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Blood Revenge Definition Essay

"Retaliation" and "Retaliate" redirect here. For other uses, see Retaliation (disambiguation) and Revenge (disambiguation).

Revenge is a form of justice[neutrality is disputed] usually assumed[by whom?] to be enacted in the absence of the norms of formal law and jurisprudence. Often, revenge is defined as being a harmful action against a person or group in response to a grievance, be it real or perceived. It is used to punish a wrong by going outside the law. This is because the individual taking revenge feels as though the law will not do justice. Revenge is also known as retribution or vengeance; it may be characterized as a form of justice (not to be confused with retributive justice),[clarification needed] an altruistic action which enforces societal or moral justice aside from the legal system. Francis Bacon described it as a kind of "wild justice" that "does... offend the law [and] putteth the law out of office".[1] Primitive justice or retributive justice is often differentiated from more formal and refined forms of justice such as distributive justice and divine judgment.

Function in society[edit]

Social psychologist Ian Mckee states that the desire for the sustenance of power motivates vengeful behavior as a means of impression management: "People who are more vengeful tend to be those who are motivated by power, by authority and by the desire for status. They don't want to lose face".[3][4]

Some societies encourage vengeful behavior, which is called feud. These societies usually regard the honor of individuals and groups as of central importance. Thus, while protecting of his reputation an avenger feels as if he restores the previous state of dignity and justice. According to Michael Ignatieff, "revenge is a profound moral desire to keep faith with the dead, to honor their memory by taking up their cause where they left off".[5] Thus, honor may become a heritage that passes from generation to generation. Whenever it is compromised, the affected family or community members might feel compelled to retaliate against an offender to restore the initial "balance of honor" that preceded the perceived injury. This cycle of honor might expand by bringing the family members and then the entire community of the new victim into the brand-new cycle of revenge that may pervade generations.[6]


Feuds are cycles of provocation and retaliation, fueled by a burning desire for revenge and carried out over long periods of time by familial or tribal groups; they were an important part of many pre-industrial societies, especially in the Mediterranean region. They still persist in some areas, notably in Albania with its tradition of gjakmarrja or "blood feuds".[7] 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 weregild (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.

Blood feuds are still practiced in many parts of the world, including Kurdish regions of Turkey and in Papua New Guinea.[8][9]

In Japan, honoring one’s family, clan, or lord through the practice of revenge killings is called “katakiuchi” (敵討ち).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.[citation needed]

The motto of Scotland is Nemo me impune lacessit, Latin for "Nobody shall provoke/injure me with impunity". The origin of the motto reflects the feudal clan system of ancient Scotland, particularly the Highlands.[citation needed]

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 reeducation of a convicted criminal. Even in these systems, however, society is considered 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".[citation needed]


The popular expression "revenge is a dish best served cold" suggests that revenge is more satisfying if enacted when unexpected or long feared, inverting traditional civilized revulsion toward "cold-blooded" violence.[10]

The idea's origin is obscure. The French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754–1838) has been credited with the saying, "La vengeance est un met que l'on doit manger froid" ["Revenge is a dish that must be eaten cold"], albeit without supporting detail.[11] It has been in the English language at least since the 1846 translation of the 1845 French novel Mathilde by Joseph Marie Eugène Sue: "la vengeance se mange très bien froide",[12] there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying, and translated "revenge is very good eaten cold".[13] It has been wrongly credited[14] to the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (1782).

Its path to modern popularity may begin with the 1949 film Kind Hearts and Coronets which had revenge is a dish which people of taste prefer to eat cold. The familiar wording appears in the film Death Rides a Horse (1967), in the novel The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969), as if from an "old Klingon Proverb" in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982). The title sequence of the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) referred to this last movie by again citing it as a Klingon proverb. After that it appeared in the 2004 version of Man on Fire.

