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Reverend John Hale in The Crucible

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, the character Mr. Hale undergoes some significant development. This lesson provides an overview of his character and the changes he goes through.

A Sensible Man

Have you ever been considered an expert in something? Did you notice yourself being tempted to let the attention go to your head? Reverend John Hale certainly did.

Mr. Hale is mentioned in Arthur Miller's The Crucible shortly after the play opens. Reverend Parris sends for him when they begin to suspect witchcraft might be afoot in the town. It is reported that Mr. Hale previously investigated witchcraft in his own parish and found the woman in question to be 'a mere pest' instead of a witch. This gives some of the other characters in the play some hope that he will be reasonable. John Proctor says to him, 'I've heard you to be a sensible man, Mr. Hale. I hope you'll leave some of it in Salem.'

Tainted by Pride

Despite Mr. Hale's reputation of good sense, he is perhaps tainted by pride. He is called upon as an expert in his field, and we are told 'he felt the pride of the specialist whose unique knowledge has at last been publicly called for.' When Reverend Parris remarks that Mr. Hale's books are heavy, Mr. Hale rejoins with 'They must be; they are weighted with authority.'

Later, while he is examining the ill girl Betty, Mr. Hale encourages those assembled in saying of the Devil, 'Have no fear now--we shall find him out if he has come among us, and I mean to crush him utterly if he has shown his face!' Is it possible that the poison of pride could undo all Mr. Hale's good sense?

Not Off to a Good Start

Sadly, Mr. Hale's first actions in Salem do belie the taint of pride. When Abigail accuses Tituba (Reverend Parris's servant) of witchcraft, Mr. Hail at once regards the accusation as truth. Mr. Hale tells Tituba if she will confess to witchcraft, she will be forgiven and protected. He even urges her to accuse other people: 'When the Devil comes to you does he ever come--with another person? Perhaps another person in the village?' 'Objection!' the audience might wish to cry, 'leading the witness!' Mr. Hale is practically putting words in her mouth!

At this point, Mr. Hale seems a bit high on his own influence. No trace of his reputed good sense is visible. His pride flourishes when he tells Tituba 'the Devil can never overcome a minister.' Furthermore, after extracting some names from Tituba (under duress and heavy suggestion), the marshal is called for to arrest the accused.

Sobriety Creeps In

In the second act of the play, Mr. Hale seems to be returning somewhat to the senses he is reported to have. He shows up at the home of John and Elizabeth Proctor after Elizabeth Proctor was 'somewhat mentioned' in court. Instead of crying out as he did before that all the accused should be arrested immediately and clapped in irons, he decides it is more prudent to perform some investigation. Novel idea. He tells the Proctors, 'I am a stranger here...I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court.' This is encouraging! Perhaps he will become even more sensible later on?

Hale in Court

Sadly, it seems returning to one's senses is a difficult thing. Even after John Proctor argues that of course people, given the choice between being hanged and confessing to witchcraft, are likely to confess even if they are not guilty--Mr. Hale doesn't admit his agreement right away. The stage direction tells us 'It is his own suspicion, but he resists it.' Why would he resist?

Perhaps because of his own pride? Mr. Hale clings to the idea that justice exists in this circumstance, abandoning sense once again to encourage the Proctors and the others accused to 'let you rest upon the justice of the court.' For a court which condemns good citizens to death based on accusations from a bunch of children, it is unlikely any will find 'rest' in hoping for justice there.

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