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This article is about the term. For other uses, see Revenge (disambiguation).

Revenge or vengeance consists primarily of retaliation against a person or group in response to perceived wrongdoing. Although many aspects of revenge resemble or echo the concept of justice, revenge usually has a more injurious than harmonious goal. The vengeful wish consists of forcing the perceived wrongdoer to suffer the same pain that they inflicted in the first place, or of making sure that the wrongdoer can never inflict such an injury upon anyone else.

Revenge is a hotly contested ethical issue in philosophy. Some feel that, at the very least, the threat of revenge is necessary to maintain a just society. In some societies, it is believed that the injury inflicted in revenge should be greater than the original one, as a punitive measure. The Old Testament philosophy of "an eye for an eye" (cf. Exodus 21:24) tried to limit the allowed damage, in order to avoid a vendetta or series of violent acts that could spiral out of control -- instead of 'ten-fold' vengeance, there would be a simple 'equality of suffering'. Detractors argue that revenge is a simple logical fallacy, of the same design as "two wrongs make a right." Some Christians interpret Paul's "Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord" (Romans 12:19, King James Version) to mean that only God has the moral right to exact revenge. Indeed, every major religious system contains some method for the mediation of disputes and for the limitation of vengeance by imputing a sense of cosmic justice to replace the often faulty justice systems of the world of men.

Of the psychological, moral, and cultural foundation for revenge, philosopher Martha Nussbaum has written: "The primitive sense of the just — remarkably constant from several ancient cultures to modern institutions . . . — starts from the notion that a human life . . . is a vulnerable thing, a thing that can be invaded, wounded, violated by another's act in many ways. For this penetration, the only remedy that seems appropriate is a counterinvasion, equally deliberate, equally grave. And to right the balance truly, the retribution must be exactly, strictly proportional to the original encroachment. It differs from the original act only in the sequence of time and in the fact that it is response rather than original act — a fact frequently obscured if there is a long sequence of acts and counteracts" ("Equity and Mercy," in Sex and Social Justice [Oxford University Press, 1999], pp. 157-58).

Vendettas or 'blood feuds' are sequences of acts and counter-acts motivated by revenge and carried out over long stretches of time by familial or tribal groups in a quest for justice; they were an important part of many pre-industrial societies, especially in the Mediterranean region, and still persist in some areas. During the Middle Ages, most would not regard an insult or injury as settled until it was avenged, or, at the least, paid for -- hence, the extensive Anglo-Saxon system of 'wergild' (literally, 'man-price') payments, which placed a certain monetary value upon certain acts of violence in an attempt to limit the spiral of revenge by codifying the responsibility of a malefactor. The story of Wimund the Bishop also illustrates the typical implacability of the time: its hero, though blinded and imprisoned, would avenge himself against his enemies 'if he had even but the eye of a sparrow'.

In Japan's feudal past, the Samurai class upheld the honor of their family, clan, or their lord through the practice of revenge killings, or 'katakiuchi'. These killings could also involve the relatives of an offender. Today, katakiuchi is most often pursued by peaceful means, but revenge remains an important part of Japanese culture.

The goal of some legal systems is limited to "just" revenge -- in the fashion of the contrapasso punishments awaiting those consigned to Dante's Inferno, some have attempted to turn the crime against the criminal, in clever and often gruesome ways.

Modern Western legal systems usually state as their goal the reform or re-education of a convicted criminal. Even in these systems, however, society is conceived of as the victim of a criminal's actions, and the notion of vengeance for such acts is an important part of the concept of justice -- a criminal 'pays his debt to society' evinced by countries such as the United States continuing the practice of capital punishment.

Interestingly, psychologists have found that the thwarted psychological expectation of revenge may lead to issues of victimhood.


