Reverend Hale's Attitude Towards Witchcraft in Salem

John Hale's attitude towards witchcraft in Salem changes drastically from his entrance in Act l to the play's tragic ending scene in Act IV. He begins with an unshakable belief in the witchcraft in Salem, to questioning if the whole debacle in Salem is even real. Miller's underlying message was how the government can cause such chaos to a population. This can be seen through Reverend Hale's dynamic character by adamancy, confusion, and disbelief of witchcraft.

Reverend Hale arrives in Salem clearly adamant the devil is loose in Salem, and the witches need to be cast out. One of Hale's opening lines is " we shall need hard study if it comes down to tracking down the Old Boy". Hale has only been in Salem a very short time but is already bent on them having to find the devil. Reverend Hale also says "... the marks of his presence are as definite as stone...". By ‘his', Hale means the Devil. He's saying there are already telltale signs of the Devil running loose in Salem; he thinks the Devil's presence is definite. This proves Hale's adamancy of witchcraft at the beginning of the play.

Reverend Hale's ideology begins to change as he realizes some in town are dissembling the truth. Hale starts to believe some of the people on trial are telling the truth during Giles Corey's trial. But he really starts to show a sign of change when he practically begs forgiveness for Proctor when he says "... private vengeance is working through this testimony!" He is starting to believe Proctor and doesn't want him nor his wife to be prosecuted. He even says " from the beginning, this man has struck me as true.". This is a complete lie because in the beginning he was bent on the major witchcraft in Salem. But he wanted Proctor to be proven innocent so bad he chooses to lie in the court which goes against most of his beliefs. Hale is starting to be confused about what he believes in because he's not exactly sure on who's being truthful.

In the end, Reverend Hale realizes that some are using the trial for vindictive purposes and he wants to halt the hangings of the innocent people because he knows there are no witches in Salem and the whole debacle was just a case of mass hysteria. Hale says to Elizabeth "let you not mistake your duty as I mistook my own." He wants Elizabeth to convince Proctor to confess about being rooted by the Devil. He also means that his duty was to help Salem get rid of witches, but he only made it worse because there never were any. Later Hale even says" It is a lie. They are innocent!" He starts to believe the people were on trial were innocent and were never guilty. He also says at the end of the play "I denounce these proceedings, I quit this court!" He is finally truly stating he doesn't agree with the judge or his ruling. He was so fed up with them that he finally decides to quit the court and is almost disbelieving in witchcraft.

Hale is a completely changed man by the end of the play. He desperately attempts to bring justice to the accused by pleading with them to confess to something they didn't do to avoid execution. He wants to bring them to justice, but can't really do so without challenging the very foundation of his practice of witch-hunting, to which he's devoted so much time and effort. Hale has gone from having a strong belief and being a person of the court, to going against the court and even calling them liars. Reverend Hale is a dynamic character because of the changes in his personality and beliefs. He goes from being adamant, to confused, to almost having a complete disbelief of witchcraft.


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