The phrase has also been credited to the Pashtuns of Afghanistan.[15]

Another proverb states, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves". Another version (Chinese: 子不复仇非子也) proposes that a son who does not take revenge for his parents is not a son.[citation needed]

In art[edit]

Revenge is a popular subject across many forms of art. Some examples include the painting Herodias' Revenge by Juan de Flandes and the opera Don Giovanni by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In Japanese art, revenge is a theme in various woodblock prints depicting the forty-seven Ronin by many well-known and influential artists, including Utagawa Kuniyoshi. The Chinese playwright Ji Junxiang used revenge as the central theme in his theatrical work The Orphan of Zhao;[16] it depicts more specifically familial revenge, which is placed in the context of Confucian morality and social hierarchical structure.[17]

In literature[edit]

Revenge has been a popular literary theme historically and continues to play a role in modern and contemporary works today. Notable examples of literature that feature revenge as a theme include the plays Hamlet and Othello by William Shakespeare, the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, and the short story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe. More modern examples include the novels Carrie by Stephen King and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Other examples are the Greek myths of Medea, and the novel The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Although revenge is a theme in itself, it is also considered to be a genre.[18]

Revenge as a genre has been consistent with a variety of themes that have frequently appeared in different texts over the last few centuries. Such themes at hand include but are not limited to: disguise, masking, sex, cannibalism, the grotesque, bodily fluids, power, violent murders, and secrecy.[19] Each theme, along with the concept of dramatic irony, play a large role in the success of revenge in literature. Dramatic irony is a literary device in which the audience possesses knowledge unavailable to characters in a novel, play, or film.[20] Its purpose is to intensify the tragic events that are going to unfold by creating tension between the audience and the actions of the characters.[20] It is essential to narratives of revenge.

The most common theme within the genre of revenge is the recurring violent murders that take place throughout the text, more so, however, in the final act or scene. The root of the violence is usually derived from the characters' childhood development.[21] Violent murders are seen in many texts ranging from dramas to novels. Carrie, a 20th century novel written by Stephen King, has prime examples of this theme that do, indeed, occur during the final scenes. Another interesting text that incorporates this theme is the sixteenth-century drama Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare.

Continuing on, the themes of masking and disguise have the ability to go hand in hand with one another. A character may employ disguise literally or metaphorically. A mask, per se, is the literal example of this theme; while pretending to be something one is not is considered to be the metaphoric example. Additional themes that may cause the protagonist and antagonist to develop a masked or disguised identity include sex, power, and even cannibalism. Examples of sex and power being used as themes can be seen in the novel Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, as well as the already mentioned drama, Titus Andronicus.

Overall, although revenge is considered a theme in itself, its constant development over the last few centuries can allow it to be considered a genre as well. Key components, expressed as themes, that make up this genre are prevalent in copious literary works.

In animals[edit]

