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Cycle of Revenge

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"An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind."
— Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi

This trope, which happens a lot in the less idealistic revenge stories (insofar as revenge stories can get idealistic), demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the common warping of the moral maxim "do unto others as you want others to do unto you" into "Do unto others what they did unto you".

The actual Golden Rule is about always attempting to look at things from the perspective of others, freely forgiving wrongs, and believing that no one should have to suffer at all, even if they deserve to. This warped form, however, takes this literally as Newtonian Equivalent Exchange "justice" or Call It Karma, not taking into account that acts of revenge/justice are not quantifiable laws of physics but social phenomena. Because of the complex web of genetic and social bonds that one forms over a lifetime, as well as the interactions between everyone entangled in that web, revenge might well begin with you but it most likely will not end with you. If he deserved to be treated how he treated you, his loved ones may also believe that you deserve to be treated like you treated him too. And yours may believe the same. And so on and so forth. It gets worse if it involves racism, fantastic or otherwise. The result of this is frequently what is called a Blood Feud or Vendetta.

Frequently in these stories, no side is completely wrong, no one is really right, both are very understandable, and such stories are usually painful to watch. Moral Myopia often deepens it, when both sides think that treating one of theirs is worth treating a dozen of the others, and so attempt to inflict that many torments and deaths in retribution. The escalating body count creates a vicious circle that spreads out like a virus, causing more and more casualties as it goes on, until it ends with one party (if not both of them) getting wiped out entirely or being stopped.

The Cycle of Revenge is one way to show that "two wrongs make a right" is a logically fallacious claim by deconstructing its use as justification for vengeance. It, more often than not, results in A Tragedy of Impulsiveness. Revenge Is Not Justice is often invoked to deter people from revenge or to call them out for following through with their revenge.

It's also very common in gangster stories, with the average gangster character avenging the death of a friend upon a rival gangster who may very well have had a similar motivation for his killing, as well as Romeo and Juliet-style Feuding Families stories. A lesser form of this tends to occur when two characters have a prank competition.

Very unfortunate Truth in Television, and Older Than Feudalism; the Lensman Arms Race and Serial Escalation of vengeance upon vengeance makes up much of the history of the human race, with examples like the infamous assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which triggered World War I which then fueled Germany's Roaring Rampage of Revenge in World War II, and blood feuds elsewhere that are still going on to this very day, with no one remembering just what started it, but motivated by all the violence that followed, with each successive revenge motivating the victims or others connected to them to strike back at the one who took the initial revenge.

A note on the "eye for an eye" maxim: many ethnologists believe that this wasn't a demand to go out and seek revenge, but rather a ban on inflicting Disproportionate Retribution (so if someone blinds you in one eye, you can only half-blind them back, and cannot justify torture or murder). According to this theory, those who laid down this rule believed that this limitation would ensure satisfaction of the Golden Rule for everyone and put a brake on the entropy of such vicious cycles.

According to another theory, espoused by Jewish rabbis, the Hebrew actually implies that monetary compensation can be given in place of the eye, with the amount of the compensation to be the same regardless of whose eye was harmed (hence, "eye for an eye"). Unfortunately, given human nature in general, people didn't much listen (especially when "monetary compensation" simply led to unjust instances of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!), and as a result — as Mahatma Gandhi, a well-known nonviolence activist, is supposed to have put it — "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

Kind of makes you wish someone, in an attempt to counter this cancerous mutation of the Golden Rule, learned to Turn the Other Cheek or ask for (and give) Forgiveness, or at least just deliver a Restrained Revenge. But it rarely works, as chances are you'll be punished anyway (for extra salt in the wounds, the enemy in question, especially if a Jerkass who deserved it, will continue their misdeeds unhampered, continuing to ruin the lives of people, you still being one of them). Or you could just exterminate the opposing party until there's no one left to want revenge on you. But it rarely works, because there's always a survivor. Or everyone can agree to only take revenge against the wrongdoing individual and to not avenge those who deserved what they got, but Moral Myopia and Poor Communication Kills tend to get in the way. Or as Romeo and Juliet proposed, we can try The Power of Love. But this rarely works either, so...

