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Revenge by Proxy
I wouldn't take the Knight Templar's word for it.

"My good sir, these are hard times," said Riose, with meaning, "and you have children and friends. You have a country for which you have mouthed phrases of love and folly in the past. Come, if I should decide to use force, my aim would not be so poor as to strike you."
Foundation and Empire

Tom is out for revenge, and he knows just how to get it. Since Jack killed his wife, he will kill Jack's (perfectly innocent) wife. Or his sister in revenge for his sister, or brother. etc. If the exact relationship is not possible, he will go for another. Cold-Blooded Torture may also come into play, possibly with a Past Victim Showcase. Particularly horrific when the target is a child, but no matter how horrible the crime being avenged (or how non-innocent the victim is), this is a Moral Event Horizon, since the actual victim is considered only as a means to an ignoble end.

Often, the justification the villain uses for this act — and it's pretty much always a villain or a very dark Anti-Hero that does this, due to it being very much Moral Event Horizon-worthy as mentioned above — is that he or she wants the person to suffer as the villain has suffered as a result of the act, even if the hero caused it accidentally and the villain deliberately.

It works.

Even worse villains may regard one of theirs as valuable as several of the hero's, and so regard killing several victims as mere even retribution.

Frequently a Bewildering Punishment for the victim, though this trope is more likely than most to have the villain explain the offense to the victim.

Sometimes the villain feigns this in order to lure the hero to within striking distance. If the villain is feeling particularly sadistic, they won't just torture and kill someone the hero cares about; the hero will be Forced to Watch.

Sometimes the villain justifies it by claiming that the victim profited by the original crime. Wearing, owning, or using something that belonged to the villain, or one of his own, may provoke it — but don't expect him to inquire about whether the victim knew of the provenance of the item. Or to ask for it. Sometimes the character is aware of the tainted source of his good fortune. He may attempt to Buy Them Off, but if he refuses to give it up, this moves out of the scope of Revenge by Proxy.

Quite a few Soap Operas, both US and Hispanic, have this as part of the plot.

Classical Mythology is full of this trope with respect to gods and humans, though it's much more forgiving of it than modern works.

Compare Sins of Our Fathers. Note that if the actual wrongdoer is unavailable, the trope is Sins of Our Fathers; to be Revenge by Proxy, the attacker has to be able to attack the original instead, and choose a different victim. See also Revenge Through Corruption when the method of revenge is trying to inflict a Face-Heel Turn on someone the character cares about. Threatening to do this is I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Detective Conan, a suspect poisons his new bride to get revenge on her policeman father, who'd neglected to notice that the perp he'd been chasing had run over the suspect's mother (and she then bleeds to death later). Subverted in that the bride found out that the suspect was the childhood friend she had a crush on and guessed that he'd attempt something like this.
  • In the first episode of Black Jack 21, an Italian billionaire blames the Japanese Medical Board's head, for not letting Black Jack operate without a license; he is convinced that Black Jack could've saved his son (and, to be fair, he's probably right). He contacts certain 'associates' ... and the same day, the son of the Medical Board Chairman is gunned down by a mob assassin. The boy survives, but only just barely, with the bullet stopping right next to his heart... and there's only one doctor in the world who could possibly save him. The Surgeon with Hands of God. Black Jack! Cue the Chairman agreeing to release Black Jack, AND pay him an exorbitant fee, for the life-saving operation...
  • Because Haruhi Suzumiya is being too boring in her twisted opinion, Ryoko Asakura attempts to kill Kyon, the person closest to her, in order to get her to react. Thanks to Yuki Nagato, she doesn't succeed in this endeavor.
  • In Rurouni Kenshin, the villain Enishi attempts to get revenge on Kenshin by attacking his friends and allies, culminating with killing Kaoru... or so it seems. Except he can't bring himself to actually do the deed because she reminds him of his Dead Big Sis.
  • In Full Metal Panic! TSR, Gauron attempts to do this to Kaname to get to Sousuke (knowing that that would affect him more than if Sousuke himself was hurt or killed). Of course, what Gauron did can either be interpreted as Revenge by Proxy or Murder the Hypotenuse (in which case he was actually thinking he's doing Sousuke a favor). Or, knowing Gauron, it's possible it's just both, and he can't make up his mind what exactly he wants.
  • In Elfen Lied, Lucy does this to Kurama... repeatedly. Turns out he was responsible for a bullet (intended for Lucy) hitting her only friend at that timenote  and then told her he could save the girl if Lucy gave herself up... which leads to Lucy spending the rest of her childhood and her teenage years being a guinea pig while her friend dies anyway. By the end of the manga, Kurama has watched just about everyone he ever cared about die, appear to die, or be terribly maimed.
    • The girl might not have actually died.
    • Kurama's capturing of Lucy and other Diiclonius stems from Lucy infecting him with the virus.
  • Char Aznable not only used his best friend in exacting this, but also talked plenty of cold-blooded smack to him for good measure.
    Char: "Hey, Garma! Do you read me? Blame this on the misfortune of your birth!"
    Garma: "What?! Misfortune?!"
    Char: "You were indeed a good friend to me. Don't take it personally; you can thank your father for this."
    Garma: "You've double-crossed me, Char?!"
    • He then goes on to betray every member of the victim's family, killing them all in revenge for their father having killed his. The amusing part? Their dad, Degwin, is killed partway through the series by oldest son Gihren, making Char's revenge truly pointless.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Scar's quest to kill all State Alchemists, in revenge for the Ishvalan Massacre, eventually leads him to attempt to kill Edward Elric, a State Alchemist who is not only 15, but was never involved in Ishval at all.
  • In Naruto Sasuke has decided to make use of this trope to have his cake and eat it too. While initially Sasuke was after his older brother for killing the entire Uchiha Clan, and then the three elders of Konoha who decided it had to be done to avert a coup, eventually Sasuke just snapped and decided everyone who'd ever heard of the Uchiha needed to die because they weren't aware their lives had been saved by his family's murders. Sasuke's out of touch with reality at this point.
  • In One Piece, Don Chinjao decides to get revenge on Monkey D. Garp by killing Luffy, his grandson, as he thinks killing Garp wouldn't be enough punishment for what Garp did to him, and wants him to suffer. He also comments to Luffy that, had he known Dragon was Garp's son, Luffy wouldn't have even been born.
  • In Mai-HiME, Takumi is a target of this from two separate people. Nao enters his hospital room with the intention of harming him because she hates Mai for being well-liked for her persistence despite the loss of her parents. Akira rescues Takumi and escapes, but then gets attacked in the Forest and her Child is destroyed, killing Takumi. The perpetrator later turns out to be Shiho, who did it purely out of jealousy of Mai's closeness with Yuuichi.
  • In Rave Master, Haru's dad, Gale, told the Imperial where Demon Card's Headquarters is with the deal of taking King alive as prisoner to end his corrupt ways. To his horror, the Imperial killed all the people inside the Headquarters including King's wife and son (presumably). As revenge for it, King broke out of prison and killed Gale's wife, Sakura, in front of him. He even put the Dark Bring, End of Earth (which causes another Overdrive), inside him which forces Gale to be away from his children and facing eternal solitude.

