Why does Hale claim he has come "to do the Devil's work" in The Crucible? What motivates him?

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In Act Four, Reverend Hale returns to Salem to encourage those accused of witchcraft to falsely confess in order to save their lives. At this point in the play, Reverend Hale understands that the court is corrupt and innocent people have died. When Danforth asks Hale why he has chosen to return from Andover, Hale replies, "I come to do the Devil's work" (Miller 131). Reverend Hale feels responsible for those who have died as well as the citizens who are on trial, but tries his best to save their lives at the end of the play. Hale knows that lying in front of God is a very serious sin, but begs Elizabeth to encourage her husband to lie in order to save his life. Hale tells Elizabeth that life is the most precious gift that God can give and even though lying is terrible in the eyes of the Lord, it is necessary when someone's life is at stake. Hale essentially feels like he is doing the "Devil's work" by asking upright Christians to lie.  

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In the concluding act of The Crucible John Hale completes his transformation as a dynamic character.  In the beginning of the play, he comes (as he tells Elizabeth) "as a bridegroom to he beloved, bearing gifts of high religion."  However, over the course of the play, Hale has realized his mistakes; the girls are not being tormented by witches and the judges in the town are not the moral judges he believed he once thought they were.  He realizes that his "investigations" have lead to the deaths of so many good, honest people in the town.

When Parris and Danforth ask why has he returned to responds by saying that he "has come to do the devil's work. I come to counsel good Christians they should belie themselves." After all of his talk about honesty and Christian values, Hale realizes that he must persuade the members of Salem to lie.  By lying and confessing to witchcraft, they will not be executed.  The only way he can feel better is by saving as many of the charged citizens as he can.

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In The Crucible, why does Hale say he has come "to do the devil's work"? What motivates his action?

Hale is motivated only by his quest for the truth.  He wants to rid the town, the colony, of "the devil's work" so that he can better serve God.

When we are first introduced to Reverend Hale, he believes that everything he needs to help the town of Salem can be found in his religious books.  Remember that the Puritans were very superstitious people, and attributed many events to supernatural causes.  For example, if a crop died, it wasn't explained with with poor soil or drought or weather conditions, it was thought to be the will of God because the farmer had somehow displeased Him. 

While Reverand Hale is an educated man, his faith blinds him to the evils within many of the characters of the play until it is almost too late.  He sincerely believes that everyone is as honest and earnest as he is, forgetting that human nature often leads people to act in their own self interest at the expense of others. 

His interrogation of Tituba in Act 1 is a prime example of this.  He unknowingly leads Tituba to give him the "correct" answers so that she can avoid punishment (lashes with the whip).  She eventually calls out the names of the townspeople in order to divert attention from herself, and her "testimony" is substantiated because a man of God, Rev. Hale, accepts what she says as the truth.  Her accusations cause Abigale and the other girls to call out names of even more townspeople, and thus the hysteria begins.

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