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Hale's statement to the court about "signing lives away" is significant because it represents a moment where he is beginning to move away from what is happening in Salem. While he arrived in Salem with a zeal and passion regarding the trials, it is at this point where Hale begins to question what is being done and, more importantly to him, his role in it. When he tells the court of how he trembled at signing Rebecca Nurse's death sentence, it is a moment where he starts to grasp at the implications of what is happening. It is also a moment where he starts to understand that the court proceedings are not about justice or the devil, but rather the consolidation of power. Hale understands that Danforth simply wants to acquire people, or more telling, "victims" of his "pursuit" of justice. In Hale's mind, he recognizes that the people that are being called in front of the court might have little, if anything, to do with witchcraft or Satanic leanings. Instead, they are deemed as enemies if they do not cooperate and the result of their actions could be death. Hale recognizes that he is a part of this and, rather than silently submit to it, he begins the process of lashing out against it. This is something that will culminate with his own distance from the court and its professed aims. In his fear of "signing lives away," Hale starts an admission and a process what the court is doing is infact unjust and he will no longer be a part of it.
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