Humans are not the only species known to take revenge. There are several species such as camels, elephants, fish, and many species of primates (chimpanzees, macaques, baboons, etc.) that have been recognized to seek revenge. PrimatologistsFrans de Waal and Lesleigh Luttrellave conducted numerous studies that provide evidence of revenge in many species of primates. They observed chimpanzees and noticed pattern of revenge. For example, if chimpanzee A helped chimpanzee B defeat his opponent, chimpanzee C, then chimpanzee C would be more likely to help chimpanzee A's opponent in a later squabble. Chimpanzees are one of the most common species that show revenge due to their desire for dominance. Studies have also been performed on less cognitive species such as fish to demonstrate that not only intellectual animals execute revenge.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^"Sir Francis Bacon "On Revenge"". rjgeib.com. 
  2. ^The Killing Scene: Hamlet 5.2.303–309.
  3. ^Michael Price (June 2009). Revenge and the people who seek it. 40, No. 6. apa.org. p. Print version: page 34. Retrieved 1 October 2010. 
  4. ^Ian McKee, PhD. 2008. Social Justice Research (Vol. 138, No. 2)
  5. ^Brandon Hamber and Richard A. Wilson, Symbolic Closure through Memory, Reparation and Revenge in Post-conflict Societies (Johannesburg: Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 1999)
  6. ^Helena Yakovlev-Golani (2012). "Revenge - the Volcano of Despair: The Story of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict". Exploring the Facets of Revenge. p. 83. 
  7. ^"Peacemaker breaks the ancient grip of Albania's blood feuds". The Christian Science Monitor June 24, 2008
  8. ^"Blood feuds and gun violence plague Turkey's southeast". Reuters. May 5, 2009
  9. ^"Deadly twist to PNG's tribal feuds". BBC News. August 25, 2005
  10. ^Jennifer Speake (2008). Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs, 5th Ed. Oxford University Press. p. 576. Retrieved 23 October 2013. 
  11. ^Le Dictionnaire Marabout des pensées des auteurs du monde entier. Verviers: Gérard & Co. 1969. 
  12. ^Eugène Sue (1845). Mathilde: mémoires d'une jeune femme. Welter. p. 148. Retrieved 26 December 2012. 
  13. ^Marie Joseph Eugène Sue (1846). The orphan; or, Memoirs of Matilda, tr. [from Mathilde] by the hon. D.G. Osborne. p. 303. 
  14. ^"The meaning and origin of the expression: Revenge is a dish best served cold". Retrieved 24 October 2013. 
  15. ^Fergusson, James (2011). Taliban: The Unknown Enemy. Da Capo Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-0-306-82034-2. 
  16. ^Liu, Wu-Chi (1953). "The Original Orphan of China". Comparative Literature. 5 (3): 195. JSTOR 1768912. 
  17. ^Shi, Fei (2009). "Tragic Ways of Killing a Child: Staging Violence and Revenge in Classical Greek and Chinese Drama". In Constantinidis, Stratos E. Text & presentation, 2008. Jefferson: McFarland. p. 175. ISBN 9780786443666. 
  18. ^Marguerite, Tassi (September 22, 2012). "Women and Revenge in Shakespeare: Gender, Genre, and Ethics". Renaissance Quarterly. 
  19. ^Grobbink, Leonie (July 2015). "Revenge: An Analysis of Its Psychological Underpinnings". International Journal of Offender Therapy & Comparative Criminology. 
  20. ^ abRholetter, Wylene (January 2015). "Dramatic Irony". Research Starters. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Literature. 
  21. ^Bloom, Sandra (2001). "Reflections on the Desire for Revenge". Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice. Journal of Emotional Abuse. 
  22. ^McCullough, Michael (2008). Beyond Revenge : The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct. Jossey-Bass. pp. 79–85. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Revenge at Wikimedia Commons

Look up revenge in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Revenge
German announcement of killing 2300 civilians in Kragujevac massacre as retaliation for 10 killed German soldiers. Nazi-occupied Serbia, 1941
Igagoe buyuden. This is an episode from a popular story of revenge – how the son of a murdered samurai tracked the killer over all Japan.

Revenge Tragedy

The revenge tragedy genre of English literature generally refers to a body of dramatic works written from the mid-1580s to the early 1640s, from the Elizabethan to the Caroline period. Typically, these works feature such themes and devices as a wronged revenge-seeker, ghosts, madness, delay, sinister intrigue, a play-within-the-play, torture, multiple murders, and the realistic depiction of bloody violence onstage. Nearly all of the major playwrights of the time contributed to this class of drama, including Thomas Kyd, William Shakespeare, John Marston, George Chapman, Cyril Tourneur, Thomas Middleton, John Webster, James Shirley, and John Ford. Most literary scholars have credited Kyd with initiating the dramatic archetype w ith his The Spanish Tragedy (1585-90?) and the so-called Ur-Hamlet—a drama no longer extant but which is believed to have been written before 1589, and upon which Shakespeare likely based his great tragedy—and have credited Shakespeare with bringing the genre to its artistic maturity with Hamlet (c. 1600-01). Critics have maintained that revenge tragedy was a markedly dynamic genre, observing that while Kyd invented the basic formula, his successors added ingenious new layers of dramatic suspense, characterization, symbolism, and ideological representation to the theatrical form.

