Human beings are sensitive creatures. Easily slighted and angered, revenge is often a necessary release. Human beings, prone to barbarism, are one of the only creatures on the planet that murder its own. We take pleasure in violence and the pain of others. The human race has evolved a great deal since prehistoric times but our basic instincts to hunt and to kill are still with us. Society has forbidden that these traits be shown, so they are manifest in petty vengeance and violent movies. The question remains, when is revenge deserved? Revenge, can be justified when the crime inflicted on the victim emotionally scars him/her and can be carried no farther than the original wrong the victim suffered.
The first concern when contemplating revenge is motivation. Has the person in question truly been wronged? It cannot just be a slight wrong, or a problem easily assuaged. It must have some sort of emotional impact and it must carry over into other parts of his/her life. In Medea, by Euripedes, Jason truly wrongs Medea. Dumping his wife of many years that bore him two children is not a trivial matter. In addition, as a result of Jason’s actions, Medea and her children are banished from the city and left to fend for themselves. The long-term effects on Medea are substantial. The emotional trauma in itself, justifies revenge. The man she gives her heart to and sacrifices her family and friends to, dismisses her without a second thought. The financial and economic problems then rear its ugly head. Thrown into the world on her own, she must find a way to provide for herself and her children. She is not given money, a safe haven, or any time to make arrangements for her new circumstances. Not only is Medea affected, her children are fated to live in exile, without a father, as poor peasants. In Medea’s case, her motivation is sound to justify revenge.
The circumstance in which one goes about exacting one’s revenge is the second important concern. The effects of one’s revenge on another person can extend only as far as the effects of the wrong against them on their own lives. Revenge should only be directed at the person who perpetrated the wrong and should not include innocents. If and when this occurs, the revenge is no longer justified because it has exceeded its limits. Those innocents now also have a right to revenge. This effect will repeat itself until the entire world is filled with hatred. Revenge must also be thought out. A spur-of-the-moment decision is the result of anger and not cold rationale. When one is angry, one makes rash and stupid decisions. Revenge made in blind fury will in most cases not be justified because it violates one of the above specifications. Medea’s revenge, when considered from this point of view, is not justified. Those that caused her pain are Jason and Creon. The princess is only indirectly involved and did not make any conscious decision to hurt Medea. Medea uses innocents, her children and the princess, to exact her revenge on Jason and Creon. This is unacceptable and makes her revenge from this circumstance point of view completely unjustified. For revenge to be justified, it must fulfill both requirements of motivation and circumstance. Though Medea’s motivation is sound, the circumstances are horrifying, so her revenge is not justified.
Vengeance is a subject that must be treated with the utmost care and sensitivity. One can only carry out revenge when it is justified, and to prove that, one must carefully consider all aspects of the problem. Perhaps the reader believes this is ludicrous. In life’s small problems, it is a bit excessive because one’s revenge will not have any long-term ramifications on large groups of people. However, consider the attack on the World Trade Center. Would the United States be justified in declaring war because of this attack? One decision on the part of the president and Congress will affect the citizens of every country in the world. Revenge must always be considered with cold rationality, without the heat of anger and emotions. Revenge can be carried out if and only if it is justified.