    Comic Books 
  • Doctor Doom's entire supervillain career (and all the death and suffering it causes) is one giant overblown attempt to make Reed Richards' life as hellish as possible in revenge for daring to be smarter than Doom. He's developed a lot of other, smaller motivations partly due to his being a villain, but even all of those can be eventually tied back to his grudge against Reed.
  • Norman Osborn is the master of this and prefers this tactic to make Spider-Man suffer.
  • Ultimate Nick Fury, in a rare "heroic" example, melted down Dr. Octopus' tentacles, to which Octavius shared a mental link, while forcing him to watch as both a punishment for his murderous rampages and a way to neutralize him as a threat. This may sound bad, but the series made it very clear that Doc Ock's monstrous actions and his unrepentant cruelty warranted extreme methods of punishment.
    • A small subset of the things he had done up to this point: Murdering countless civilians, helping to facilitate the escape of the Sinister Six (destroying SHIELD's headquarters and countless lives), and torturing Peter Parker in cold blood by performing actions including, but not limited to, ripping out one of his teeth while he was still conscious.
  • Crops out quite often in Diabolik, either due Diabolik causing great damage to a mob boss or Ginko arresting a particularly powerful criminal or causing him great economic damage.
    • Averted by Diabolik himself: he may be a ruthless Villain Protagonist, but he always targets the guy against which he has the grudge. The one time he did try this it was because he believed Ginko had unknowingly ordered Eva's death while trying to arrest the woman Eva was disguised as, so he started making mock attempt at killing Altea (Ginko's fiancee) until he got the chance to kill her before Ginko's eyes, at which point Eva (who had actually been captured and replaced by a henchwoman of a mob boss rival of the father of the replaced woman) arrived and stopped him.
  • Zander Rice forcibly activates X-23's Healing Factor at age seven with lethal doses of radiation, extracts her claws one by one for coating with adamantium at the same age without anesthesia, deliberately leaves her behind to be killed on a mission, and subjects her to 13 years of physical and emotional abuse. Why? Because Wolverine killed his father during his escape from the Weapon X program. He's doing all of this to a child, whose only involvement was being created by Rice's team with Logan as her genetic parent. Rice even takes the time to tell her why he's doing these things to her.

    Fan Works 
  • Serves as the sole motivating force in too many Hurt/Comfort Fic stories to even begin to list.
  • In the Firefly fanfic Forward, Adelei Niska kidnaps River and Jayne and tortures them specifically to get at Mal.
  • Very common in Naruto fanfics, when either young Naruto is nearly beaten to death by villagers or Iwa is out for his blood because he looks like the Fourth Hokage
  • Seems to be Trixie's motivation for becoming the prosecutor in Turnabout Storm; it's an opportunity to get payback against Twilight by having one of her friends sent to the Moon or the Sun for murder.
  • The Immortal Game: After the Mane Six and the Loyalists manage to retake Canterlot, Titan sends Terra to destroy Ponyville. As Luna points out, it's not about gaining any strategic advantage, Titan just wants to punish them for defying him.
  • In The Ghost Map, Colonel Moran gives Sherlock Holmes a Sadistic Choice as his revenge: commit suicide, or Moran will murder Mrs. Watson. In the process of Holmes's attempt to talk him down, Moran decides for him and gives him a cocaine overdose.
  • Nightmare Phobia, the Big Bad of the Chaos Verse, wants to take revenge on Celestia by targeting all the ponies close to her.
  • In Lord of the Rings An Eye For An Eye, elf lord Cornallar was driven mad with grief at the death of his son Tinard at the hands of orcs and blamed Elrond for causing it. He waited hundreds of years for a chance to kidnap one of Elrond's sons and succeeded to capturing Aragorn. But things got worse once Cornallar discovered Aragorn was a descendant of Tinard's human friend who Cornallar also blamed for Tinard's death. Then he decided to make Elrond watch his son, as well as Isildur's heir, die.
    Elrond: "Please, Cornallar, he is just a boy. He has nothing to do with all this, let him go."
    Cornallar: {mockingly} "Oh, he has everything to do with this, my lord."
  • For His Own Sake: Kagura actually wants Nagisa to get together with Keitaro specifically so she can hurt her by hurting him. What's particularly messed up is the History Repeats aspect: in the past, Kagura murdered Takeru, Nagisa's childhood friend, and got away with it.
  • The Emergency! fic "Eye For an Eye" has Roy accidentally hit and kill a man who stepped in front of the squad. He couldn't stop in time, and it wasn't his fault, but the guy's brother gets intent on killing John, to take Roy's "brother" from him.

     Film - Animated 
  • Syndrome attempts this in The Incredibles, however Jack Jack isn't an ordinary baby.....
  • 102 Dalmatians: In order to get even with Dipstick for preventing her attempt to make a coat of him and 98 other then-puppies, Cruella altered the design to include a hood made of three other puppies and planned to make the hood of now-adult Dipstick's three puppies.
  • In Tangled, while she at first was content to send Flynn to his execution with Rapunzel being ignorant of it, once that fails she freely tells Rapunzel what she did to him, which carries overtones of this, as does stabbing Flynn in front of Rapunzel. Mother Gothel does not state such a motive clearly, which would hamper her style of manipulating Rapunzel — instead she blames Rapunzel for it.
    • The Stabbington brothers also go after her when she was with Flynn.