Used poorly, this trope can come off as a False Dichotomy, suggesting that if someone kills your loved one then your options are to either kill their loved one or let the person who killed your loved one get away with it. In reality you can narrow your revenge only to the guilty party (i.e. if you kill my loved one then I'll kill you but spare your loved one). Of course then your enemy's loved ones might try Avenging the Villain. After all, if he was evil to you, it doesn't mean he may not have been loving to them.

See Best Served Cold, Feuding Families, He Who Fights Monsters, Remember the Alamo, Revenge Myopia, Roaring Rampage of Revenge, Then Let Me Be Evil, and You Killed My Father. Reciprocal altruism (and, indeed, friendship in general) is quite possibly the flip side of this coin. Sometimes overlaps with Chicken-and-Egg Paradox if there's no obvious reason for the cycle to have started in the first place.


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     Audio Drama 
  • In the Big Finish Doctor Who story "Cold Vengeance", The Ice Warriors, defrosted 500 years after their war with the humans who settled the planet Enyo, seek revenge on their descendants, who don't even remember there was a war. The humans turn out to have been the aggressors, in equally misplaced vengeance for previous wars between humans and other groups of Ice Warriors.

  • Played straight in "Murder Go Round" by Insane Clown Posse, which, contrary to popular belief, clearly isn't about a ride. It tells the story of a young hoodlum (played by Violent J) who is assaulted by a gang member, and decides to get him back, starting a gang of his own and killing his enemy and anybody who tries to avenge him. Eventually, he just starts killing people for the hell of it, including his best friend. It finally escalates to a gang war in which the hoodlum (running a street gang "fifty-five strong" and completely full of himself) is shot "twice in the forehead, twice in the back" and "twice in the eye", and only realizing in his dying moments how stupid and childish the whole endeavor was.
  • Subverted in the Kimya Dawson song "Hold My Hand." The narrator witnesses prolonged child abuse and neglect in two seperate families that a social worker either blatantly ignores or exacerbates, which the children suffer for. When she goes to the social worker to give her a piece of her mind, the woman mocks her for her supposed do-gooder attitude, to which the narrator responds that she'd like to kill her with a crowbar but won't because "the cycle of violence has to end somewhere."
  • Irishman Tommy Sands' song "There Were Roses" is based on a true incident experienced by the author. A Protestant was murdered, and a Catholic was killed in retaliation. The two had been close friends.
  • The Performance Video for Week End by X Japan is this, combined with Bolivian Army Ending and Everybody's Dead, Dave — everyone dies in a chain of murders and suicides, all connected to the deaths preceding them. Yoshiki's wordplay about the "end of a life" being "the end of the world" in the lyrics matches this as well — the end of the life is the end of that person's world, and if the Cycle Of Revenge kicks in, a chain of murder and suicide only grows and expands...
  • The song S.D.I. by Loudness references this in the context of the Cold War and Mutually Assured Destruction. The Cycle Of Revenge is about to take the world into a final nuclear war.
  • The music video for "Cut The Cord" by The Living Tombstone details this between two designers. It starts when one designer kicked the other, the protagonist, out, the protagonist then becomes their own up-and-coming designer getting touted as "The Next Big Thing" in a newspaper. The original designer gets jealous and sends some mannequin robots to sabatoge them by cutting up all their clothes. The protagonist then takes those cut up clothes and manages to make that the next fashion trend, then the protagonist makes their own mannequin robot army to fight them directly. After that fight the original designer's building is practically in ruins with broken robots all about, and the protagonist then makes an even bigger robot army to finish them off.
  • One of the reasons why Humans Are Bastards in "Human Race" by Three Days Grace:
    If it's an eye for an eye then we all go blind
    Is it hard to see?
  • "Good Kid, Maad City" by Kendric Lamar:
    You killed my cousin back in '94, fuck yo' truce!
  • In the song Battlefield by SVRCINA:
    We're standing face-to-face\\ With our own human race\\ We commit the sins again and our sons and daughters pay.\\ Our tainted history\\Is playing on repeat...
  • In the song My Shot from Hamilton, when Hamilton's on the Soap Box he says
    And, if we win our independence\\ Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?\\ Or will the blood we shed begin an endless\\Cycle of vengeance and death, with no defendants?

