When Reverend John Hale enters The Crucible in act 1, he is eager to investigate the suspicions of witchcraft in Salem. He has been invited by Reverend Parris, a man desperate to appear in control of his parish. Hale is regarded as an expert on witchcraft, and he is utterly...
When Reverend John Hale enters The Crucible in act 1, he is eager to investigate the suspicions of witchcraft in Salem. He has been invited by Reverend Parris, a man desperate to appear in control of his parish. Hale is regarded as an expert on witchcraft, and he is utterly confident in his own abilities. Upon his arrival with his books, Parris remarks that they are heavy. Hale smugly replies that "they are weighted with authority." He enjoys both his reputation as a defender of the Puritan faith and his prominence within the theocratic government.
After the end of act 1, where he and Parris exact confessions from Tituba and the girls, Hale's own crucible begins. The rapid escalation of accusations of neighbor against neighbor in Salem begins to unsettle him, and he becomes troubled by what he hears in court proceedings. Eventually he begins to conduct his own interviews with people who are "somewhat mentioned" in court, as Elizabeth Proctor is.
As Hale begins to realize that Abigail and the girls are making accusations for illegitimate reasons such as greed, lust, envy, and revenge, his commitment to the theocratic government and the trials is sorely tested. For example, he cannot believe that Rebecca Nurse is a witch, yet her refusal to confess guarantees her excommunication and execution. He cannot convince Danforth and Hathorne that the trials must be stopped.
Hale quits the court at the end of act 3, but returns at the beginning of act 4. His mission has changed; his zeal for investigating witchcraft has been replaced with a zeal to save lives. He urges John Proctor to give a false confession to avoid execution and counsels Elizabeth to try to get John to give the court his lie.
Ultimately, Hale likely retains his faith in God, but his faith in the efficacy of a theocratic government fails. This is evident when he tells Elizabeth Proctor the following:
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.