Why does the Reverend Hale visit the prison in The Crucible?

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e-martin's profile pic

e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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To his credit, Reverend Hale has changed his mind about the truth of the accusations 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.

In the end, Hale no longer believes that the claims made by Abigail and the other girls are true. In response to this he removes himself from the court and its proceedings in Salem. 

When he returns to Salem and goes to the prison it is to redeem himself, to attempt to avoid an uprising against the injustice of the court and to save John Proctor from death. 

He tells Elizabeth Proctor:

I would save your husband's life, for if he is taken I count myself his murderer. 

Hale fails in his attempts to persuade the court (Danforth and Hathorne) to postpone the carrying out of Proctor's sentence. 

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andrewnightingale's profile pic

andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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At the end of Act Three, Reverend Hale leaves the court in outrage. He has seen Abigail and the other girls' manipulation and has condemned the proceedings.

We discover at the beginning of Act Four that he is visiting the accused in jail. Reverend Parris says the following about his visitations:

Hear me. Rebecca have not given me a word this three month since she came. Now she sits with him, and her sister and Martha Corey and two or three others, and he pleads with them, confess their crimes and save their lives.

It becomes apparent that Reverend Hale has been begging the accused to confess. His earlier outrage and denunciation stem from his newfound belief that the girls are, and have been, misleading the court. He has witnessed their deceit firsthand, and he now believes that he can save those who have been condemned. Furthermore, he seems to feel guilty for having been involved in an injustice.

Reverend Hale has, from the outset, been a firm believer that the Devil is afoot in Salem. He has made it his duty to root out those who have been corrupted by Satan. Now, however, it appears that he also wants to atone for his guilt in having had so many brought before the court. It seems, though, that his efforts have been largely unsuccessful. He reports that Rebecca Nurse, Martha Corey, and others cannot be driven to confess.

You must pardon them. They will not budge. 

Judge Danforth refuses to grant them a pardon. He believes that it will be unjust because twelve people have already been hanged. He also refuses Reverend Hale's request for more time. Hale's continued attempts at getting Judge Danforth to understand the desperate situation in the town are all to no avail, and Judge Danforth asks him why he has returned to the court. The Reverend's anguish is pertinently displayed when he cries out:

Why, it is all simple. I come to do the Devil’s work. I come to counsel Christians they should belie themselves... There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!

In the end, those who Reverend Hale so desperately tries to save are all put to death.