What is Hale's mission in Act 4 of "The Crucible"?

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poetrymfa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Act Four of The Crucible, Reverend Hale is practically driven to madness by his mission to save the lives of those who have been accused of witchcraft, a radical transformation for a man who was once obsessed with locating witches in order to drive out evil from Salem.

Hale is described in this act as "steeped in sorrow" and "exhausted" after praying with the prisoners who are schedule to hang. He has spent this time desperately trying to convince those prisoners to lie in order to save their own lives; proclaiming their guilt through a signed confession and agreeing to repent, despite being completely innocent, would rescue these folks from the gallows. Hale knows that the trials that have found so many others guilty have become inflated and ludicrous; having "quit the courts," he feels that this is good enough justification for the false confessions.

Ultimately, although Hale seeks the pardon of the seven prisoners who are being accused of witchcraft, he is unsuccessful; all of the "non-confessors" are to be hanged.

ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rev. Hale is devastated that so many people have been executed or are waiting in prison, accused of witchcraft. In Act IV, his mission is to put a stop to the executions and accusations. He finally begins telling people to lie and save their lives. He becomes so fanatical in his desire to save people from the gallows that he loses all credibility with Danforth. As he himself says, “I come to do the Devil’s work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves.” Then he brings Elizabeth to try to convince John to sign a confession. When John refuses to sign the confession, Hale turns once again to Elizabeth who, understanding what John's good name means to him, simply says,"“He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him!” Hale begins to weep because all his good intentions came too late