Miller presents Hale to be an expert on witchcraft “especially since he had himself encountered a witch in his parish not long before”. Toward the beginning of the play he is seen as a young man who is keen to display and exercise his expert skills. He is enthusiastic to seek out witches and he appears to be a rather threatening authority figure who seeks to punish. The author outlines hale to have an egoistic and autocratic leadership as he “conceives of himself much as a young doctor on his first call”. Hale goes through a major personal journey over the course of the play. In Act One, Miller writes of Hale; “His goal is light, goodness, and its preservation” which undoubtedly emphasizes his good intentions and he’s psyched to attain a chance to reinforce his talent, but ultimately his goal is to fearlessly fight the Devil.
Hale is clearly a man who wants to do the morally correct thing. He believes in the justice system at work in Salem and he, initially, believes in the system of confession and punishment. On hearing Proctor’s protestations about the arrest of Rebecca Nurse, Hale has complete faith in the moral fairness of the justice system in Salem so much so that he does believe that Rebecca has been ‘far from accused’. Later, Hale’s moral beliefs are challenged when Rebecca Nurse is arrested and is accused of witchcraft. Hale’s beliefs are naive and this naivety enables Miller to show how ignorant this naivety is in the light of morality. Miller’s play is a tragedy and Hale’s decimation of faith help propel the tragedy to its climax.
In Act Two, we see that Hale’s former confidence is slowly eroding. This is demonstrated by the fact that he shows up at the Proctors’ house of his own accord and quotes “in my ignorance I find it hard to draw a clear opinion of them that come accused before the court”. He’s there without the court’s knowledge, trying to get an idea of who the Proctors are for himself. This independent action is a hint that he’s probably beginning to doubt the validity of his own conclusions. As the play progresses, however, he is seen as at least someone who is sincere and is trying to find ‘the truth’. He realises that the accusations, confessions and executions are getting out of control, and that both hysteria and revenge/jealousy are distorting the truth.
Hale is one of Miller’s most important characters. He is almost the only one who shows the capacity to grow and change. Toward the end he is grieving about the destructive effect of his investigations and he visits the condemned in prison and prays with them. He has lost faith in the judicial system and is trying to persuade them to make false confessions simply in order to save their lives. He councils convicted witches to confess, so that they won’t be hanged.
Hale is knowingly counselling people to lie with the evidential proof of “I beg you, woman, prevail upon your husband to confess. Let him give his lie”. He’s lost all faith in the law, and there’s a good chance his faith in God is a bit unstable as well. Hale pleads with Elizabeth to change her husband’s mind, screaming, “What profit him to bleed? Shall the dust praise him? Shall the worms declare his truth?”, words like these show that Hale has become a completely different man than the one we met at the beginning of the play and it seems to us that these last two lines raise an interesting philosophical question, to which there is no right answer.