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The Crucible - character study of Reverend John Hale.

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Introduction

When we first meet or are introduced to Reverend John Hale, we are told that he, Hale is a scholar from Beverly and feels pride in the work he does. He comes to Salem on Reverend Parris' request to investigate the possibility that supernatural causes are causing Betty Parris' suspicious illness. Hale approaches the situation precisely and intellectually, believing that he can find the cause to her illness. Despite his early enthusiasm for finding the presence of witchcraft in Salem, Hale soon grows disillusioned with the witchcraft accusations and then starts encouraging people to testify so that they would not be hung. In Act II, Reverend Hale starts showing sympathy towards the men and women who have been accused of witchery, for it was he who signed their death warrants. He undergoes an internal crisis, feeling guilty that he might be responsible for all of the accusations. Even though this is the case at the end, at the beginning we found that he enjoyed being called to Salem to fix things. It made him proud that his expertise was finally in demand, (obviously in his mind they were not being fully appreciated). However, he was surprised at hearing about Rebecca and Elizabeth's arrest, which reveals that Hale is no longer in control of the predicament. Throughout the play there are many accusers and defenders for the witch trials. There is one man, Reverend John Hale, whose attitude to the witch trials immensely changes as he goes through one extreme to the other. Reverend John Hale grows as he moves from accuser, to sympathiser, to defender of the doomed characters of the play. When Hale first comes into the town of Salem, he believes in the witchcraft around the town and starts to accuse people himself. Hale brings Tituba in and questions her, "When the Devil comes to you does he ever come with another person? ...read more.

Middle

[about Proctor and Abigail's adultery]. Hale: I believe him! Pointing at Abigail: This girl has always struck me false! She has--[then interrupted by Abigail's chanting]." (114). This is when Hale fully confesses that the people he has condemned to death were probably all innocent. After Proctor is accused as a wizard by Mary is when Hale finally storms out of the courtroom and turns to trying to save the lives of the ones accused of witchcraft in Act Four. Act Four is the conclusion, the final phase of his dynamic characterization. In this act not only does Hale state he believes that the hysteria is false but he acts on this belief by attempting to help the accused. The audience discovers Hale in the prison, where all the accused are being held, along with Parris, who is also now trying to save the condemned, trying to convince the accused to save their lives by confessing to witchcraft. "Hale: Excellency, there are orphans wandering the streets from house to house; abandoned cattle bellow on the highroads, the stink of rotting crops hangs everywhere, and no man knows when the harlots' cry will end his life..." (130), this outake simply and directly affirms what Hale views as the consequences of his grievous actions, which is the motivation for his efforts. Although Hale tries to lessen the harshness of his previous sins, his method to attempt this is a sin in itself which in this quote he explains to Elizabeth in jail, "Hale: ...I have sought a Christian way, for damnation's doubled on a minister who counsels men to lie" (132). In the end, in trying to save John Proctor's life by convincing Elizabeth to persuade John to confess to save his life, he admits what he did wrong, "Hale: Let you not mistook your duty as I mistook my own. I came into this village like a bridegroom to his beloved, bearing gifts of high religion; the very crowns of holy law I brought, and what I touched with my great faith, blood flowed up." ...read more.

Conclusion

Luckily for the resolution of the play, Hale changes. From the moment he quits the court, he is truly a much better man. He helps the prisoners however he can, and is humbled. Even a bit before then, he questions whether the court is doing anything that is good. He starts questioning on the night when Rebecca Nurse and Elizabeth Proctor are arrested. At some point, he realizes that the church can be used for evil. This realization is extremely important for any churchgoer, and absolutely vital for a minister. In my humble opinion, it is this realization that causes the biggest change in Hale. Hale does not go out of action once he comes to that realization. Soon, he has quit the court and busies himself with the aid of the prisoners. His aid is not always well-recieved. John Proctor doesn't seem to fully accept Hale's advice on giving a wrongful confession, for his own reasons. This fact does not mean that Hale did not have a good idea--to keep Proctor alive. It merely means that Proctor values his pride above his life. Is he Right in doing so? His decision is truly a religious issue: it is unlikely that anybody will agree about it. I feel that Proctor's decision certainly makes for a good plot, but might not have been very wise. It has been said that immature people want to die nobly for a cause, while mature people want to live humbly for one. Here, Hale comes out ahead of Proctor in my book. Even with their disagreements about the value of human life and pride, Hale probably felt quite a lot like Proctor at the end: "...I am not worth the dust on the feet of those who have hanged." At the end, Reverend Hale is holy. Is it a happy ending? Arthur Miller shows us that people are constantly changing due to different situations they are involved with. He also shows us that people are shaped by their reactions to these situations. ...read more.

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