    Film - Live Action 
  • In the Lon Chaney silent West Of Zanzibar, the antagonist steals Chaney's wife away and leaves him a paraplegic to boot. Chaney retaliates by getting ahold of the antagonist's infant daughter and raising her to be an alcoholic prostitute.
  • The 2009 Star Trek, Nero goes overboard doing this to Spock, though not for destroying Nero's home (accidentally or otherwise), but rather because Spock's miraculous solution to a natural disaster was too late to save the planet.
  • The Dark Knight, in Two-Face's crossing of the Moral Event Horizon:
    "Not my son. Punish me, instead."
    "I'm about to..."
  • In The Punisher (2004), Castle had one of these inflicted on him as revenge for causing the death of Howard Saint's son in a drug bust.
  • At the beginning of The Replacement Killers, Wei, a Triad mob boss, loses his son to a police shootout. He then sends a hitman to kill the police officer's eight-year-old son in revenge. Unfortunately for Wei, the hitman (played by Chow Yun-Fat) has a heart and won't go through with it. Cue the Contract on the Hitman.
  • Kill Bill Volume 1 touches upon this trope when the Bride confronts Vernita, one of the first targets of her Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Vernita tells her that she has every right to want to get even for what she and her partners did. The Bride tells her that in order to be truly even, she would have to kill not only her, but her husband and her daughter as well (since the assault on the wedding had claimed both of those numbers on the Bride's side though her own daughter turned out to be alive), but in a subversion of this trope, The Bride makes it clear that she's not interested in killing Vernita's innocent family.
  • El Indio, the Big Bad of For a Few Dollars More establishes himself as a vicious monster in an early scene when he revenges himself upon a man who took money to put him behind bars. The man in question used said money to start raising a family, including an eighteen-month-old boy, and because of this, Indio feels that said family is "partly his." So Indio orders his men to take the wife and the baby outside and shoot them while he is Forced to Watch. He makes him listen to the pocket watch that he always carries — later sadistically setting up a duel with him using that same pocket watch: "When you hear the music finish, begin. Or do you think you can?"
  • Billy Bedlam's Disproportionate Retribution on his cheating wife in Con Air. He left her alone and killed her entire family.
  • In Highlander: Endgame this was the MO of Jacob Kell, the film's Big Bad. Kell, to revenge the death of his priest father figure at the hands of Connor MacLeod, (and perhaps the fact that he became aware of his immortality and it destroyed his faith due to Connor) targets all those nearest to Connor. Later, after Duncan takes Connor's quickening and thus a piece of his soul because Our Souls Are Different, Kell intends to target Duncan this way too, announcing that Duncan has just inherited Connor's curse.
  • 12 Rounds begins with the main character leading the arrest of an international terrorist which indirectly causes the latter's girlfriend to be killed (she's run over by a truck when she tries to escape). The terrorist then escapes, kidnaps the hero's girlfriend and threatens to kill her if he doesn't go through a rigamarole of Die Hard with a Vengeance-esque challenges. Subverted in that, keeping up with the Die Hard With A Vengeance plagiarism, it's all a distraction from the federal bank heist he's pulling.
  • After being unmasked as the villain he is by Batman, The Penguin in Batman Returns sets in motion a plan to kidnap and murder all the first-born sons of Gotham because he was abandoned as a child long ago by his own parents. It's unclear whether he planned this from the beginning (as evidenced by the lists of the names he took down while searching for his parents) or because he was pissed at the Gothamites for turning on him, but the plan is foiled by Batman before it can get too far.
    • It seems he was planning it from the start, but then backed off the idea when Corrupt Corporate Executive Max Shreck convinces him to run for Mayor as part of his own plan, and when he turns out to be fairly popular with the public due to his tragic backstory, which he milks for all its worth.
  • In the first Superman movie, General Zod vows to do this to Jor-El:
    Zod: "YOU WILL BOW DOWN BEFORE ME, JOR-EL! BOTH YOU, AND ONE DAY, YOUR HEIRS!"
  • Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), a child killer who was executed vigilante-style by the parents of Elm Street, decides to get revenge on them through their still-living children through their dreams.
  • The conflicts in the Star Wars films (especially the prequels) are basically caused by the Sith getting revenge on the Jedi by destroying their order and taking over the galaxy for their devastating defeat a thousand years before the events of the films (and many more wars and defeats thousands of years before that). Of the four Sith seen in the movies two were never Jedi or wronged by a Jedi (that we know of) and of the two Sith who were Jedi one voluntarily left the Order out of ideaological differences while the other had More Than Mind Control worked on him by one of the non-Jedi Sith (though to be fair, Anakin thought the Jedi were holding him back from saving his wife). A few Sith we've seen in the Expanded Universe have personal grudges against the Jedi Order or a Jedi in particular, but for most of them their dogma insists they do everything they can to make the Jedi miserable because Sith Hate Jedi and the Jedi tend to stand in the way of their galactic conquests. One notable example of Revenge by Proxy in the films is Anakin's slaughter of the Tusken Raiders that tortured his mother to death, which included the women and children of said tribe that likely had nothing to do with his mother's death. He didn't care.
  • Loki's plot to take control of Earth in The Avengers is largely driven by jealousy and resentment towards his adoptive brother Thor, as well as rage at being deceived about his true ancestry. He wants to subjugate the entire population of Earth—a planet which Thor treasures and protects—thereby wiping out many of the people that Thor cares about. In addition, Loki feels that he was cheated out of his rightful place as the ruler of Asgard.
    Thor: So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights?
  • Dark Shadows: Angelique has spent the last two hundred years systematically destroying the Collins family in revenge for Barnabas refusing her love.

