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The Crucibleis saturated with allusions. In act 2, Miller has the characters allude to the Bible in order to demonstrate their religious beliefs. For example, Hale alludes to Lucifer's fall from grace by saying, "until an hour before the devil fell, God thought him beautiful in Heaven." By doing so, he is suggesting that no one, not even the most pious can be trusted. This leaves persecution in Salem open to all.
Miller then has Proctor retort through his allusion to Pontius Pilate. He compares Hale to Pilate, the Roman governor who presided over Jesus' trial. By placing all blame of Elizabeth's arrest on the court and doing nothing to prevent it, Hale, like Pilate, "washed his hands" of an innocent person's persecution.
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