make investigations into the goings-on. However, the status-obsessed Minister of Salem, Reverend Parris grows impatient and calls in the judiciary to begin the trials of the accused witches.
As the story unfolds it becomes apparent that the girls are being manipulated by Abigail Williams. Abigail's affections for John Proctor invoke dark passions and serious consequences follow her actions that leave the Proctor family in great danger. The young girl's vengeance creates a ruse that lures the girls deeper and deeper into a moral and legal quagmire until they have no choice but to continue so as not to find themselves condemned; for it is clear, all those who turn against Abigail are destined to hang. The townsfolk are solicited one by one to either turn against their God in order to save themselves, or to stay true to their faith and die for their beliefs.
The play begins with Betty Parris, daughter of the reverend, ill in bed after dancing with Tituba and other girls of the village. Rumours have already begun that Betty and the other affected girls are the victims of witchcraft. Reverend Parris sends for Reverend Hale to identify the affliction. It is revealed that Abigail Williams, Reverend Parris' niece was also present on the night of the dancing. Abigail is already seen as a soiled woman in the town due to a rumour of a lustful interlude with John Proctor, which has not gone unnoticed by the village gossips. Reverend Hale begins his investigation and Betty awakens and threatens to tell the truth as to what they were doing in the woods, but Abigail threatens the girls to stay quiet. John Proctor visits the home of Reverend Parris and on his departure Abligail talks alone with him and admits that the girls are ‘sporting'.
The opening to this scene sees John returning from the fields to his wife. The action takes place in their house. Elizabeth informs John that fourteen people have been imprisoned in the trials and that Mary Warren, the Proctor's housekeeper, is absent from their home each day as she is a witness in the court proceedings. Mary returns with the unforeseen and unwelcome news that Goody Proctor has been mentioned in the proceedings and that her accuser is Abigail. Proctor is furious and forbids Mary to go to the court, yet as he is the only person to whom Abigail has confided in, he is compelled to tell Elizabeth and further incriminate himself as an adulterer. Hale approaches the home and while he is questioning the pureness and godliness of the Proctors, the authorities arrive and arrest Elizabeth for witchcraft.
Proctor and Mary go to the court to inform Deputy Governor Danforth and the others that the girls are not affected by witchcraft and to plea Elizabeth's innocence. As Mary tries to stand up to Abigail, the girls accuse her of sending her spirit out to harm them, and she has no choice but to rejoin the madness to avoid their vengeance. The ‘truth' becomes John's word against Abigails and it is Abigail who holds the power which inevitably condemns Proctor.
A little time has passed and Abigail has disappeared, leaving the people of Salem to sort out the chaos she created. The jail is full of condemned witches waiting to be hanged. Proctor is one of them. Elizabeth is asked to convince John to confess which he initially does, but then retracts with tragic consequences, in order to save himself.