    Literature 
  • Animorphs
    • See Pay Evil unto Evil. Jake is pretty pissed that Visser One has gleefully slaughtered the Auxiliary Animorphs, so he's willing to massacre seventeen thousand Yeerks, who just happened to be completely defenseless and harmless.
    • Also, after they learn the kids' true identities, the Yeerks attack their houses, managing to enslave Jake's parents.
  • Frankenstein: The Doctor's monster decides to get revenge for his mistreatment and wretched existence by making Frankenstein suffer. The monster kills Frankenstein's youngest brother, followed by his greatest friend, and then on Frankenstein's wedding day, the monster strangles his bride.
  • In Lloyd Alexander's The High King, when Eilonwy is captured by a bandit and he realizes her connection to Taran, he tells her that he has a grudge with Taran, and he will get his revenge now. He is interrupted by a wolf.
  • Lois McMaster Bujold examples:
    • Shards Of Honor: Vorrutyer gloats over what he can do to Aral Vorkosigan by torturing Cordelia.
    • The Warrior's Apprentice: Count Vorhalas threatens to let Miles swing for treason because Aral did the same thing to Vorhalas's sons. Vorhalas eventually backs down, though, when threatened with Miles's mother.

      This case is especially interesting as Barrayar shows that one of Vorhalas's sons was executed because of an accidental Revenge by Proxy. After Aral let one brother be executed, the other attempted to assassinate Aral in revenge. A pregnant Cordelia was caught in the attack, which led to Miles being born disfigured.
    • In the short story, "The Mountains of Mourning", someone tries to slit the throat of Miles' horse, because they couldn't get at him, in what Miles calls an "attempted retroactive infanticide by proxy."
  • In Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, Madame DeFarge is out for revenge on not only the innocent son of a man who had wronged her family, not only his innocent wife, but also on their little girl.
  • In Andre Norton's Scarface, at the end, Captain Cheap reveals that Justin Blade is the son of his old enemy Sir Robert Scarlett, and now he has his Revenge, having assured that the boy would hang as a Pirate. At which point it is revealed that Justin had already had his case remanded on new evidence, and won't be executed.
  • In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files:
    • Grave Peril: the Big Bad goes after Charity, Michael's wife, and their unborn child in revenge. This allows Michael and Harry to make some deductions about who it is. Mostly because the apparent villain is too dumb to have done that.
    • Summer Knight: Mab comes to Harry with a deal that will free him of faerie influence, in exchange for him doing three favors for Mab. Dresden quickly adds on some more conditions, which include "Not hurting Harry because he refused to do a favor," and "no telling someone else to hurt Harry." This doesn't work; she then hurts him simply out of spite, which was not covered by the terms.
    • Dead Beat: Mavra threatened Murphy to get Harry to do what she wanted him to. Harry did it, then informed her that if she ever threatened Murphy again, he would, and I quote, "kill you so hard your last ten victims would make miraculous recoveries." We haven't seen Mavra since.
    • In Changes the Red Court Vampire Ariana kidnaps Maggie Dresden, Harry's daughter he didn't even know existed to get at Harry for all the harm he's done to the Reds in the War. Somewhat subverted when it's revealed that Maggie is the focus of a bloodline curse that actually will kill Harry (Harry's pain over what's happening to his daughter was just a bonus,) and further subverted when it turns out Harry isn't the direct focus of the revenge, he's another bonus. The prize is Harry's grandfather Ebenezer McCoy, who was Harry's mentor and never told him the truth of their relationship. McCoy killed Duke Ortega, Ariana's husband, a few years back by a Colony Drop.
    • It seems The Fair Folk will do this through several layers; it's mentioned in Cold Days by Sarissa (a human woman living under Mab's protection in the Winter Court) that she is very careful not to draw attention to any mortal friends or family she might have, because killing the loved ones of "Mab's pet mortal" would be a sufficiently indirect insult (not to Sarissa, but to Mab,) as to leave the Faerie Queen unable to easily retaliate.
  • In Simon Spurrier's Night Lords novel Lord of the Night, the priest kills Cog, a Gentle Giant utterly loyal to Mira, who is unconscious, before he turns on Mira. This is a mistake.
  • In the Honor Harrington novels, the People's Republic of Haven practiced this as policy for officers who failed the people, shooting whole families for it. Also, Lord Pavel Young kills Honor's beloved Paul Tankersley, with a professional duelist, in order to hurt her. It works, but he soon sees what a bad idea it was.
  • In Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, after Atticus Finch defends a black man whom Bob Ewell's daughter accused of raping her, Ewell is infuriated, and attempts to punish Atticus by attempting to murder the latter's children. This revenge makes even less sense than the trope usually would, since the man in question was innocent — Bob Ewell himself was the one who beat up his daughter — and Atticus actually lost the case due to a racist jury.
    • The case still exposed Ewell as the scum of the earth, and he probably wanted revenge for humiliation. He likely didn't go after Atticus himself only because he's a Badass Bookworm, and his kids were an easier target.
  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Gods of Mars, John Carter is particularly horrified to learn that Issus has Dejah Thoris prisoner and knows that she is the wife of John Carter and the mother of Carthoris — the two men who dared raise their hands against her.
  • Happens now and again in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In the Hand of Thrawn duology, a corrupted copy of the Caamasi Document surfaces. The document details Palpatine's successful plan to raze the planet of a species of Actual Pacifists who were almost universally opposed to him, and as it turns out he used Bothan agents to lower the planet's shields. The document doesn't actually say specifically who these Bothans were, Bothan authorities deny any knowledge, and the issue acts as a Conflict Ball between peoples who want the names coughed up or, failing that, want revenge on the Bothan people, and peoples who think that revenge on the Bothan people is a terrible idea. In many cases the Bothan issue is no more than an excuse for rivals to war over.
