A Taste of Their Own Medicine

A specific form of Revenge, where a person receives the same bad treatment that they showed/were going to show to others. While it may be the original victim who delivers the punishment, it can just as easily be a relative or even a complete stranger.

Superficially, this might look like Beat Them at Their Own Game, but they are motivated by different factors and have a different meaning to the plot:

  • Beat Them at Their Own Game is a survival technique. The person who successfully does it has proven that he can do whatever the other person did just as well.
  • A Taste Of Their Own Medicine is a type of Revenge. The person who successfully does it has demonstrated why the other person should follow The Golden Rule.

The two tropes occasionally overlap, but, in general, try to list an example as one or the other. If you're not sure which it is, ask yourself whether the primary motivator is survival or revenge.

Contrast Hoist by Their Own Petard, which is where a character's bad actions lead directly to their downfall, with no second-party intervention. Often a form of Pay Evil unto Evil. An Ironic Hell is the extreme version of this, where the sinners are punished with being the victim of (or making them horrified with) whatever crime they've done before. Can overlap with Laser-Guided Karma if the character's fate is similar to that of his victims. See also Who's Laughing Now?, which sometimes results from applying this trope. Please note that Selective Enforcement and Hypocrite can pop up if the sinner makes a big show out of it.


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     Anime and Manga 
  • Dragon Ball Z:
    • Frieza's entire fighting style revolves around Cold-Blooded Torture, physically overwhelming his enemies with his power and making sure that they die in pain and despair, knowing that they never stood a chance against him. After Goku becomes a Super Saiyan, he spends most of the fight toying with and brutalizing Frieza just as Frieza had done to his victims, wanting to ensure that Frieza realized that even at full power, he never stood a chance against him. In the end, the only reason Goku tries to spare Frieza is because he felt that letting Frieza live with his pride ripped to shreds was a far worse punishment.
    • This was Dr. Gero's intention with creating the androids. After Goku destroyed the Red Ribbon Army, he wanted to create a fighter that could beat Goku on his terms and inspire the same sense of fear and dread he gave the army. Cell came the closest to doing this to Goku (if only because he was the second of Gero's creations who fought him), but even then, Goku never once displayed fear of Cell, no matter how much stronger he was than him, and died on his own terms.
  • Love Hina: In the 10th volume of the manga, Keitaro's little sister Kanako submits all of the Hinata's tenants to one to punish them for their constant abuse and mistreatment of Keitaro. She actually succeeds in driving the girls out of the house completely.
  • A horrible version of this trope happens in Hiroko's revenge on Aki Honda and her Girl Posse from Narutaru upon obtaining her Shadow Dragon. Said tormentors had previously abused her horribly, up to and including raping her with a test tube. So how does Hiro-chan pay them back for this? Upon getting her Shadow Dragon, she commences in completely tearing each of the posse apart, the only one she spares being the one who objected to Aki raping her. And when she finally catches up to Aki herself? She has her raped with the Shadow Dragon's clawed finger, just before tearing her apart as well. By the time her vengeance is complete, Hiro-chan has gone into full Start of Darkness mode.
  • In Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace, 20 Faces serves this type of revenge. He was once a morally right police officer who, after the horrific mutilation and murder of his sister, did the same to the one who did it. The twist in this case but not the rest of his murders was that 20 Faces kept the murderer alive.
  • Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie: During his fight with Chun Li, Vega makes the mistake of cutting her cheek then taunting her by licking the blood off his claw. Bad decision. She pays him back... with interest. First, by hitting him square in the face by throwing the couch at him, followed by repeatedly kicking his face with her Spinning Bird Kick, then pushes him back down on the floor by stepping on his chest, so she could plant her barefoot on his cheek and perform a full pirouette on his face! And, yes, it's as awesome as it sounds (seen at 5:07-6:03).

    Comic Books 
  • One Silver Age comic sees Superman traveling to the Fifth Dimension and using his powers to prank Mr. Mxyzptlk the same way Mxy normally pranks him, while Mxy (who's running for mayor of his hometown) desperately tries to send Supes back home.
  • X-Men: In X-Men #112, Magneto, who had previously been transformed into a baby by a scheme gone wrong, gives the X-Men a taste of the same (even though none of the capture X-Men were involved in his infantilization). He locks them into chairs that not only inhibit their powers but also disrupt their neurological functioning so that physically they're at the level of toddlers but they retain adult intelligence. He then leaves them to the care of Nanny, an android with a sickeningly sweet personality to care for them as if they were babies. ("Oh Beast, you've such marvelous silky fur. You are a joy to brush. I've an idea. Would you like bows for your hair? I'll see if I can find some.") His intention is that they will live out the rest of their lives in that state, and it is implied that they are trapped that way for several days if not weeks before escaping.

