Revenge Is Not The Answer
When someone does harm to you or a loved one, the only thing that crosses your mind is revenge! The horrible feeling on the inside builds up a lot of anger, and it just does not let you live! It is very challenging to fight against the urge for revenge, so the only thing you do is seek ways of taking it.
Revenge causes people to act blindly through anger instead of with a plan. People act in different ways when seeking revenge. Some people are hesitant to take action while some people take action more urgently. A few examples of revenge are in these three text one being Homer’s The Odyssey, the next one being Beowulf, and last, there is Shakespeare’s Hamlet. These different texts of revenge will show that revenge comes with karma, and it is an ongoing problem that does not solve conflicts. Revenge is an ongoing problem that will never end well. Someone will do something to upset the next person, and that will start up an unstoppable conflict.
Revenge in the Odyssey
In the Odyssey, vengeance is one of the most important themes, and also is why almost all the conflict in the story occurs. Revenge is such a factor in The Odyssey because of the urging feeling of payback. All of these situations of revenge happen for different types of fair reasons. For example, when Zeus seeks revenge on the people that breaks the rules. Zeus is the most powerful god of them all, and it is not smart to play with him. He is the leader of a practice where they care for visitors. Whoever decides to disobey Zeus’s practice known as barbarians will face the consequences. Odysseus goes to the house of the kyklops and says that it will be entreated. The kyklops responds and says that he is not worried and does not care for Zeus. Shortly after this being said the Kyklops eats some of Odysseus’s men. Zeus most definitely got revenge but through Odysseus. Odysseus might have sought revenge, but with revenge being ongoing the kyklops is not done with Odysseus. The first act of revenge only causes the next person to act more violently than the last person acted upon them. Now Odysseus has to struggle on his journey back home because of Poseidon wanting revenge for poking out her son’s eye.
Poseidon and Odysseus are the biggest representatives of the theme vengeance in The Odyssey. People always run to the violent option of revenge for example, Poseidon is at Odysseus’s head for blinding his son, Polyphemus. Poseidon can’t kill Odysseus, but he can make sure that his journey back home is extremely difficult. The sea god made sure to fulfill his son’s wish that Odysseus should arrive home late, torn up, and alone. He also made sure that his shipmates were nowhere to be found and his household was a mess.
Now Odysseus wants revenge on the suitors for disrespecting his family and ‘kill[ing] his flocks of sheep and longhorn cattle unstoppably'(Homer 1.92-93). He was the reason that Odysseus and his men ran into many obstacles. Poseidon might have got revenge by making sure his journey back home was difficult, but Odysseus ended up managing to get through every single one of them. Now Odysseus and his son, Telemachus seeks to get revenge on the suitors for invading their home. The suitors ate all of their food and showed Odysseus’s wife no mercy. They form a plan to sneak attack and made sure that all of them had a gruesome death. Revenge is not always the best option because the act of it will cause someone to retaliate. In the end, someone is going to end up unhappy for example the suitors. To some people, revenge is more important than others. People act as, if they don’t seek revenge on a person that wronged them, then their life will not flow smoothly.
Revenge in Beowulf
Vengeance is also known to be a code of life that some people live by. Instead of acting out of anger, they are acting for the fact that it is just what they are supposed to do. When Beowulf says ‘Wise sir, do not grieve. It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning’ (Beowulf 1384-1385) it shows that revenge is very important to Beowulf. He is an example of someone who takes revenge very serious. In the story, revenge is a motivating factor, but it still comes with negativity. There will always be that one person in life that has hatred towards people that are enjoying a successful life. Grendel is a perfect example of a person who is a straight up hateful person. He decided to seek revenge on mankind for the life he was given to live. He raids Heorot because of all the love they had from the gods. Also, he disliked all the joy that was running through those men. Now that the person full of hatred has started the conflict, it leads to the opposing side retaliating. People are going to protect what is theirs and revenge is the way.