    • There's a smaller example when a station containing twenty-two Bothans is shot down because of one particular species who believe that the punishment for a murder calls for either the death of the murderer or ten innocents related to the murderer for each person killed - two of those people had been killed in a skirmish earlier. Rogue Squadron is furious at this concept of justice, but those people also sabotaged their X-Wings so that they can't interfere.
    • In Shadows of the Empire, Prince Xizor wants to shame Vader and kill his son for two reasons. One, because that would leave him that much closer to the Emperor. Two, because the Empire set up a biological weapons lab on his homeworld and when some particularly nasty disease escaped, Vader ordered that the region around the lab, for about a hundred kilometers or so, be bombarded from orbit to sterilize it, and Xizor's family was in that region.
  • In Sir Apropos of Nothing, after Apropos's mother is killed, he vows to get revenge on her killer. Not by killing him (by all accounts, the guy who did it is a giant of a man who'd tear Apropos apart like tinfoil), but by killing his mother. Our protagonist, everybody.
  • In the Agatha Christie novel Pocket Full of Rye, this was Ruby MacKenzie's original plan. Because Rex Fortescue left her father to die of a fever on an expedition to Africa, when Rex's son Percival comes down with pneumonia, she gets herself assigned as Percival's nurse, intending to let him die of neglect. She couldn't go through with it, however, and chooses a different revenge: she marries Percival so that in time she will inherit the money Rex Fortescue scammed out of her father.
  • In Twilight series book New Moon, Victoria chases after Bella because Edward and his family had killed her mate in the previous book. This continues into Eclipse as well with an epic battle it ends when the Cullens team up with the werewolves to kill Victoria and her band of infant vampires
  • In the Magic: The Gathering short story "The Theft of Bayende, Heart and Soul" featured in the Tapestries anthology, both of the protagonists do this. The wizard Noranda-Zang has spent ten years searching for Thane, the man who killed him in battle (He Got Better obviously). When he finally reaches Thane's home, he discovers Thane's pregnant wife Bayende. He and his pet shade then brutally murder her and leave the ruined corpses of Bayende and her unborn child for Thane to find. Thane then spends twenty years searching for Zang. When he finally reaches Zang's home, he discovers Zang's son. Thane drains the life from the young man and leaves his body for Zang to find. Zang does so just as Thane is leaving the scene, and his anguished screams fill the air. The ending makes it clear that Revenge by Proxy resolved nothing, and that both of them would continue to fight each other for the rest of their lives even though both of them had lost what they cherished most.
  • In Andy Hoare's White Scars novel Hunt for Voldorius, Nullus reports that killing a thousand people for each revolt is stopping the resistance. Later, he uses the threat on Malya to get her to serve as Voldorius's equerry.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian story "A Witch Shall Be Born", when Cold-Blooded Torture no longer hurts Taramis, Salome brings her the head of her faithful councilor, Krallides.
  • In P.D. James's Original Sin, the killer's goal is revealed to be this.
  • The Dragon Rises by Adrienne Martine-Barnes has this codified as law: "we are a culture with strong bonds of family. We now hold that the suffering of the guilty party's family is a deterrent to crime. Few persons are so dead to family feeling that they would wish to endanger their innocent wives or husbands or children. This, at least, is the theory."
  • The demon in Running With The Demon was attracted to a young Evelyn Freemark because of her magic and wild nature. They ran together for a while, but when she discovered his true nature, she rejected him. The demon waited until Evelyn had grown up, married, and had children before putting his plan into motion. Seducing Evelyn's emotionally fragile daughter, Catelyn, he impregnated her, then revealed the truth to her and her mother, driving Catelyn to suicide shortly after giving birth. Fourteen years later, he came back for the last time, seeking to both collect his daughter, and kill Evelyn in the process. Bastard.
  • The John Sanford novel Sudden Prey features a criminal named Dick LeBeau whose wife and sister were killed in a shootout with the police. LeBeau decides to get his revenge by killing the families of the cops involved.
  • In Death: Eve Dallas works hard to take down Ava Anders in Strangers In Death. When Roarke asks her why she's treating this one like a competition, Eve admits that Ava reminds her of Magdelana from Innocent In Death. Ava and Magdelana have Bitch in Sheep's Clothing in common. Roarke says "Revenge by Proxy", because Eve wanted to take down Magdelana in her own way, and she didn't get it. She figures that taking down Ava will have to do. This example is treated a lot more sympathetically than a number of other examples in this article.
  • Sisterhood Series by Fern Michaels: In Home Free, Owen Orzell reveals to the Vigilantes that he had worked with CIA director Calvin Span and Big Bad Henry "Hank" Jellicoe. Jellicoe has already been captured and is currently rotting away in a federal prison. Span is dead, because sometime after he was forced to resign from his job as CIA director by President Martine Connor, he was shoveling snow off his driveway and died of a heart attack. Orzell points out that Span knew better than to do that, because he had heart surgery a few years ago, and that he had clearly become a Death Seeker. Orzell asks if they're going to punish him in Span's place, and the Vigilantes say yes. Now this example is treated sympathetically, because the president had essentially enlisted the Vigilantes to take down Orzell, and Orzell's hands are just as dirty as Span's and Jellicoe's.
  • In Tolkien's The Children of Hķrin, Morgoth punished Hurin for defying him by cursing his children and forcing him to watch as their lives are slowly destroyed.
  • Mockingjay: President Snow tortures and hijacks Peeta Mellark in order to hurt Katniss. At one point one of the other characters outright state that Snow will do to his victim whatever it takes to break her. Made even worse when you realize that when Snow wanted Katniss to convince him she loves Peeta in Catching Fire it's not in order to preserve peace in Panem, as Katniss believes at the time, but because the stronger Katniss feels for Peeta the more effective it will be for Snow to torture him.
  • In John Milton's Paradise Lost, the point of tempting Adam and Eve to sin is that it hurts God.

