Revenge Definition Essay


(rĭ-vĕnj′)·venged, re·veng·ing, re·veng·es

1. To inflict punishment in return for (injury or insult).

2. Archaic To seek or take vengeance for (oneself or another person); avenge.


1. The act of taking vengeance for injuries or wrongs; retaliation: took revenge on her tormentors.

2. A desire for revenge; spite or vindictiveness: He did it out of revenge.


a. An opportunity to retaliate, as by a return sports match after a defeat: After the loss, he demanded that he be given his revenge.

b. Something done in retaliation, especially a defeat of a rival who has been victorious.

[Middle English revengen, from Old French revengier : re-, re- + vengier, to take revenge (from Latin vindicāre, to avenge, from vindex, vindic-, avenger; see deik- in Indo-European roots).]

re·veng′er n.



1. the act of retaliating for wrongs or injury received; vengeance

2. something done as a means of vengeance

3. the desire to take vengeance or retaliate

4. (General Sporting Terms) a return match, regarded as a loser's opportunity to even the score

vb (tr)

5. to inflict equivalent injury or damage for (injury received); retaliate in return for

6. to take vengeance for (oneself or another); avenge

[C14: from Old French revenger, from Late Latin revindicāre, from re- + vindicāre to vindicate]







v. -venged, -veng•ing,
n. v.t.

1. to exact punishment or expiation for a wrong on behalf of, esp. in a vindictive spirit: to revenge a murdered brother.

2. to inflict pain or harm for; take vengeance for; avenge: to revenge a son's murder.


3. the act of revenging; retaliation for injuries or wrongs; vengeance.

4. something done in vengeance.

5. the desire to revenge; vindictiveness.

6. an opportunity to retaliate or gain satisfaction.

[1350–1400; Middle English < Middle French, Old French revenger=re-re- + venger to avenge< Latin vindicāre]




syn: revenge, reprisal, retribution, vengeance suggest a punishment or injury inflicted in return for one received. revenge is the carrying out of a bitter desire to injure another for a wrong done to oneself or to those who are close to oneself: to plot revenge for a friend's betrayal. reprisal is used specifically in the context of warfare; it means retaliation against an enemy: The guerrillas expected reprisals for the raid. retribution usu. suggests deserved punishment for some evil done: a just retribution for wickedness. vengeance is usu. vindictive, furious revenge: He swore vengeance against his enemies.

"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"". 
  2. ^The Killing Scene: Hamlet 5.2.303–309.
  3. ^Michael Price (June 2009). Revenge and the people who seek it. 40, No. 6. 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.


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