To counter what is considered as a problem of organized witchcraft in Salem, government and religious leaders take it upon themselves to eradicate the evil—without looking carefully to see if it really exists—and since it does not, their actions of ordering many to imprisonment or death results in chaos:
Hale: Excellency, there are orphans wandering from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlot’s cry will end his life—and you wonder yet if rebellion’s spoke? Better you should marvel how they do not burn your province! (Miller 130)
The summer passes and autumn arrives. The witch trials have caused unrest in neighboring towns, and Danforth grows nervous. Abigail has run away, taking all of Parris’s money with her. Hale, who has lost faith in the court, begs the accused witches to confess falsely in order to save their lives, but they refuse. Danforth, however, has an idea: he asks Elizabeth to talk John into confessing, and she agrees. Conflicted, but desiring to live, John agrees to confess, and the officers of the court rejoice. But he refuses to incriminate anyone else, and when the court insists that the confession must be made public, Proctor grows angry, tears it up, and retracts his admission of guilt. Despite Hale’s desperate pleas, Proctor goes to the gallows with the others, and the witch trials reach their awful conclusion.