Reverend Hale’s character is dramatically changed throughout Arthur Miller’s play: The Crucible. In the very beginning of the play, Hale appears strong and resolute. He is seen as all knowing, even holy. As the play progresses, Hale’s own insecurities prompt the citizen’s slow descent of reverence for him.
In Act One, Hale arrives in Salem to try to resolve the problem surrounding the sleeping girls and witchcraft. His arrival stirs up the town, and they are all honored to be in his presence, and he knows it.
Parris: Mr. Hale! Oh! It’s good to see you again! (taking some books) My, they’re heavy!
Hale: They must be; they are weighted with authority.
Here, Reverend Hale is very self-confident, and is very much enjoying the respect he is given in Salem.
By Act Two, Reverend Hale has somewhat settled in Salem, and the town still shows him much reverence and respect. They trust him as a voice of authority, primarily because he serves on the court. He is however, far more personable than the other judges presiding.
Hale: I am a stranger here as you know. And in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court. And so this afternoon and tonight, I go from house to house---I come now from Rebecca Nurse’s house-----
Elizabeth: Rebecca’s charged!
Hale: God forbid such a one be charged. She is, however—--mentioned somewhat. (Act 2)
Hale’s kindness is one of his most endearing traits, and it is why most citizens of Salem trust him. Alongside his religious fervor, Hale was possibly the most respected man in Salem.
Finally, in Act Three, Hale reaches his climax. Hale’s conscience finds him, and he begins to openly doubt the court.
Hale: Is every defense an attack upon the court? Can no one--? (Act 3)
The judges begin to turn on Hale who finds himself struggling between keeping his good name and helping the innocent. In the end, Hale joins the side that defends the innocent.
Hale: Excellency, I have signed seventy-two death warrants; I am a minister of the Lord and I dare not take a life without there be a proof so immaculate no slightest qualm of conscience may doubt it.
Danforth: Mr. Hale, you surely do not doubt my justice.
Hale: I have this morning signed away the soul of Rebecca Nurse. Your Honor, I’ll not conceal it, my hand shakes yet as with a wound! I pray you sir, this argument...
He feels that, in confessing a lie, he has not only cemented his own lack of integrity but also that he has confirmed his own moral worthlessness. His lie, though it will save his life, will appear to confirm the guilt of the others who will not confess, and this brings him even lower in his own eyes. Without integrity, all he will have left in his life is his reputation, and his reputation will be blackened by the appearance of his name on this dishonest confession. According to Miller's stage direction, Proctor " knows it is insane ." It doesn't really make sense that his name, his reputation, what others think of him, should seem to be worth more to him than his own integrity, what he thinks of himself. And so he tears his confession up, crying,