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Revenge is a form of justice enacted in the absence or defiance 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. Francis Bacon described revenge as a kind of "wild justice" that "does... offend the law [and] putteth the law out of office." 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 societyEdit
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".
Vengeful behavior has been found across a majority of human societies. Some societies encourage vengeful behavior, which is called a 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". 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.
Feuds are cycles of provocation and retaliation, fueled by a 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". 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.
In Japan, honouring 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.
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.
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. 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", there italicized as if quoting a proverbial saying, and translated "revenge is very good eaten cold". It has been wrongly credited 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.
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.
Revenge is a popular subject across many forms of art. Some examples include the painting Herodias' Revenge by Juan de Flandes and the operas Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro, both by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In Japanese art, revenge is a theme in various woodblock prints depicting the forty-seven rōnin 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; it depicts more specifically familial revenge, which is placed in the context of Confucian morality and social hierarchical structure.
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Revenge has been a popular literary theme historically and continues to play a role in contemporary works. 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, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Although revenge is a theme in itself, it is also considered to be a genre.
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 include but are not limited to: disguise, masking, sex, cannibalism, the grotesque, bodily fluids, power, violent murders, and secrecy. Each theme is usuallly coupled with the concept of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is a literary device in which the audience possesses knowledge unavailable to characters in a novel, play, or film. 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.
The most common theme within the genre of revenge is the recurring violent murders that take place throughout the text, especially in the final act or scene. The root of the violence is usually derived from the characters' childhood development. Violent murders are seen in many texts ranging from dramas to novels. Carrie, a 20th-century novel written by Stephen King, has examples of this theme that do occur during the final scenes. Another text that incorporates this theme is the sixteenth-century drama Titus Andronicus by William Shakespeare.
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 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.
On the internetEdit
The emergence of the internet has provided new ways of exacting revenge. Customer revenge targets businesses and corporations with the intent to cause damage or harm. In general, people tend to place more credence in online reviews rather than corporate communications. With technology becoming more readily available, corporations and firms are more likely to experience damage caused by negative reviews posted online going viral. Recent studies indicate this type of consumer rage is becoming more common, especially in Western societies.
The rise of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube act as public platforms for exacting new forms of revenge. Revenge porn involves the public dissemination of intimate pictures and videos of another person’s sexual activity out of motives for revenge with the intent of creating widespread shame. Participation in online revenge porn activities incites a sense of pleasure through the harm being caused. The allowance of anonymity on revenge porn sites encourages further incivility by empowering and encouraging this type of behavior. In many instances, the original poster provides the victim’s personal information, including links to social media accounts. Online revenge porn’s origins can be traced to 2010 when Hunter Moore created the first site, IsAnyoneUp, to share photos of his nude girlfriend.
Horsfall, J. A. (1984). Brood reduction and brood division in coots. Animal Behaviour, 32(1): 216-225.
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Humans are not the only species known to take revenge. There are several species such as camels, elephants, fish, lions, coots, and many species of primates (chimpanzees, macaques, baboons, etc.) that have been recognized to seek revenge. Primatologists Frans de Waal and Lesleigh Luttrellave conducted numerous studies that provide evidence of revenge in many species of primates. They observed chimpanzees and noticed patterns 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.
- Crime of passion
- Cycle of violence
- Dirty Work (1998 film)
- Divine retribution
- Eye for an eye/Lex talionis (disambiguation)
- Frontier justice
- Guilt-Shame-Fear spectrum of cultures
- Honor killing
- Nemesis (mythology)
- Proportionality (law)
- Retributive justice
- Two wrongs make a right
- Vengeful ghost
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