Reverend Hale is a minister from Boston who has been called to Salem to ascertain whether witchcraft is involved with the strange events happening there. He has spent "a good deal of his time pondering the invisible world, especially since he had himself encountered a witch in his (own) parish not long before". Even though the accusations of witchcraft had been found to be questionable in that case, Reverend Hale is looked upon as a sort of expert in matters concerning the supernatural, and as he arrives in Salem, feels "the pride of the specialist whose unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for". Reverend Hale "conceives of himself much as a young doctor on his first call...he feels himself allied with the best minds of Europe - kings, philosophers, scientists, and ecclesiasts of all churches". He believes that he is finally being "called upon to face what may be a bloody fight with the Fiend himself" (Act I).
Reverend Hale has been summoned to see if there is any evidence of witchcraft in Salem. We don't who has called for Hale to come, but he is an expert on witchcraft from nearby Beverly. When he arrives, carrying a number of heavy, impressive books, he is confident that he can look through the evidence to determine if indeed any witchcraft is at work in Salem. As the play unfolds, however, he becomes less certain.