Grendel’s mother’s revenge is more specific. She attacks Heorot because her son was killed by someone that is from there. Even though she knows that Beowulf is much stronger than her, she still wants to battle him. Most people would not fight a person knowing they are going to be defeated. Her anger for revenge is causing her to act. Just as she thought she had revenge on Beowulf he ‘took a firm hold of the hilt and swung the blade in an arc, a resolute blow that bit deep into her neck-bone and severed it entirely, toppling the doomed house of her flesh; she fell to the floor.'(Beowulf 1564-1566). Just shows that letting built up anger make decisions for you will cause someone to be harmed or even their life. Now Grendel and his mother are no longer alive due to the act of revenge. The consequence that comes with revenge is death and is why acting upon it is not the smartest idea. Another example is before the fight when Beowulf is getting ready to battle Grendel’s mother he says, ‘I ask you to recall what we said earlier: that you, son of Halfdane and gold-friend to retainers, that you, if I should fall and suffer death while serving your cause, would act like a father to me afterward. If combat kills me, take care of my young company, my comrades in arms’ (Beowulf 1475-1482). This explains that seeking revenge does come with negative consequences. They start to worry about their family members, friends, and loved ones that they could possibly let down by getting defeated. People who seek revenge are known to be selfish because of the lack of care they have for the people around them that cares for them.
Revenge in Hamlet
When mentioning revenge, karma has to be brought up. Like other stories I have read, there is a strong focus on revenge in Hamlet. Hamlet is going through a lot in his life. He has just lost his father and is thinking heavily about suicide. He is not sure what to believe about his father’s death. He has this ghost in his ear telling him that he has to get revenge for his father’s death. ‘So art thou to revenge when thou shalt hear’ (Shakespeare 1.5.7). This is where the ghost is telling Hamlet that it is his responsibility to revenge his father’s death. Hamlet Does not believe the ghost and wants more information on what happened. Hamlet is not the type of person to seek revenge. He likes to plan out things and make sure it happens at the right time. After a lot of procrastination, Hamlet finds out the truth about his father’s murder. As Hamlet is fighting Laertes, who Claudius has persuaded to kill Hamlet. Laertes tries to poison Hamlet through a drink and with a sword. Instead of hamlet drinking the poison, his mother did. Hamlet notices what has happened and he reacts and puts a sword through Claudius. Now Hamlet is a reason that Laertes, Claudius and Gertrude and himself is dead. This shows how karma comes around because of someone trying to seek revenge.
Usually, people are scared to seek revenge for the simple fact that they are scared of the consequences that come with revenge. The urge that anger brings people causes them not to think correctly, so they think that vengeance is not wrong. As we saw in Hamlet, you will end up with more problems by seeking revenge for your previous problems. Right before the match, Hamlet apologizes to Laertes, saying that it was his angriness that made him kill Polonius. Laertes answers by saying, ‘I am satisfied in nature, / Whose motive, in this case, should stir me most / To my revenge: but in my terms of honour / I stand aloof’ (Shakespeare 5.2.244-247). By him saying that he is ‘satisfied in nature,’ Laertes means that Hamlet’s apology has calmed down his anger at Hamlet for killing his father. However, Laertes adds, the damage to his honor is what gives him a good reason for taking revenge. Laertes is lying about his feelings and he takes revenge. Laertes also was seeking revenge but things didn’t end well because of karma. Revenge does not solve any problems, and the outcome of it is almost always negative. Revenge will only make your sad emotions fade for the moment. All the anger that builds up on the inside is what causes people to have the urge to want to retaliate. The outcome of revenge is death and dealing with those consequences are hard. When Hamlet sought revenge on Claudius, he didn’t expect to die. Revenge is like fighting fire with fire, the problem will only get bigger.
- Beowulf. Translated by Seamus Heaney.
- Norton Anthology of English Literature, general editor, Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed., vol. A, Homer and Robert Fitzgerald.
- The Odyssey. New York: Vintage Books, 1990. Print.
- Shakespeare, William, and Cyrus Hoy. Hamlet. New York: W.W. Norton, 1996. Print. Norton, 2012. pp. 41-108.
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