[edit] Constructive Alternatives

While the urge to “get even” by hurting your opponent may be nearly overwhelming, constructive alternatives often provide the greatest lasting satisfaction. These alternatives include legal recourse, constructive revenge, forgiveness, and reconciliation<ref>Emotional Competency Discussion of Revenge </ref>. Legal recourse relies on the state to determine the appropriate payment for the offense. This can range from nothing when guilt is not proven to death in the case of capital punishment. Constructive revenge is the decision to better yourself so substantially that you clearly demonstrate your status is superior to your adversary's. This overcomes the humiliation that fuels your desire for revenge. Desire of revenge may also be caused agaisnt your better judgment so that retaliation is a credible threat. Forgiveness is your unilateral decision to let go of the hurt. Reconciliation is a step further and it requires a change within someone else. Forgiving is a unilateral step toward reconciliation, but reconciliation must be bilateral. Reconciliation requires that both sides agree on the facts, the hurt, the motivation, so that each can understand the other's point of view<ref>Emotional Competency Discussion of Forgiveness </ref>.

[edit] Revenge in art and culture

Revenge has been a popular theme for art and culture throughout history. Many popular motion pictures have used it as a central theme, including The Searchers, Payback, Man on Fire, Death Wish, The Crow, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Punisher, Revenge, Kill Bill, Saw III, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy. Classic literary examples of revenge stories include The Oresteia, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice, Chushingura, Don Giovanni, La Forza del Destino, Moby-Dick, Othello,The Cask of Amontillado, Titus Andronicus, The Count of Monte Cristo, Wuthering Heights and The Godfather Trilogy.

Many works show disapproval for revenge:

  • In the Batman: The Animated Series episode, "Heart of Ice", Mr. Freeze pursues a vendetta against a callous business executive, Ferris Boyle, whose interruption of a life saving, if unauthorized, procedure killed Freeze's wife and created his deadly intolerance of above freezing temperatures. Batman foils Mr. Freeze's attempt at vengeance, but gives him closure by taking Boyle to the police. Another revenge person in the series is the Scarecrow who wants revenge on Dr. Long for firing him from his job.
  • In the Disney animated feature Brother Bear, a young man starts a cycle of violent vengeance that brings more suffering to the loved ones around him that only ends when he realizes he had been wrong to start it.
  • In the play The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Prospero is given the chance to exact his revenge on his brother Antonio, and King Alonso, but chooses not to -- favouring, instead, a harmonious return to his Dukedom.
  • In the 1972 film The Godfather as well as both The Godfather II and The Godfather III, many members of the Corleone family take revenge on particular persons, usually on behalf of another perons death/murder in the family. Michael Corleone acts on revenge in the infamous baptism scene in the first film where all heads of the five families are murdered throughout Michael's declaration as the godfather of Connie's son (his nephew). Also, Michael kills off his brother-in-law Carlo Rizzi for giving information to Barzini, another mafia head, which resulted in the killing of Michael's older brother Sonny Corleone. A young Vito Corleone goes back to Corleone, Sicily to kill the Don who killed his father, brother and mother years prior. Michael Corleone killed Captain McCluskey, along with Sollozzo, as revenge for the attempt on his father's life. But that was business, not revenge.
  • In the graphic novel V for Vendetta, the main character of V is partly driven by the need for revenge on both fascist government Norsefire who ordered his detention and the experimentation on him and those directly responsible for the experiments performed on him and others who were considered "sub-human" by Norsefire.
  • In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Anakin Skywalker finds his mother in a Tusken Raider camp, a victim of brutal torture. After she dies in his arms, he slaughters the entire Tusken community, including women and children. This is considered Anakin's first step towards the Dark Side of the Force and becoming the evil Darth Vader. In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Anakin is goaded by Palpatine into killing a helpless Count Dooku in revenge for cutting his off his arm in Attack of the Clones, continuing his descent towards the Dark Side.
  • In the film Batman Begins, the notion of whether or not revenge fits well into a system of justice acts as a major theme, while making the inference that justice ought to be based on altruism, where seeking revenge is largely a self-serving form of vigilantism.
  • In the thirteenth book in the Lemony Snicket series (titled The End the islands focilitator, Ishmale, takes reveng on Count Olaf for buring down his house, and trpping him in a giant birdcage (which Ishmale does in the book) he takes revenge by shooting his stomach (that contains a diving hemate containing a deadly fungus) with a harpoon gun, that releases the fungus.

