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Reverend Hale has returned to Salem with a heavy heart full of responsibility for having participated in the witch trials and the execution of innocent people.
He has returned to plead and beg the convicted who await death to confess to witchcraft. This includes John Proctor, a man he has come to understand and respect. Hale feels particularly responsible for Proctor, he did not believe him to be a good and honest man at first.
Hale pleads with Elizabeth Proctor:
I come of my own, Goody Proctor. I would save your husband's life, for if he is taken I count myself his murderer. Do you understand me? (Miller, Act IV)
Hale is the individual who interviewed John Proctor for the court, questioning him about his faith. He found him lacking in knowledge of the commandments and also objected to his not attending church regularly. Reverend Hale has provided great evidence against Proctor, all the signs that he is in league with the devil. Now he is desperate to save him.
"He comes to realize that John Proctor is guilty of nothing more than adultery yet he lacks the courage to question the decisions of the court and the prevailing attitude of seventeenth century society."
"While his fair-mindedness and humanity deserve a measure of respect, Hale's inability to perceive—and endorse— the power in Proctor's stand for personal virtue leaves his character ignorant and weak."
First of all we know that Hale quits the court in Act Three's court proceedings. Additionally, the stage directions between Acts Three and Four tell us that he has been trying to get the accused to admit to witchcraft, not because he thinks that they are witches but because he knows that the girls are lying. You have a few clues in Act Four that reveal Hale's intentions to get Proctor to confess and save himself. One of these examples occurs when Elizabeth Proctor is called in by Danforth, at the request of Parris and Hale, to try to convince Proctor to lie and say that he is a witch. A second example occurs right after this when Proctor actually does sign the testimony saying that he is a witch and then rips it up when Danforth questions him about the testimony being a lie. At this point Hale begs and pleads with him not to rip up the testimony. Hale and Elizabeth then realize that John will not be able to go on with his life if he lies in this manner, and they allow him to die with his dignity.
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