Character Profile – Reverend Hale


Opening Impression:

Reverend Hale is a revered and reputed young minister from Beverly (a town near Salem) who is considered to be an expert on witchcraft. However, it must be noted that Reverend Hale also considers himself to be an expert on witchcraft and thus the impression we get of him following his introduction to the play is one of assuredness and extreme confidence. Reverend Hale is a tremendously enthusiastic and committed servant to the mission of exterminating witchcraft and the Devil’s work in society. Hence, Hale’s exceptionally proactive role in exposing those whom seem possessed by the devil.


Hale’s critical mind and intelligent intuition save him from falling into blind fervour. Admittedly, Hale’s arrival in Salem sets the hysteria in motion; however, he ultimately later regrets his prior actions and sets about attempting to save the lives of those wrongly accused. This eventually leads to desperate attempts to convince the condemned to admit to witchcraft in order to save them from be hung.



Quotations and Analysis:





“Now let me instruct you. We cannot look to superstition in this. The Devil is precise; the marks of his presence are definite as stone, and I must tell you all that I shall not proceed unless you are prepared to believe me if I should find no bruise of hell upon her”.


Miller writes in the introductory notes that Hale attended Harvard and is a highly learned and logical man; this is represented well in his response to the cry of witchcraft. This quotation also illustrates Hales belief in the idea of witchcraft whilst also illuminating his commitment to the cause. At this point Hale seems to be a logical, if somewhat arrogant and misled character.


“[Narrowing his eyes] Tries to fly.”





This quotation is quite comical as Reverend Hale seriousness contrasts with the audience’s awareness that Betty’s flight is an impossibility. Miller may be here trying to mock those who take the threat of witchcraft (Communism) seriously.



“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!”

This quotation accentuates Hale’s determination to do right in the society. He is fuelled by the apparent need for his services. There is also a sense of melodrama about Hale’s words, suggesting that he enjoys playing the role of ‘witch hunter’ and revels in the attention he is receiving.



“If the Devil is in her you will witness some frightful wonders in this room, so please keep your wits about you. Mr Putnam, stand close in case she flies.”


Again, Hale’s comment emphasises the absurd nature of the accusations of witchcraft in Salem. His warning to Mr Putnam to stand close in case she flies is ludicrous.


Why are you concealing? Have you sold yourself to Lucifer?

Hale is an intimidating character in that his academic background and supposed expertise in witchcraft means that his interrogative questions put people under pressure and we see again Hale’s commitment to his cause.







“I thought, sir, to put some questions as to the Christian characters of this house, if you’ll permit me.”

Again, Hale is being inquisitive and also intrusive. This is particularly stressed as Hale is asking such questions in the home of the Proctors. He is suggesting wrong doing in their own home.


“My duty is to add what I may to the Godly wisdom of the court”




Hale fully believes that what he is doing in Salem is absolutely right, he genuinely feels as though he is making a positive and valuable contribution to the trial process.


“Think on cause, man, and let you help me to discover it. For there's your way, believe it, there is your only way, when such confusion strikes upon the world”.

He explains that to explain the curse that has been placed on Salem they must look for some hidden source of God's vengeance upon the village. His advice to Proctor that this is a ‘way’ to put an end to the hysteria that is slowly over-taking Salem suggests he sympathises with Proctor but his continuing belief that the town is being punished by God reveals that he hasn’t yet fully realised the true motivations that lie behind the accusations of witchcraft. We sense the beginnings of discernment in his character but there is clearly still a long way to go.



“Excellency, I have signed 72 death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord, and I dare not take another life without there be proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.”


Hale has finally begun to realise that the trials don’t make sense, which is heavy on his conscience, especially as a Reverend. We see that he too, like Proctor, has a sense of personal integrity: he will not sign away a life if he believes that the accusation is a lie, and it is ultimately this sense of integrity that marks him out as a hero, although one less grand than Proctor.



“Excellency, it is a natural lie to tell; I beg you, stop now before another is condemned! Private vengeance is working through this testimony! By my oath to Heaven, I believe him now.”

Hale knows now what John Proctor has known all along, that the accusations of witchery were lies and motivated by private vengeance. His understanding that this is a ‘natural lie’ reveals his insight into other characters and human nature and his oath to Heaven confirms his absolute confidence in the truth.



“There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!



Hale feels extremely guilty and it weighs on him heavily that he has caused the deaths of innocent people. Once again we see his personal integrity is evident here.



“I come of my own Goody Proctor. I would save your husband’s life, for if he is taken, I count myself his murderer. Do you understand me?”

Hale takes matters into his own hands because he feels the court is out of control. The question, do you understand me? Shows a desperation to purify his conscience. Hale’s decision to convince people to perjure themselves in a court of God also shows how much he has changed from the start of the play. Although he still clearly has the same intention in mind, that of doing good.




Role in the Play:

Reverend Hale is a clear example of character progression and development, which is highlighted by his realisation in the climatic third Act. Hale initially initiates the ‘witch hunt’ however, he eventually experiences an epiphany wherein he realises the absurdity of the accusations and that the trials themselves are ludicrous. As such, Miller uses Reverend Hale’s character as an example that, no matter how we hard, we must open our eyes and admit the fraudulent nature of the witch hunt, both in Salem and modern day America.