  • In The Philadelphia Story, Tracy pretends not to know that Mike and Liz are reporters and grills them about their personal lives, just as they were planning to do to her.
  • Batman Begins:
    • Batman quips 'Taste of your own medicine, Doctor?' as he gives Scarecrow a dose of the same fear-inducing toxin that Scarecrow had previously used to attack both Batman and Rachel.
    • In a villainous example, the League of Shadows burns down Wayne Manor towards the end of the film, in retaliation for Bruce blowing up their headquarters after he betrayed them. Ra's Al Ghul commented "Justice is balance. You burned my home and left me for dead; consider us even."
  • In Dredd, Ma-Ma has three rival drug-dealers killed at the start of the film by dosing them with Slo-Mo (a drug which makes the user experience everything in Slow Motion) before throwing them from the top of the Peach Trees complex; when Dredd has her cornered at the end of the film, he decides to execute her by dosing her with Slo-Mo and throwing her through the window of her penthouse on Peach Trees' top floor.
  • In Lucky Number Slevin, the mobster known as 'The Boss' orders a hit on Yitzchok the Fairy, the son of a rival mobster known as 'The Rabbi', because he suspects the Rabbi of ordering a hit on his own son. At the end of the film, Slevin murders both The Boss and The Rabbi by suffocating them with plastic bags, the same way they killed his father.
  • During the climax of the first Scream movie, Sidney escapes and hides from the ghost face killers, Billy and Stu and uses their own phone call games to taunt them that the police are on their way. They don't take it well.
    Sidney: "We're going to play a little game. It's called guess who just phoned the police and reported your sorry mother fucking ass!"
  • Cat's Eye: In "The Ledge" segment, a crime boss with a fondness for gambling knows that his wife is having an affair with another man. He kidnaps the man and makes him an offer: if he successfully navigates the very tiny ledge outside his penthouse apartment, he gets his wife and a briefcase full of money; if not, he'll be framed for drug possession. The protagonist wins the bet after several close calls, only for the boss to give him the money and his wife's head. This enrages him so much that after taking out his guard, he makes the boss the same offer to navigate the ledge in exchange for his life. He's not so lucky and falls to his death pretty quickly.
  • The ending of The Heiress, in which Catherine inflicts the same amount of cruelty upon Morris as he inflicted upon her. First he left her on the night of their wedding, then years later when they meet again she did the same with him as a form of revenge.

  • In the Mortal Engines series, towards the end of Infernal Devices Tom attempts to rescue Fishcake from Brighton during an attack by the Green Storm, but Hester flies their airship away and leaves Fishcake to fend for himself. Fishcake spends most of A Darkling Plain brooding over ways to get revenge on them for leaving him behind, but eventually settles for hijacking their only means of transport and leaving them stranded at Erdene Tezh.
  • In In The Tin Woodsman of Oz the protagonists are captured by a giantess Evil Sorceress named Mrs. Yoop who uses her transformation magic to turn Polychrom into a canary, the Tin Woodman into a tin owl, the Scarecrow into a stuffed brown bear, and Woot the Wanderer into a green monkey. Eventually, the entourage is rescued, and Ozma is able to reverse the spell on everyone except Woot; the Green Monkey spell is irreversible and can only be transferred to someone else. Solving two problems at once, Ozma decides to punish Yoop by transferring the spell to her.

     Live Action TV  
  • The A-Team, "It's a Desert Out There". When the Scorpions fall into the trap the A-Team laid for them, Hannibal explicitly mentions their leader punching Max, and punches him in the same place.
  • In the season 3 finale of Revenge Emily has the woman responsible for committing her as a child committed as payback: Victoria Grayson.
  • Seinfeld:
    • Lampshaded on an episode in which after Kramer's Girl of the Week distracts Jerry while putting on a set for a reporter by laughing really obnoxiously, then heckling him, Jerry goes down to her office and heckles her back, hurting her feelings. Kramer is flabbergasted at Jerry giving her a taste of her own medicine, however, a fellow comedian praises Jerry, and even compares him to Rosa Parks.
    • There's also the scene where he tells a telemarketer they've called at a bad time and asks for their home phone number so he can call back and continue the conversation when he feels like it.
  • In Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Illustrious Client, Baron Gruner is left horribly disfigured after one of his former mistresses, Kitty Winter, attacks him with vitriol. The Granada Television adaptation portrays this as a revenge attack for an earlier incident in which the Baron had himself used vitriol to attack Kitty, leaving nasty scars on her neck and chest.
  • Season 2 of Hannibal provides a horrifying example. After tormenting, murdering, and publicly displaying countless victims, Hannibal gets a taste of his own medicine in Mukozuke. Matthew Brown tortures and nearly kills Hannibal, and had Brown succeeded, Hannibal's corpse would have been on public display. Hannibal is narrowly rescued by Jack and Alana, neither of whom realize that he is a serial killer like his tormentor.
  • Played literally in American Gothic (1995). Caleb Temple cites the trope to a doctor who poisoned Sheriff Buck. When we next see the doctor, he's choking to death from an overdose of pills that Caleb has somehow forced him to eat.