Many literary scholars have argued that the principal theatrical influence on Elizabethan revenge tragedy came from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a Roman statesman, philosopher, orator, and dramatist who flourished in the first century a.d. Seneca's works were first translated into the English language in 1559, and by 1581 Senecan tragedies had circulated widely among the English literate. While Seneca wrote several kinds of tragedy, the Elizabethan playwrights were particularly attracted to his Thyestes,Medea, and Agamemnon, all of which dramatize murder and betrayal and the subsequent quest to exact blood revenge on the villain or villains. These theatrical spectacles display all of the passions in excess, such as hate, jealousy, and love; they also contain sensational elements, such as supernatural phenomena, cruel torture, and bloody violence. Other critics have argued that in addition to Seneca's influence, the Italian nouvelle provided another literary source for the revenge tragedy. Many of these Italian tales feature a sinister Machiavellian villains, sexual betrayals that culminate in private revenge, and bloody vendettas between rival families. Still other scholars have asserted that revenge tragedy was influenced by the medieval contemptus mundi tradition. According to these critics, Elizabethan dramatists manipulated such cultural motifs as the deathshead—or human skull—the severed hand, the dance of death, and the reenactment of the seven deadly sins as a means of connecting with an audience that was preoccupied with mutability and religious devotion.

While critics have generally agreed that Kyd was the lead innovator of the revenge tragedy, they have also pointed out that his plays are coarse and unrefined in their exploration of the revenge theme. Commentators have observed that other early revenge tragedies such as George Peele's The Battle of Alcazar (c. 1590) and Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (1594) tend to reflect this undisciplined model as well. Nevertheless, these tragedies were crowd-pleasers and became staples of the London theater repertories. As the Elizabethan dramatists grew more competent with the revenge tragedy form, they became more sophisticated in their treatment of the characters, themes, and motifs. Literary scholars have contended that Marston's Antonio's Revenge (1600) is an example of a drama that masterfully fuses all of the elements of the revenge tragedy tradition; in fact, so skillful is the use of revenge conventions that some have argued that Marston intentionally and audaciously parodied the popular genre. Around this same time the genre reached the apex of its artistic maturity with Shakespeare's Hamlet, a drama that has been celebrated for its a brilliant synthesis of plot, characterization, and intellectual introspection on the subject of revenge. Other tragedies of this period also demonstrate a keen insight into the moral and spiritual consequences of revenge, including Tourneur's The Revenger's Tragedy (c. 1606) and The Atheist's Tragedy (c. 1610-11) and Chapman's Revenge of Bussy D'Ambois (1610-11). Many critics have characterized the revenge tragedies of the genre's late period as grim, cynical statements on the moral and spiritual chaos that results from a society in decay and moral disintegration. Works from this period include Webster's The White Devil (1612) and The Duchess of Malfi (1614), Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore (c. 1630-33) and The Broken Heart (c. 1630-33), and Shirley's The Cardinal (1641).

Revenge tragedy was not in fact identified as a specific literary genre until the early twentieth century, and since that time, there has been no consensus of opinion about the validity of the designation. While most scholars have agreed that the plays exhibit similar themes and theatrical devices, they have also pointed out that revenge does not always figure as the central theme of the individual plays. Further, dramatists utilized different literary sources and wrote at different skill levels to achieve strikingly different kinds of revenge tragedy. What is more, according to these critics, the broad chronological period assigned to English revenge tragedies covers several markedly different cultural, social, and political periods. Perhaps the most frequently discussed topic is on the morality of revenge. In an effort to understand the overarching fascination with revenge as tragic material, commentators have closely examined Elizabethan and Jacobean attitudes toward revenge, focusing on such issues as the Christian requirement to be patient and leave revenge to God; the ethical dilemma in seeking private revenge when denied public justice; and the moral significance of such social institutions as vendettas and dueling. In recent years critics have sought to understand the popularity of revenge tragedies from a cultural and historical standpoint. These commentators have observed that the revenge tragedy form appeared at a conspicuous time in English history, when people were beginning to question the fundamental relationship between religion and the universe, when the English nation was imperiled by the threat of the Spanish Armada, and when English society endured the uncertainty of succession between the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I. According to these critics, Elizabethan and Jacobean playwrights employed the revenge tragedy as the ideal vehicle by which to project their concerns about such provocative issues as a repressive religious tradition, political corruption, and social malaise.

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