How does Reverend Hale change throughout the play?

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TheCrucible by Arthur Miller is a social play set in the Puritan colony of Salem, Massachusetts and based loosely on historical events in the year 1692. Miller quickly establishes the atmosphere of the colony as a rigid place with a community focus on religion, prayer, and the Bible.

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The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a social play set in the Puritan colony of Salem, Massachusetts and based loosely on historical events in the year 1692. Miller quickly establishes the atmosphere of the colony as a rigid place with a community focus on religion, prayer, and the Bible.

As the play unfolds, the Reverend John Hale is summoned to Salem by the paranoid Minister of Salem, Reverend Parris, who demands absolute obedience from his parishioners. Parris suspects that members of the community are practicing devil-worship and perceives it as a threat to his authority. He contacts Reverend Hale to confirm his suspicions. Hale is an expert in the field of witchcraft who feels “the pride of the specialist whose unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for.”

The Reverend Hale is a logical, good-intentioned man who, at the outset of the play, is a scholarly type seeking to help the community maintain a peaceful society. Although he is reasonable and just, he is blind to Reverend Parris’ fanaticism. He sides with Parris, who tells the community that Hale, “Like almost all men of learning ... spent a good deal of his time pondering the invisible world, especially since he himself encountered a witch in his parish not long before.”

After arriving in Salem, Hale examines Parris’ daughter, Betty, who is believed to be possessed by a devil. As he follows up on the possession concerns, he proceeds to inquire as to the Christian beliefs of community members who have been arrested on suspicion of witchcraft by testing their knowledge of the Ten Commandments. By the end of act 2 of the play, the audience can clearly see that Reverend Hale’s beliefs are in sync with those of Reverend Parris.

In act 3 of The Crucible, Reverend Hale begins to waiver in his view of the witchcraft trials. As the central character and accused adulterer, John Proctor, is charged with consorting with the devil, Reverend Hale pleads with Proctor’s accusers who he now believes are hypocrites. Nevertheless, Proctor is condemned to death. Reverend Hale continues to plead for Proctor’s life and loses all faith in the court process.

Reverend Hale blindly adhered to the fanatical views of those with religious and political authority at the outset of the play. He failed to see the illogical actions and lack of justice employed by those in power. At the close of the play, as Proctor proceeds to his death, Hale has reversed his original beliefs and feels nothing but contempt, disgust, and anger over the injustice he has witnessed in Salem.

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At the beginning of the play, Reverend Hale is depicted as an enthusiastic, confident intellectual, who is excited about finally getting the opportunity to test his skills by ridding Salem of its witches and evil spirits. He is confident in Salem's authority figures and believes that no one is above suspicion. He genuinely believes that Salem is experiencing a spiritual attack from the forces of evil and is prepared to exercise his skills to help the community.

In act 2, Reverend Hale visits the homes of accused citizens in order to get a better understanding of the community and its members. He still supports Salem's court and believes that everyone is a possible suspect. Despite learning that Rebecca Nurse, Martha Corey, and Elizabeth Proctor have been arrested, he has faith that Salem's authority figures will find them innocent and does not believe that the court is corrupt.

In act 3, Reverend Hale witnesses the defensive, authoritative demeanor of Salem's court officials and is disturbed by their lack of tolerance and judgment. He argues that Danforth and Hawthorne should allow Proctor and Giles Corey to address their grievances and begins to side with Proctor. After Giles Corey is arrested and Elizabeth lies on behalf of her husband, Hale is fully convinced that the court is corrupt. When Abigail and other girls pretend that Mary's spirit is attacking them and Danforth accuses John of being involved in witchcraft, Proctor yells "God is dead!" and is removed from the court (Miller, 119). At the end of act 3, Reverend Hale denounces the proceedings and quits the court.

In act 4, Reverend Hale is fully against the corrupt court and is overwhelmed with guilt for once supporting the proceedings. He spends the majority of his time visiting the wrongly accused citizens in prison and encourages them to give false testimonies in order to save their lives. Overall, Reverend Hale changes from being a staunch supporter of the court and influential member of the proceedings to an opponent of Salem's corrupt authority figures. By the end of the play, Reverend Hale denounces the proceedings and actively attempts to undermine the court's authority.

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At first, Reverend Hale is a very enthusiastic participant in the Salem witch-hunt. He arrives in town fully expecting to find witches under every rock, round every corner. He's convinced that Salem's positively infested with all manner of diabolical goings-on and is determined to play his part in expunging all traces of evil from the town. As Hale fervently believes that he has God on his side, he's incredibly self-righteous. As far as he's concerned, he can do no wrong, and anyone who stands in his way is impeding the Lord's work.

As the play progresses, however, Hale becomes noticeably more humble in his demeanor. Although he never stops believing in the existence of witchcraft in Salem, he does still maintain an unshakable commitment to due process. If witches are to be apprehended and hanged, then it's essential that the authorities proceed in the proper manner, on the basis of irrefutable evidence. So many of the townsfolk are ready to believe Abigail's lies, but Hale wants to get to the truth of the matter. And when he discovers through Mary Warren's confession what the young girls have been up to all this time, he doesn't hesitate to use his considerable legal knowledge and moral authority to try and put a stop to the proceedings.

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At the beginning of the play, Reverend Hale comes to Salem with a very high opinion of himself and his education.  He believes that he knows the way to root out Satan and banish him from the village, that he can identify witches beyond the shadow of a doubt and compel them to return to the Lord.  However, over the course of the play, his confidence begins to wane -- especially once Elizabeth Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are accused and convicted -- until he eventually quits the court at the end of Act Three. 

He returns, in Act Four, a changed man.  He says, "I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my bright confidence, it died; and where I turned the eye of my great faith, blood flowed up."  He now counsels the convicted to lie to the court and confess to witchcraft in order to save their own lives because "life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however, glorious, may justify the taking of it."  He sees life as being more important than truth now, and he recognizes the the corruption of the court that he once sought to uphold and justify.

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