    Mythology And Religion 
  • In Classical Mythology:
    • Theseus encountered a bandit called Sinis who killed travellers by bending two pine trees and tying his victims between them. Theseus killed Sinis by binding him between his own pine trees. When he met another robber called Sciron who forced travellers to wash his feet and then kicked them over a cliff to be eaten by a monstrous turtle, Theseus fed him to his own turtle. Finally, he met a robber named Procrustes. Procrustes would invite weary travelers to spend the night but would always claim the bed was either too long or too short for his guest. If the bed was too short he would cut the traveller's limbs until they fit. If the bed was too long he would stretch his victim's limbs till they fit. And if the bed was just the right size he would secretly swap it for his other bed in order to cut or stretch the victim anyway. Theseus cut off his feet and head with his own saw.
    • King Diomedes of Thrace fed his mares with human flesh; Heracles wrestled him into the mares' manger.
  • The Bible: Happens to the Unmerciful Servant in Matthew 18:21-35. The servant has one of his colleagues thrown in jail for failing to repay a small debt. His master, outraged, throws him in jail, reasoning that if the servant can't show mercy to others, he deserves no mercy himself.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • A frequent tactic used by face wrestlers when getting the upper hand on heels ... using the same cheating tactics to wear down and/or defeat the Monster Heels and others, such as using a signature weapon or illegal move.
  • Gorilla Monsoon: One of his signature lines — "Turnabout is fair play" — was used when a face used a bad guy's weapon or cheating tactic against him.
  • At a 2007 Real Quality Wrestling show, Cheerleader Melissa accidentally severed the tendons in Sweet Saraya's leg on a pop can that had been left on the floor, nearly taking it off her leg. Five years later in another country, Melissa was SHIMMER's Champion, till Saraya decided to put an end to her reign, by targeting her knee
  • Dramatic Dream Team: Akira Tozawa got so fed up with Danshoku Dino, he tried to out gay him...he failed but Dino was thrown off his game for a little bit.

    Video Games 
  • Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney gives us this in the tutorial case, no less. Phoenix Wright, having acquired shades of Jade-Colored Glasses after getting disbarred for being tricked into presenting forged evidence, decides to return the favor to the one responsible: Kristoph Gavin. The result? Phoenix's new protege, Apollo Justice, unknowingly ends up getting Kristoph convicted of murder by, you guessed it, presenting forged evidence.
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic IV the necromancer Gauldoth is wrongfully accused of being a child-murderer by the citizens of Vitross, and a town guard named Mardor tries to have him Burned at the Stake. Gauldoth flees from Vitross, but returns several months later with an army which he uses to besiege and capture the town. He makes sure Mardor is captured alive during the siege, and has him burned to death.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, The Legion attacks the NCR outpost at Searchlight by opening up an old radioactive waste dump within the town, turning Searchlight into an irradiated wasteland. In one quest you can undertake for the NCR, you have the option of destroying a Legion outpost at Cottonwood Cove by finding a toxic waste transport vehicle on a cliff overlooking the cove and making it dump its cargo into the outpost below. If you choose this option, the quest-giver compliments you on your sense of irony.
  • Killbane in Saints Row: The Third is a Masked Luchador who was once part of a tag-team with Angel de la Muerte, but got sick of his partner being more popular than him and publicly unmasked him; Luchadors see losing their masks as a Fate Worse Than Death, and Angel immediately retired from the ring and ended up a recluse. When The Boss and Angel take on Killbane during the Murderbrawl event, you're given the option of taking his mask after he's been defeated.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • In Oblivion, Malacath the Daedra Prince asks you to free some ogres that have been enslaved by a minor noble named Drad and are being used to mine ore. When the ogres are freed, they take control of Drad's estate by force and make him grow crops for them.
    • In Night Falls on Sentinel, an in-universe short story in the series, the assassin Jomic describes his signature Pressure Point technique to a potential client. The 'client' in question is actually a knight with a warrant for Jomic's arrest, who subdues Jomic and then decides to use his own pressure points in order to torture him.
  • Garrus from the Mass Effect series enjoys finding ironic ways to inflict this trope on criminals if the situation presents itself; such as sabotaging an environment suit worn by a saboteur and setting it to suffocate him, giving a drug dealer a lethal overdose of their own product, and offing a serial killer with a specialist knowledge of viruses by coughing on them. Subverted towards Saleon, a doctor who ran an illegal organ-cloning business; Garrus had a plan to kill him by harvesting his organs, but settles for simply shooting him when they finally meet.
  • In-Universe, this is Sebastian Castellanos' opinion about the fate of the Axe-Crazy serial killer, torturer and Mad Scientist Ruvik in The Evil Within, who winds up as a Brain in a Jar trapped within his own mindscape-manipulating STEM machine, after brutally torturing and killing hundreds of others by connecting them to the same device. This helps him resist Ruvik's attempts to invoke sympathy for his past and his plight.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Selena decides to act overly flirtatious towards Laslow in their B Support to teach him a lesson about how his own flirting makes women uncomfortable (and thus dislike him).

