The characters in The Crucible are motivated by different forces. Only one, however, is motivated by cold vengeance, and that is Abigail Williams. Having no home of her own, Abigail lived with her uncle. While a servant in the Proctor household, she had fallen in love with John, engaged with him in an affair, and suffered for it. John swore never to reach for her again, and his wife Elizabeth put her out of the house. Much gossip about Abigail made its way through Salem. She was humiliated and alone, burning with jealousy and anger. Elizabeth Proctor became the focus of her frustration and rage.
The circumstances of the witch trials gave Abigail an opportunity to seek vengeance. Elizabeth's name is "mentioned" in court. Using Elizabeth's unsuspecting servant girl Mary Warren as her means, Abigail schemes carefully to implicate Elizabeth in witchcraft. Her actions are cold and premeditated and successful. Elizabeth is charged, arrested, and jailed. When she realizes that Abigail is intent upon taking her life, Elizabeth cries out:
The girl is murder! She must be ripped out of the world!
Elizabeth recognizes the truth about Abigail's vengeful nature. Rev. Hale comes to recognize the same terrible truth later. Declaring that vengeance is working in the trials, Hale quits the court, returning later to save as many lives as he can.