    Live Action TV 
  • The first season of 24 involved the first scenario- with a daughter too. One was a guy called Jack.
    • Jack enacts this in the final season when he sets out for revenge against the entire Russian government. At one point he murders Dana Walsh primarily because she had been working with them even though she had nothing to do with the crime that set him off.
  • Daniel Holtz of Angel gets back at Angelus - who is now the souled Angel - by kidnapping his baby son and raising him in a hell dimension to hate and kill his father. Centuries before Angelus also killed Holtz's wife and daughter - the latter in the most horrible fashion, by vamping her so that Holtz himself would be forced to finish the job (by throwing the girl into sunlight). In a final desperate attempt at revenge, Holtz kills himself, framing Angel so that Connor would kill his own father. Connor instead does the next-worst thing, locking Angel in a steel box and sinking it in the Pacific for four months — Angel cannot die this way because he is a vampire, but the hunger drives him half-mad.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angelus makes it clear that he intends to kill everyone Buffy cares about to get back at her for making him feel human.
    • A none fatal example in Homecoming: Faith knows all about Scott Hope dumping Buffy so after seeing him with another girl she pretends to be an ex and claims she's getting over the various sexual diseases she got from him, sabotaging his efforts to put the moves on the girl.
  • In Heroes Matt Parkman nearly kills Danko's innocent girlfriend (despite knowing that she knows nothing of what he's doing) in retaliation for him killing Daphne until he's talked out of it.
  • Ben on LOST wants to do this to Charles Widmore — off Penny because Widmore's men offed his (stolen) daughter.
  • In the pilot of Merlin, the mother of a wizard Uther executes puts it this way:
    An eye for an eye! A tooth for a tooth! A son for a son!
    • Fortunately, Merlin is able to stop her.
      • The irony is that this is really just the circle of revenge going full circle Uther started his crusade against wizardkind after his wife died by a spell that allowed her to be pregnant with Arthur. So Uther's crusade falls under this trope, in a bizarre way.
    • When Uther dies and Arthur becomes king, Morgana immediately shifts her goals towards Arthur. This is at least partially justified, as pointed out here:
    Arthur: You can't blame me for my father's sins.
    Morgana: It's a little late for that, isn't it? You've made it perfectly clear how you feel about me and my kind.
  • In the second season of Sleeper Cell, the protagonist's girlfriend is killed by an underling of Faris al Farik, so he has Farik's wife killed.
  • In one episode of ER, a man that Kovac had treated ended up with his right arm paralyzed. After that, his life went from bad to worse, eventually getting divorced by his wife, losing his children and getting fired from his job. So to get back at Kovac, he had Kovac break his own hand and wanted to take Kovac's life for ruining his.
  • In Criminal Minds, The Reaper does this to Hotch's ex-wife Haley, since he knows that doing that would get to Hotch more than if he did anything to Hotch himself.
  • In season three of True Blood, Eric kills Talbot and is willing to put several others in danger because Russell was responsible for the death of his family several hundred years ago.
  • In Oz, William Cudney was so enraged by his wife's decision to abort his child that he got revenge on the doctor who performed the abortion - by killing his son.
    • Tobias Beecher and Vern Schillinger arrange the deaths of the others' family members as part of their series-long vendetta.
  • In the Cold Case episode "Sabotage", one man went after the people who indirectly caused his sick daughter's death. His boss who had fired him, making him lose his benefits to help his daughter. The doctor's assistant who did nothing when his daughter was in pain. But the man crosses into Moral Event Horizon when he goes after his brother, who had refused to help him save their parents' old house, his attempts costing an innocent man his arm and leading to him try to kill his brother's innocent wife and daughter. Worse of all was after a bad day, he killed a store manager who wouldn't give him refund on a product without a moment's hesitation.
  • Three Monsters of the Week in The X-Files episodes "The Walk", "Theef" and "Redrum" carry this out.
  • Played for laughs, of all things, on My Name Is Earl - When Ralph learns that Earl accidentally had sex with his mom, his second solution is to in turn have sex with Earl's mom. (His first solution is just to kill Earl.)
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Bloodlines", DaiMon Bok declares that he will kill Picard's son because Picard killed his. This sounds difficult because Picard doesn't actually have a son, but Bok manages to find a way around that.
  • In an episode of Highlander: The Series, an Immortal is revived after thousands of years in a sarcophagus; when an Immortal who was first her lover and then her enemy at the time tries to make peace with her, she takes revenge by killing his totally innocent mortal wife. She blames him for her Queen's suicide. After killing his wife, she says "an eye for an eye".
  • In the season five finale of Desperate Housewives, Dave attempts this against Susan as revenge for accidentally killing his wife and daughter in a car crash by setting up a trap that'll kill both her husband and son, Mike and MJ. He ends up letting her MJ out of the car when he realizes what he's become...and then tries to kill Mike anyway, and fails.
  • Breaking Bad: Besides for his own gain, this is why Gustavo had Hector's grandchildren killed. The man wouldn't care much if he himself died, so Gus went for his family, which is all he really cared about.
  • In Sinbad, Lord Akbari kills Sinbadís brother, right in front of him, because Sinbad accidentally killed Lord Akbariís son in a fighting competition.
  • An interesting variant in Single Father. Sarah cheats on her boyfriend Matt with Dave, so Matt sleeps with Dave's daughter (she's 18, it's okay) to punish Dave.
  • Arrow: This is the strategy of Season 2 Big Bad Slade Wilson; through his minion Brother Blood, he intends to destroy everything Oliver cares about, without harming him directly, in what he sees as retribution for Oliver being unable to save Shado (whom they both loved) back on the island.
  • In The Adventures of Superman, "The Perils of Superman", the Villain of the Week lampshades this, saying that while he can't hurt Superman physically, he can "strike at him through his friends." To this end, he ties Perry to a log in a sawmill (and Lois to the train tracks), uses acid on Jimmy's brakes so that he'll crash when he has to take a twisting road, and lowers Clark into an acid bath.