    Web Comics 
  • Goblins:
    • When Thaco was a prisoner of Dellyn Goblinslayer, Dellyn cut off one of Thaco's ears, and had it framed and displayed as a trophy on the walls of his quarters. When Thaco defeats Dellyn in a duel and has him at his mercy, he cuts off Dellyn's ear.. then throws it away in a display of both Cruel Mercy and But for Me, It Was Tuesday.
    • An Alternate Universe version of Dellyn tortured and killed Forgath and Kin, only to be captured by their comrade, Minmax. Minmax used a crystal ball to teach himself Dellyn's torture techniques, and used them to torture Dellyn to death.
  • Stand Still, Stay Silent: In the prologue, Michael Madsen is shown being an arrogant Deadpan Snarker to his boss over the phone. Later, when Michael acts rudely to fiding out the ferry he's riding is not going to be making its return trip due to sudden governmental travel restrictions, the waitress sent to deal with him chews him out by being an arrogant Deadpan Snarker.

    Web Original 
  • Noob: La Croisée des Destins: Ash regularly seems to show genuine support to Gaea's enterprise, only to be asked to be paid for that support later. Gaea has been shown doing similar things to her guildmates and other acquaintances to get in-game currency from them in previous installments of the franchise.

    Western Animation 
  • Used regularly by Looney Tunes protagonists such as Bugs Bunny. Perhaps most directly in "Rabbit Fire", after Elmer Fudd spends the whole short hunting Bugs and Daffy Duck, a new poster reveals it is "Elmer Season", with a very worried Elmer evading the two, now with hunting garb and rifles.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Krusty Towers," Mr. Krabs turns the Krusty Krab into the titular hotel, with the policy "We shall never deny a guest, even the most ridiculous request." Patrick becomes the first guest and makes multiple ridiculous and unreasonable requests; when Squidward complains, Mr. Krabs outright tells him that the policy ensures that Patrick can be as unreasonable as he wants. Eventually, Squidward gets sick of it and quits... only to return as a guest so he can force Mr. Krabs to fulfill his outrageous demands. However, when his antics go to far and end up sending him, Mr. Krabs, Spongebob, and Patrick to the hospital, Krabs ends up getting the last laugh when he sends the boys to medical school.
  • In one episode of Family Guy, Peter's nemesis James Woods steals Peter's ID and assumes his identity, using it to assume Peter's place in the family and make Peter homeless. Peter gets revenge by using a forged ID to assume Woods' identity, then makes a completely tasteless film that ruins his acting career.
  • An aversion on The Simpsons despite the trope name being dropped verbatim as Homer watches the Thanksgiving parade.
    Announcer 1: And here comes our friend: Bullwinkle J. Moose.
    Homer: Heh heh heh, Bullwinkle's antler sprung a leak!
    Announcer 2: Uh-oh, looks like ol' Bullwinkle's finally gotten a taste of his own medicine!
    Announcer 1: He certainly did, Bill.
    Announcer 2: Wait, what did... did what I just say make sense?
    Announcer 1: Well... no, not really.
    Announcer 2: Boy, now I know how the Pilgrims felt!
    Announcer 1: ...What are you talking about, Bill?!
  • In the Disney short, Lonesome Ghosts, a quarter of ghosts lure ghost exterminators Mickey, Donald, and Goofy to their abandoned mansion to scare them silly. When their antics end up getting the trio covered in molasses and flour, they mistake them for ghosts, freak out and flee for the hills.
    Donald: So you can't take it, you big sissies!
  • In a short of the Tiny Toon Adventures episode "The Buster Bunny Bunch", Babs' classmates become offended by her impersonations of them and retaliate by impersonating her.
  • Kaeloo: At the end of Episode 65, Kaeloo, Stumpy and Quack Quack chase Mr. Cat around with weapons and try to beat him up.

Alternative Title(s): A Taste Of His Own Medicine