Which character in the play is compared to Pontius Pilate?

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Reverend Hale is compared to Pontius Pilate by John Proctor at the end of Act Two. News has arrived that Rebecca Nurse has been arrested for witchcraft, just as Elizabeth Proctor is being arrested as well. Hale tries to insist that if she is innocent, the court will send her...

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Reverend Hale is compared to Pontius Pilate by John Proctor at the end of Act Two. News has arrived that Rebecca Nurse has been arrested for witchcraft, just as Elizabeth Proctor is being arrested as well. Hale tries to insist that if she is innocent, the court will send her home unscathed, and John yells, "Pontius Pilate! God will not let you wash your hands of this!"

Pilate was the governor of Judea who gave the crowd the chance to save either Barabbas, a notorious prisoner and murderer, or Jesus, who he felt did not deserve to be crucified. However, when the crowd defied his expectations and chose to pardon Barabbas instead of Jesus, Pilate did nothing to stop Jesus' execution. Instead, he symbolically washed his hands and declared himself innocent of Jesus' blood and not responsible for Jesus' death. Now, Hale knows that Rebecca Nurse is innocent and he is there when Mary Warren says that she hid the needle in her poppet's stomach (so Elizabeth did not push it in as part of some witchcraft designed to hurt Abigail Williams), and yet Hale does nothing to stand up to these clearly unjust accusations. He simply declares that the court will surely release the women if they are, indeed, innocent. In a way, then, he figuratively washes his hands of responsibility for their welfare, just as Pilate did.

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The character that is compared to Pilate is the Reverend Hale, by John Proctor. This occurs near the end of the second act, when Elizabeth Proctor is arrested. This comparison is extremely significant. Pilate was the Roman governor who allowed Jesus to be crucificied despite finding no fault with him personally; he is depicted in the Bible as having done this reluctantly, and as a result of public pressure rather than in the interests of justice. Similarly, Proctor sees Hale, a man of some authority as a minister, caving in to popular hysteria in allowing Elizabeth to be handed over to the courts, rather than intervening to try and save her, just as Pilate, who had the authority to release Jesus, simply allowed him to be handed over for crucifixion.

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