    Music 
  • A variation occurs in "The Watchmaker's Apprentice," a tale sung by the revenge seeker. After being mistreated (so he claims) and fired by the watchmaker, he contemplates how best to destroy him. He got inside of the shop without problem, but as he said, neither theft nor property destruction would satisfy him. Suddenly, inspiration occurs, and, with an intimate knowledge of clockwork, he constructs a special pocketwatch:
    I tell you that clockwork's a powerful thing. There's a terrible strength in those tightly wound springs. And a gentleman's pocketwatch stays by his heart, and that's where the damage can start.
    The next week a young man stopped by in the shop, took a shine to a timepiece, and paid on the spot. He wound it, and wore it, and at six on the dot, he came to a messy and permanent stop. Now Mr. McArthur's got blood on his hands. And he barely made bail, he's a ruined man. And surely he knows who his downfall was planned by. It's all worked out like clockwork.

    Myth And Legend 
  • Older Than Dirt: In The Epic of Gilgamesh, when King Gilgamesh rejects the sexual advances of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar, she sends the Bull of Heaven wreak havoc on his whole city, no doubt killing loads of totally innocent people (not that rejecting Ishtar was wrong, considering her Death by Sex theme). Enkidu and Gilgamesh kill the Bull, and then the gods decide that one of them must be punished for this transgression. They choose Enkidu.
  • When Loki tricks Odin's son Hodur into killing his other son, Balder, Odin responds by turning one of Loki's sons into a wolf, and having him kill his brother.
    • Odin then used the killed child's guts to make chains to bind Loki to a rock, where a serpent eternally drips venom into his eyes. It wasn't so much Revenge by Proxy as Disproportionate Retribution.note 
  • This appears to be Satan's motive in dragging as much of humanity as possible down to suffer with him in Hell; revenge against God.
  • In Classical Mythology, the goddess Hera constantly gets revenge on her philandering husband Zeus by harassing and trying to kill his mistresses and bastard offspring. She even punishes women whom Zeus had raped. Considering that he's the King of the Gods and far more powerful than Hera, this is more-or-less the only revenge she can take; she cannot take revenge directly on Zeus.
    • She did lead a conspiracy of the gods against Zeus and only shifted to indirect methods when that failed.
    • The best known example is probably sending two serpents to kill Zeus's half-human baby son, Heracles. The baby won. Hera continued to torment him, eventually driving him temporarily insane and making him slaughter his wife and children. His famous Twelve Labors were expiation for this blood-guilt.
    • She forced Leto, a minor goddess pregnant with Zeus's twins, to wander the whole Earth while in labor, looking in vain for a land that would let her rest and give birth. Hera had made all lands refuse to shelter her. She eventually found one island, Delos (or Ortygia), that dared the goddess's wrath and let her rest. The Hera prevented Eileithyia, goddess of childbirth, from visiting Leto, so she went through yet more wretched labor pains until the other goddesses bribed Hera. Finally, Leto gave birth to the gods Apollo and Artemis.
    • Athena does this to Medusa, who had been raped by Poseidon in one of Athena's temples. Athena got pissed that people had been doing it in one of her sacred spots, but she couldn't do anything to Poseidon, so she took out her anger on poor Medusa instead by turning her into a Gorgon.

    Video Games 
  • Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: In case 3-5, Dahlia tried to get Mia through Maya. It didn't go too well.
  • In Disgaea 3, Mao decides that ravaging the human world would be a better revenge for his father's death then going after Aurum, the one who caused it, reasoning that as a super hero, and one of said world's defenders, it would cause him far more pain then his own death. However, Aurum actually wants him to attack the human world, as it'll give another chance to display his heroics. Whether Mao actually goes through with it or not depends on what ending you get.
  • In Xenosaga, Albedo torments Momo so that he can get to Jr. by proxy.
  • Subverted in the sequel to No More Heroes... sort of. Travis is confronted by an Emergency Transformation form of Letz Shake, the well-known Bait-and-Switch Boss of the first game who was killed by Henry before Travis could get to him. Travis points out that it was Henry who killed Shake, but it turns out that he had already gotten to and beaten Henry, and just wants to take down Travis too, just for the hell of it.
    • This is also what kicks off the plot of the sequel. Remember the assassination gigs in the original game? Remember those gigs to kill the CEOs of Bizza Butt? Apparently, Jasper Batt Jr., the youngest child of the family didn't like it very much. To get back at Travis, he stages the assassination of Bishop Shidux. He even recruits other characters craving revenge against Travis in the game to help him achieve this, like Skelter Helter, brother of Helter Skelter from the original game.
  • A Human Noble can threaten Howe with this when you finally confront him in Dragon Age: Origins. He laughs at you and taunts you even more.
  • Reality On The Norm: The game Revenge of the Chicken involves the protagonist (a chicken) assassinating the brother of the man who killed his, the Chicken's, brother.
  • The Dominion of WildStar declared unconditional sovereignty over the Aurin of Arboria for sheltering and supplying the Exiles. Without so much as offering them a chance to surrender, forsake their friends, and evacuate, planet reapers were sicked onto the poor things.
    • It should be noted that the Exiles tried their best to keep Arboria out of the Dominion's knowledge by making speedy, stealthy runs and never staying on the planet for more than a couple of days, maybe a few weeks, max.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick: here. Months after the party kills a young evil black dragon, the dragon's mother hunts down and subdues one of the protagonists. But rather than killing Vaarsuvius, she expresses her intention to take it out on V's children, instead:
    Mother Dragon: After I am done speaking, I am going to teleport directly there, and then I will eat them alive. Slowly. Feet-first. I will then bind their souls to me with two necromantic scrolls that I acquired for this purpose. And I will disappear. I will leave this plane of existence, and you will never find me. I tell you all of this because it is not enough for me to simply kill you. You have taken my baby from me. I demand that you suffer the full measure of pain that I feel. As a parent, I am sure you understand.
    • And then the it's used even more drastically on the mother dragon, when Vaarsuvius uses a single spell to instantly kill at least several dozens of creatures who are directly related to the dragon — though that one is less revenge and more overblown preemptive strike, as Vaarsuvius's justification is not wanting anyone like that dragon to threaten the family again.
      • Unfortunately for V, wiping out a full quarter of the black dragon population of the world has royally pissed off Tiamat, the goddess of vengeance and evil chromatic dragons.
      • It gets worse. It turns out that one member of that dragon's family bred with a human, giving birth to the Draketooth clan, the only people who know where Girard's Gate is, and how to get past the powerful illusions guarding it. Since the clan all posess the blood of that black dragon, the spell killed every single on of them, too. Moral of the story: revenge leads to bad things.
  • In Chisuji, a cop decides It's Personal and sets out to kill the super-strong man who killed his wife and sent his daughter into a coma. After giving him "the same mercy you gave her", he notices the killer's girlfriend holding the daughter's plush toy... cue Discretion Shot.
  • In ''Oglaf, the strip "Ulric" shows this against a devil-bear who took a man's wife.
  • In Kevin & Kell, some coyotes who don't like Bruno's "trans-diet" operation attack his best friend Rudy, as it is implied that they could not defeat Bruno himself. They later come back with a larger pack and attack Bruno himself, though.
  • In Sequential Art, Hilary's done this as well as a direct attack.
  • In Dragon Mango, Bleu Berry's father, unable to hurt her because he needs her to have grandchildren, threatens her classmates.

