A crucible is a severe test as of patience or belief, a trial. Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible is a journey through the trials of many townspeople caused by suspicions of witchcraft. As the story progresses, people’s words and actions cause Reverend John Hale to change his views on whether the people prosecuted were guilty or innocent of witchcraft. As numerous events and their consequences unfold, they cause Hale to rethink his initial views on witchcraft and to be persuaded of the innocence of those convicted in Salem.
Entering these trials, Reverend Hale feels as though he is an expert on witchcraft.
He is specifically called upon by Reverend Parris to diagnose his daughter and determine whether witchcraft is the cause of her illness (Act I Pg. 33-35). Although ambivalent about the nature of the child’s illness, Hale has a slight feeling of doubt that witchcraft has occurred.
He understands that the townspeople are trying to lead him with false pretenses and mass hysteria toward the conclusion that witchcraft has occurred. He begins to see a weakness in the townspeople of Salem and tries not to let hearsay accusations be the support for his verdict.
Hale’s conversations with John Proctor cause Hale to start to question his precious beliefs. In Act II, Hale is traveling around the town, going house-to-house searching for accused women to warn them that their names have been mentioned in the court. Hale soon finds himself standing at the Proctor home. During his conversation with Proctor, Hale sees a different perspective on the entire situation: Proctor: I – I have no witness and cannot prove it, except my word be taken. But I know the children’s sickness had naught to do with witchcraft. Mr. Parris discovered them sportin’ in the woods.
They were startled and took sick. Hale: Who told you this? Proctor: Abigail Williams. (Act II Pg. 68-69) Originally, Hale was only provided with evidence that supported the claims of witchcraft. After visiting the Proctor’s home, Proctor presents Hale with more support for his doubt of the girls’ claims in the words of John Proctor. Hale: Abigail Williams told you it had naught to do with witchcraft! Proctor: She told me the day you came, sir. Hale: Why – why did you keep this? Proctor: I never knew until tonight that the world is gone daft with this nonsense. Hale: Nonsense!
Mister, I have myself examined Tituba, Sarah Good, and numerous others that have confessed to dealing with the Devil. They have confessed it. Proctor: And why not, if they must hang for denyin’ it? There are them that will swear to anything before they’ll hang; have you never thought of that? Hale: I –I have indeed. And you –would you testify to this in court? ” (Act II Pg. 68-69) No longer believing that Abigail and her friends were telling the truth, Hale finally opens his eyes to the possibility that those who confessed did it for the sake of not being hung themselves.
Hale sees the honesty in Proctor’s words and believes he is able to trust him, causing Hale to become more open-minded about the witchcraft situation in Salem. When Abigail Williams and her crew appear in the court, Hale perceives the show that the girls are putting on. Danforth may not recognize the lies of the children, but Hale is now convinced that the claims of the children are false: “I denounce these proceedings. I quit this court” (Act IV Pg. 120). Hale becomes frustrated with the mass hysteria of the town and fed up with the lies of the girls.
He can see the lack of truthfulness in all of the testimony and court appearances of the girls. Later, Hale stands up for his belief in the innocence of the victims even though they have been forced to admit their guilt. He starts to realize that the court, although truthful and fair in appearance, can be misleading and manipulative in finding the guilt or innocence of a person depending on what the court desires. “Danforth: You will confess yourself or you will hang” (Act IV Pg. 117).
“Danforth: Postponement means a floundering on my part” (Act IV Pg. 29). The hangings have an enormous influence on the opinion of Hale, eventually leading him to conclude that no one in the town is bewitched. As Hale stands and awaits the death of Proctor, he knows that Proctor is innocent (End of Act IV). Hale is convinced that witchcraft has not occurred in the town of Salem. Hale now understands that many have died without cause and that those who have been hanged, even Giles Corey who died on the stone, were innocent; Proctor has helped change Hale’s belief in the existence of witchcraft in Salem.
Hale begs Elizabeth to plead with Proctor to save him, but Elizabeth cries, “He have his goodness now. God forbid I take it from him! ” (Act IV Pg. 145). Proctor and Rebecca Nurse are then led to hang. Hale now has a great feeling of regret that he did not speak up sooner and expose the childish lies that killed so many. The events of the story contribute to the alteration in Hale’s mindset. From the beginning, Reverend John Hale tries not to let the pressure of the hysterical town influence his decision.
Due to the increase in activity of the witch trials, Danforth and others are sent in, and Hale quickly loses his authoritative position in the town. Hale changes his view, more and more deliberately as the play advances, as a result of the conversations and experiences he has. As he watches the trials and hangings of the townspeople, Hale comes to see that the entire witch trial was a hoax, and he regrets he did not make more of an impact, and sooner, on the “bewitched” town of Salem.
Cite this The Crucible Cause and Effect
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