In Andrew Miller's The Crucible, Reverend John Hale might be the character that goes through the most drastic change of all. He has trained through a number of books to be 'Hale the Witchcraft Slayer' and when he went he is called to the Parris's house to treat poor Betty, he couldn't be more excited. He essentially plays along with the crowd, saying her illness was the result of witchcraft, lighting the flame for the witch trials. Hale condemns people here and there and even helps the court out, making the innocent plead guilty. Though initially the brave soldier believes he is fighting gallantly against the Devil, Hale has a change of heart and eventually sides with the condemned after witnessing the horrors of the injustices he has caused. Throughout the course of the play, Reverend Hale changes drastically from brash and overbearing to a broken and desperate man.
Initially, Hale takes a confident and forceful approach to solving his problems. Hale's services are requested in the Parris home to treat Betty, so he travels there to see what he can do. After greetings have been exchanged, Hale begins reading his books, which stirs great curiosity in the minds of those around him. He explains that one of his books is a collection of knowledge about the invisible world. He exclaims "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!" (39). By using strong words like "crush" and "utterly", Hale shows his determination to get his job done well, and not through calm and careful measures like an actual doctor. On the contrary, he is focused on using force and even violence to destroy the problem. Also, by telling the community to "have no fear now", Hale has so much confidence in his ability to solve the problem bestowed upon him, he takes on a hero-like mindset, believing he has come to this town to save the day. Because of this, he puts himself in a higher position than everybody else because he believes he is the only one with the power to fix everything. At first, Hale seems to be addressing the community as he speaks, saying that "we" would find the Devil. But that sense of togetherness and cooperation quickly changes to "I" when it comes to actually defeating the Devil and taking the credit. When Rebecca Nurse nervously asks if his methods would hurt Betty, Hale states in response, "I cannot tell. If she is truly in the Devil's grip we may have to rip and tear to get her free" (39). Hale again uses words like "rip" and "tear" to signify his forceful and violent intentions for curing Betty. However, this time he has an excuse: to "get her free" from "the Devil's grip". According to Hale, Betty may be able to be saved, but only through force. He is also using these aggressive words to almost scare the community into giving him control.
However, as a result of observing the atrocity of the Salem Witch Trials, Hale loses his original enthusiasm to fight the Devil, and instead chooses to desperately fight for the accused's lives. At this point, a large number of people have been accused and hanged for witchcraft. Elizabeth Proctor has been spared for a year in her hanging because she is pregnant, but John is scheduled to hang soon. Danforth, hoping Elizabeth's presence will "soften" her husband, requests that she be brought to him. While the men in the courthouse are waiting for her arrival, Danforth asks Hale why he is in Salem instead of Andover, to which Hale earnestly replies "There is blood on my head! Can you not see the blood on my head!!" (131). Hale realizes that witchcraft is nonexistent in Salem, and is essentially acknowledging his responsibility and guilt in the deaths of the victims". This is also originally a Bible quote: "The Lord will return his blood on his own head, because he fell upon two men more righteous and better than he and killed them with the sword" (Bible, Kings 2:32). This quote can apply to Hale, since he knows that John only has the crime of adultery on his head, but he does not possess the courage to defy the high court decisions to save John. Instead, Hale urgently speaks to Elizabeth Proctor, pleading, "I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess" (132). Hale has realized that both he and the court had been wrong in not only accusing innocent people -Giles, Rebecca, and too many others-, but also those who admitted to their mistakes, like John and his affair with Abigail. Hale even turns to calling Elizabeth "woman" instead of the usual "Goody Proctor" when addressing her. He egging her to persuade John to confess to the lie that the court wants to hear, seeing as she seems to be the only one to have the ability to talk her husband into doing something. He feels guilt for essentially initiating the witch trials and, as a result, is just about to go on his knees to beg people to confess so they will not hang.
Throughout the course of the play, Hale proves to put more emphasis on the individual, specifically himself, than the group. He wants to put himself in the spotlight as the hero in the Parris's house and show off his skills. He condemns people for witchcraft, which he justifies by claiming that he's doing it in the name of God. However, when Hale realizes that he's made a mistake, he tries to defend the rest of the condemned to ease his guilt in this situation. However, he does not even have the courage to sacrifice some pride to defend John by defying the word of the high court. And when John decides to die a martyr, Hale begs Elizabeth to persuade her husband not to go through with it, saying that nothing will be achieved mostly because he does not want to bear the burden of causing another innocent victim's death.