    Web Original 
  • In Survival of the Fittest V3, Lenny Priestly kills Gabe McCallum's love interest Viki Valentine. Later on, Gabe gets his revenge on Lenny by shooting dead his twin sister Elizabeth, who'd had nothing to do with the death.
  • In Sockb4by Doug Jones poisons Ronnie. His explanation: "Your real father killed my real son. So I'm here to return the favor!"

    Western Animation 
  • In Sky Dancers, Sky Clone cannot get revenge on his brother Skyler for taking away his ability to fly because Skyler died trying to take him out. So he decides that the only way to make things even is to destroy his brother's wife.
  • Variation in Avatar: The Last Airbender : Ozai may not have been responsible for the death of Iroh's son, but he was quite callous about the fact that it had happened and tried to use the tragedy to get Iroh's birthright transferred to himself. Then-Fire Lord Azulon ordered him to kill his own son as punishment for his disrespect. At least, that's the story Ozai and Azula tell...
    • Also hopefully suggested by the man who killed Katara's mother, since his mother is at best... unpleasant. Katara doesn't go for it.
  • Eric Cartman's scheme in the South Park episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die". To sum it up: Scott Tenorman tricked Cartman into buying his pubic hair. In revenge, Cartman constructed an elaborate plot (after several failed attempts) that resulted in Tenorman's parents being shot to death by an irate farmer, ground into a fine chili and fed to Scott at a public event, after which, Radiohead (Tenorman's favorite band) arrived on Cartman's request to mock him mercilessly for crying about it.
  • After Batman: The Animated Series gave Mr. Freeze a redemptive send-off in the movie Sub-Zero, he returned in the revamped series determined to make others suffer as he had by taking away whatever they valued most, since his condition has destroyed his body leaving him nothing but a head that can connect to his suit. He feels he can't return to his wife looking like this. And figured if he can't be happy with what he valued most, then no one else should.
    • First he targeted a paleontologist who spent years reconstructing a dinosaur skeleton by shattering it. Then he destroyed a prominent artist's latest and greatest painting — and the artist is too old to make another one. Then he targets Bruce Wayne by attacking his surrogate family:
    Perhaps the surrogate son? (points freezegun at Tim Drake) No. Better the surrogate father. (freezes Alfred)
    • Finally, he targets Batman by attacking what he values most: all of Gotham.
  • Superman: The Animated Series: Subverted in "Superman's Pal". The leader of a group of thugs gloats that he's going to kill Superman's pal in revenge for Superman sending his to prison. Turns out, he was part of a test on Tina's part to make sure that Jimmy would make an effective hostage.
  • Wheeljack does this in Transformers Armada. He ends up taking Sideswipe hostage to get back at Hot Shot for supposedly abandoning him.
  • Zombozo forms an alliance with several other villains to attempt this on Ben in Ben 10: Ultimate Alien after the hero's identity has been made public. This backfires spectacularly when he pushes it too far by trying to sadisticly murder Ben's mother while his cousin Gwen is watching, causing Gwen to go One-Winged Angel and scare the crap out of him for the second time (the first time being Ben in the original series).
    • Captain Nemesis attempted to combine this with Sadistic Choice on Ben by kidnapping Julie with another girl everyone thought Ben was dating. He learnt the hard way that using this method against Ben was a damn bad idea.
    • One episode resolves around an alien attempting this on human colonel Rozum as a revenge for imprisonning him inside Area 51 for years, leading to the alien's family's death.

    Real Life 
  • Polish author and artist Bruno Schultz, who was forced to live in the ghetto at Drohobycz during World War II, was under the protection of German Gestapo officer Felix Landau, who admired his work, and was shot and killed by another officer in revenge for Landau killing the officer's "personal Jew."
  • In the Code of Hammurabi of ancient Babylonia, the punisments for certain crimes are examples of this (as well as Values Dissonance).
  • For some crimes ancient Egyptian law heavily punished both the criminal and their family.
  • In ancient China, the Nine Exterminations provided for the execution of the criminal, and his entire family within two generations (very briefly: anyone who shares the same grandparent, plus their spouses, plus the families of their spouses).
  • Specifically prohibited in The Bible. The Avenger of Blood is only permitted to kill the convict. Killing anyone other than the convict, or killing someone for something that was not a capital crime (like manslaughter if the homicide was abiding by the terms of the exile) made the Avenger of Blood a murderer, and he was to be put to death.
    • This prohibition stuck very firmly and spread to the later Abrahamic religions (i.e. Christianity and Islam) and entrenched themselves in the cultures they touched. It wasn't perfect—folks everywhere get into blood feuds and vendettas no matter what religion they are if the laws or the government don't have a strong hold on them—but the principle was accepted in law. Thus you find a derivative codified in the American Constitution, specifically Article III, Section 3's prohibition on "corruption of blood": that is, no punishment or penalty can be placed on a convicted person's family for the convict's crimes.
      • Which is small comfort in some cases, as the stigma of being related to certain kinds of criminals can actually be worse and that only prevents the legal system from doing so. More than one criminal's family has been targeted by the families of victims, if not the victims themselves, sometimes with the tacit sanction of local authorities.
    • On the other hand, there are several instances in the Bible where an innocent relative is punished instead of the culpable, such as when God killed David's newborn son to punish him for inventing the Uriah Gambit.
  • This is the (mostly) the modus operandi of many Mexican drug cartels, especially for avoiding possible future revenges against them by the successors.
  • Christopher Dorner's manifesto threatened to stalk and murder the children of those he regarded as his persecutors. "I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, Iím terminating yours. XXXX, XXXX, XXXX, and BOR members Look your wives/husbands and surviving children directly in the face and tell them the truth as to why your children are dead."
  • Those Wacky Nazis did this to those who opposed him many, many times. i.e., since they could not directly attack the very popular Catholic mystic Therese Neumann despite how she openly criticised them, they went after her friends and family instead.


Revenge Before ReasonRevenge TropesForced to Watch
Revealing CoverupExample as a ThesisReverse Cerebus Syndrome
Revenge Through CorruptionEvil TropesRight-Hand Cat
Just So StoryImageSource/Web ComicsReverse Psychology
RevengeOlder Than DirtRevenge Myopia

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