Act II, Scene 3 Summary
Reverend Hale interrupts the Proctors, who are arguing about whether John's reluctance to go to the court with the truth stems from any lingering feelings for Abigail. Hale arrives at their house in the middle of their discussion—but he doesn’t catch on to what is happening. Ultimately, Hale's intention is to learn if the Proctors are good Christians or not.
Two main discussions of consequence happen during Hale’s visit. The first centers on John Proctor’s struggle with religion, and the second centers on Elizabeth’s disbelief in the existence of witches.
John Proctor is at odds with Reverend Parris, Abigail Williams's uncle. Proctor believes that Parris is corrupt, so he hasn't been attending church every Sunday and refused to have his son baptized by him. These actions arouse suspicion in Hale, who believes this may suggest that John isn't the dedicated Christian he says he is.
Hale questions John to determine whether his rejection of Parris is actually a rejection of God and the church. Hale is concerned when Proctor cannot correctly repeat the Ten Commandments—tellingly, John forgets the commandment about adultery. Before Hale leaves, Elizabeth, realizing that Hale still suspects her, implores John to tell him what he knows. John reluctantly says that he is certain the girls are making up their accusations of witchcraft. When Hale asks why some individuals would have confessed if the accusations were false, John points out that they may have only done so to save themselves from death. It is clear that Hale himself is growing skeptical of veracity the girls' stories.
It is revealed that Elizabeth is unwilling to accept the existence of witches at all, which shocks Hale. She says if she and Rebecca Nurse are accused as witches, then they must not exist at all. Elizabeth, like her husband, is sincere in her expression—something that helps them persuade Hale that they are telling the truth. Despite the charges levied against her, Elizabeth uses the evidence of her life to show that the entire trial is a farce, as those who are accused are innocent and good people.
Giles Corey and Francis Nurse then enter the scene, bringing news that their wives, Martha Corey and Rebecca Nurse, have been arrested on charges of witchcraft. Hale, who knew Rebecca well, is upset by this news, but he is convinced that she is innocent and that this will become clear once she goes to court.