What does this quote mean and who said it? "I come to do the Devil's work. I come to counsel Christians they should believe themselves."Who is speaking, and to whom? the circumstances of the quote,...

What does this quote mean and who said it? "I come to do the Devil's work. I come to counsel Christians they should believe themselves."

Who is speaking, and to whom? the circumstances of the quote, and why the quote is important in revealing character or advancing the plot. Be specific!

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the end of Act Three, Reverend Hale leaves Salem.  He has tried to ensure that the court operates fairly, asking for John Proctor to be heard, but when he realizes that Danforth is unwilling to listen, he cries, "I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!" Rather than stay and continue to try to help those people he believes to be innocent, Hale leaves. When the situation worsens and innocent individuals are jailed and hanged for crimes they did not commit, he returns. Hale feels such guilt about his role in the trials that he tells Elizabeth Proctor,

Let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own. 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.

He explains his own culpability in these proceedings, the result of his pride in his expertise. Hale tells her that "life is God's most precious gift; no principle, however glorious, may justify the taking of it." He would rather have these innocent people lie and say they are witches than die, but he doesn't feel good about it. When he tells Danforth, "I come to do the Devil's work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves," he is commenting on just how corrupt the court is, that his only choice as a minister is to recommend that the convicted lie—another sin—in order to save themselves. Hale feels that he has no choice, though, and this is the lesser of two evils.

rshaffer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker of the quote is Rev. Hale in Act IV, Scene I.  You do have a typo in the quote though.  It should read, "I come to do the Devil's work.  I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves."  Hale is speaking to Danforth telling him that he has returned to convince those Christians who stand accused to lie and save their lives.  The circumstance behind the quote is that Rev. Hale sees the truth behind the girls' pretense in crying witchcraft on innocent people.

This quote is important in revealing Rev. Hale's character as coming full circle from the beginning of the play.  When he first entered Salem, he came with the "weighty authority of his books."  Now, he has returned to reverse the damage caused by his knowledge of witchcraft.  Hale has returned with the same energy that he had when he first entered Salem Village.  Even though he is a Christian, he feels just in counseling other Christians to lie to an unjust court system.

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The Crucible

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