What are the internal and external conflicts of Reverend Hale in The Crucible?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reverend Hale's external conflicts initially relate to his attempts to discern evidence of witchcraft in Salem, then to find and arrest those who have been accused. Finally, he comes into (external) conflict with Danforth and the court, attempting to convince them that the trials are based on false evidence. 

Hale is also continually in conflict with Proctor, though the conflict changes. First Hale and Proctor disagree over Abigail's accusation against Elizabeth. Later, Hale tries to convince Proctor to save his own life by confessing to the crimes he has been accused of committing. 

Hale's internal conflicts relate to his shifting beliefs in the validity/reality of the claims of witchcraft in Salem.

Hale embodies many of the moral contradictions of the play: he is a man of integrity who, although at times misguided and overzealous, is willing to change his mind when confronted with the truth.

Hale undergoes a crisis as he realizes that Proctor was right and Abigail has been lying the whole time. The charges are all false. People have died because of Hale's belief in Abigail's stories and his own belief in witchcraft. 

This leads him to repent and to suffer a rather extreme sense of guilt, saying: 

“there is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!”

verbaveritatis | Student

Reverend Hale’s external conflicts change throughout the play.  Initially, he is in conflict with the “accused” and the families of the accused, such as when he has a discussion about the validity of the justice system with Proctor, Corey, and Nurse when their wives are arrested in Act Two.  In Act Three, the external conflict shifts between Hale and authority figures in the court, mainly Danforth, even though Cheever and Herrick are also on the opposing side. The conflict in Act Four shifts back to a conflict with the “accused(Hale argues that they should confess, but they refuse),” but this time, the conflict is different in that he is trying to help them, instead of condemn them, as he was earlier when he attested to the validity of the statements made against those accused. 


Hale’s internal conflict is seen and implied.  We are told; upon his arrival, that he supposedly found a witch in his hometown, Beverly, and then later discovered that the girl was not at all a witch. The implication in that foreshadowed bit of information is that even at the commencement of his arrival, Hale was already struggling with himself in a fight to be sure that he made no misjudgments.  His internal struggle to be exact in his investigation, in some ways, possibly blinds him to the reality that he is in fact being fooled.  He struggles with himself in Act Two because he learns information that makes him second guess his previous judgments.  In Act Three, Hale vocalized his internal conflict when he exclaims that he has signed away the soul of Rebecca Nurse when he tries to reiterate the importance of the testaments of Proctor and Mary Warren, Corey, and Nurse.  Hale’s internal struggle continues into Act Four, where he returns to Salem to beg the condemned to lie about their guilt in order to save their lives.  He tries to convince them that they deserve to live, even if they have to lie to gain their lives, but the implication is that Hale cannot bear to live with the knowledge that he could have, at the beginning, prevented this, had he not been so blinded. His internal struggle is evident even at the end of Act Four as he begs Elizabeth Proctor to go to her husband and beg him to save himself.  Sadly enough, it seems as though Hale is left to bear the burden of those wrongfully convicted, condemned, and hanged; the last internal conflict we are left with implies that Hale with most likely struggle with himself for the rest of his life about the loss of those innocent lives.  Hale’s intentions were pure, but his vision was unfortunately very clouded.