[edit] Quotations on revenge

  • I ain't a killer but don't push me. Revenge is like the sweetest joy next to getting pussy Tupac Shakur
  • When a man steals your wife, there is no better revenge than to let him keep her. Sacha Guitry
  • Success is the sweetest revenge. Vanessa Williams
  • Breach for breach, eye for eye, tooth for tooth: as he hath caused a blemish in a man, so shall it be done to him again. - Leviticus 24:20 (KJV)
    (This statement is not interpretted literally by Orthodox Judaism).
  • Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the LORD.Leviticus 19:18
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:21
  • You have it said... love your friend, hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. - Matthew 5:43-44
  • Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord. - Romans 12:19
  • If we practice an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, soon the whole world will be blind and toothless. - Mahatma Gandhi
  • In certain extreme situations, the law is inadequate. In order to shame its inadequacy, it is necessary to act outside the law. To pursue... natural justice. This is not vengeance. Revenge is not a valid motive, it's an emotional response. No. Not vengeance. Punishment. - The Punisher
  • Revenge without respect to the example and profit to come is a triumph, or glorying in the hurt of another, tending to no end (for the end is always somewhat to come); and glorying to no end is vain-glory, and contrary to reason. - Thomas Hobbes in Leviathan
  • Revenge is a dish best served cold. - suggesting that emotional detachment ("cold blooded") is best for taking revenge. In some usages it is used to mean that when taking vengeance, a great deal of time (in some cases even years) is necessary for both planning and the ‘sweet’ feeling of revenge. This is often incorrectly sourced as "La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid" in the novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1782) by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The phrase does not actually appear there. Apparently, the saying exists in many cultures, including Sicilian, Spanish and Pashtun, making its ultimate origin difficult to determine. The phrase appeared in the classic Ealing film Kind Hearts and Coronets(1949) as "revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold." The modern English wording is attributed to Dorothy Parker. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (and, in reference, Kill Bill) it is said to be a Klingon proverb and was quoted by Khan Noonian Singh (Original Klingon "bortaS bIr jablu'DI', reH QaQqu' nay'"). In comic books it is often associated with Batman's enemy Mr. Freeze. Also in the show Farscape, the episode Crackers Don't Matter has an exchange between John Crichton and a hallucination of Scorpius in which Scorpius refers to a time in Crichton's childhood in which he spent months planning his revenge. A short time later Scorpius says “Revenge is a dish best served cold and you like revenge, don’t you?” and Crichton responds “Shut up! I hate it when villains quote Shakespeare.” Recently, on the premiere episode of the third season of Chappelle's Show a sketch involving Dave Chappelle getting revenge on people that have wronged him opened with “‘Revenge is a dish best served cold.’ -Old Klingon Proverb!”
  • In the fifth season of the HBO series The Sopranos, Tony Soprano states that Revenge is like serving cold cuts. To this, his psychiatrist Dr. Melfi offers the traditional Parker/Khan phrasing.
  • James Bond in For Your Eyes Only: “Melina, the Chinese have a saying: ‘Before you set out on revenge, you first dig two graves.'”
  • Revenge is best dealt with by forgetting it. - Japanese Buddhism (Pure Land school) in advice of a King about to be executed, to his son concerning his enemy, about to execute his father, the King.
  • “‘Vengeance on a dumb brute!’ cried Starbuck, ‘that simply smote thee from blindest instinct! Madness! To be enraged with a dumb thing, Captain Ahab, seems blasphemous.’ . . . ‘Talk not to me of blasphemy, man; I'd strike the sun if it insulted me. For could the sun do that, then I could do the other.’” - Moby-Dick
  • The best revenge is not to become like the one who wronged you - Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
  • Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavor, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned. - Charlotte Brontë
  • No friend ever served me, and no enemy ever wronged me, whom I have not repaid in full. - Epitaph of Lucius Cornelius Sulla
  • If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge? - William Shakespeare,The Merchant of Venice
  • This blood stain can only be washed with blood Chiang Kai-Shek after his mother was killed by Japanese Army
  • Happiness is what makes the world go round,but vengeance is the axis which it revolves upon Charles Winchester In the M*A*S*H* Episode Are You Now,Margeret

[edit] See also

[edit] References

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