The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller, gives a glimpse into the infamous witchcraft hysteria in Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. The play opens after a group of girls has been caught dancing in the woods by the town minister, Reverend Parris. When one of the girls suddenly becomes stricken with an unusual disease, the first assumption is witchcraft and John Hale is brought in. Hale, an expert of witchcraft, is called to Salem to discover the evil behind the girl’s affliction. But the longer he remains in Salem, the more he asks himself: Where does the true evil reside in Salem?
John Hale is described as a middle-aged man with an abundance of energy, as well as an abundance of arrogance. He is well-known in the surrounding area as an expert of witchcraft, and is immediately called into Salem by Reverend Parris. Upon first meeting Parris, his haughty behavior is evident in all aspects. For example, while unpacking his books, he explains their weight by saying, “they are weighted with authority” (p.36). Hale maintains this irritating attitude throughout the first half of the play. This behavior influences his personal decisions as well as the irrational conclusions made about his overall purpose in Salem.
Hale’s decisions throughout the course of The Crucible shape the witch trials in general as well as the ongoing trials in his judgment. His initial decision to come to Salem, in many ways, sparks the hysteria. His intent is to “crush him [the Devil] utterly if he has shown his face,” (p.39) and he immediately takes action. He decides to interrogate those first accused with fervor, especially Tituba, the Barbadian servant to Reverend Parris. He even has the audacity to question John and Elizabeth Proctor, two of the most revered citizens of Salem. He questions the two about their religious practices and when John forgets one of the Commandments, he becomes suddenly intrigued. Hale explains that “Theology, sir, is a fortress; no crack in a fortress may be accounted small,” (p.67). When Elizabeth is accused and taken, however, Hale’s behavior changes. The turmoil he has caused becomes apparent and he immediately tries to reverse his bad decisions. He begins defending those he, upon arrival, instantly condemned as witches. It is through his sudden change that he realizes the absurdity of the judicial system in Salem. He denounces the trials and leaves the peaceful turned chaotic village, with the intent to never return. But his heart has become too pure to live the rest of his life guiltless. He returns to Salem and tries to convince those awaiting execution to confess, in attempt to save their lives and his moral sanity. It is this final decision that truly shows his change in character.
Upon Hale’s arrival in Salem, many of the other characters rapidly make judgments of his character. To Reverend Parris, Hale is dependable and acts as a savior of his reputation. To the townspeople, such as John Proctor or Rebecca Nurse, he is...