ACT 2 – Scene 3
As a result of Elizabeth being named in the Court, the Reverend Hale visits
the Proctors with a view to testing them and to warn them.
Firstly, Hale is concerned at Proctors poor attendance at Church. This is because Proctor hates Parris, and not for any sinister reason. Hale asks him to recite the Ten Commandments. He recalls nine, but forgets the commandment concerning adultery, which is apt considering his liaison with Abigail. Proctor tells Hale that he had a conversation with Abigail who admitted that witchcraft was not responsible for Ruth and Betty’s ailments. Hale says that he will have to testify in Court that Abigail is a fraud.
Hale then tests Elizabeth asking if she believes in witches. She doesn’t.
Giles Corey and Francis Nurse arrive saying that both Martha Corey and
Rebecca Nurse have been arrested for witchcraft.
Hale comes over as a just man, but someone who has been caught up in the
mass hysteria of Salem. However, he is experienced in such matters and knows that seemingly pious people can turn their hands to evil.
Another matter that concerns him is that the youngest Proctor child is
unbaptised. Again this is because of Proctor’s dislike for Reverend Parris.
It is ironic that Proctor should forget the one commandment that he has
specifically broken recently.
Hale’s visit also serves as a warning that Elizabeth may possibly face
arrest. It is not evident whether the Proctors will act as a consequence.
It is a pity Hale had not tested the initial evidence concerning the girls
at the outset, for this might have saved so much upheaval in Salem now. Instead, he has allowed himself to be swept along on the tide of lunacy.
The net tightens even further with the arrest of Rebecca and Martha for
witchcraft. It appears at present that the evil and vindictive members of the society are holding sway over the rest.
At the end of Hale’s examination, he appreciates that Proctor is not an evil
However, the Proctors’ defence over Rebecca’s arrest might be a fateful move. Rebecca is viewed as a highly moral person who leads her day-to-day life according to the scriptures. With this in mind, Elizabeth cannot agree that witches exist. Elizabeth sees herself in the same mould as Rebecca, for she has tried to devote her life to moral goodness and charity.
Hale may now doubt his original good intentions and must consider that he
may have imprisoned innocent people, but these facts will need to be resolved in the Court.