  • The Bible
    • God marked Cain after he killed Abel to prevent anyone from killing him. Years later his grandson killed someone in self-defense, possibly as Revenge by Proxy.
    • The story of Samson, from the Book of Judges, consists mainly of a Cycle of Revenge: at one point, within a few verses, a Philistine commander claims "We just want to do to him what he did to us" and Samson claims "I just want to do to them what they did to me."
    • Discussed in The New Testament, when Jesus, in the Sermon of the Mount, rejects the practice of revenge in favor of Turn the Other Cheek:
      Jesus: You have heard that it was said, "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth." But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even gentiles do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    • The inverse idea is generally espoused by the New Testament writers: we should love and forgive others, because God loves and has forgiven us. (Matthew 5:38-5:48)
  • Both of the major civilizations (Nephites and Jaredites) in The Book of Mormon fell due to this, with the people becoming "drunk with anger" and continually chasing revenge until they were dead.
  • Older Than Feudalism: The House of Pelops in Greek Mythology. The Oresteia by Aeschylus was written in response to this legend. It concludes with Orestes and Athena breaking the cycle once and for all by inventing the trial by jury. The jury finds Orestes innocent of matricide because mothers aren't actually related to their kids, and in response Athena calls off the Furies and lets Orestes go.
    • King Agamemnon kills a deer in a sacred grove and boasts he is the best hunter. Artemis, the goddess of the hunt, orders a sacrifice of him for such a disrespectful statement, making him kill his daughter Iphigenia. After doing so, the king gets killed by his wife, Iphigenia's mother. She in turn gets killed by her own son for killing his father.
    • As usual with Greek myths, there are actually several explanations why Artemis demanded Iphigenia's sacrifice, including one that was because Agamemnon's father had failed to sacrifice the first lamb of his flock to her, while according to Aischylos it was because two eagles (who symbolized Agamemnon and his brother Menelaos) had torn a pregnant hare to pieces, which enraged the goddess. And in the Iliad, Iphigenia wasn't sacrificed at all (Agamemnon offers the hands of all his three daughters, including an Iphianassa — widely believed to be a variant name of Iphigenia — in marriage to Achilles), while according to Euripides she was saved at the last moment and transported to Tauris (on the Crimea) to become a priestess at the local temple to Artemis...
    • The story is further complicated by Klytaimnestra (Agamemnon's queen) hooking up with Aigisthos, murderer of Agamemnon's father Atreus, who wanted to get revenge on Agamemnon for driving his father Thyestes (Atreus' brother) into exile from Mycenae. (Because of an oracle, Thyestes had fathered Aigisthos by raping his own daughter Pelopia, in order to avenge his other children whom Atreus had killed). Aigisthos and Klytaemnestra together killed Agamemnon and Klytaemnestra for good measure also killed Agamemnon's prisoner/concubine Cassandra of Troy.note 
    • And all that came about from a curse on the House of Atreus from a man named Myrtilus, who Pelops killed after Myrtilus helped him murder King Oenomaus and marry his daughter Hippodameia to seize his kingdom. Granted, Myrtilus tried to rape Hippodameia, but Pelops still reneged on his promise to give Myrtilus half the kingdom.
    • Going back even further, it's been suggested that part of the curse on Pelops and his descendants comes from the hubris of his father Tantalos, who originally murdered Pelops and tried to serve him in a stew to the gods (the Greek gods, for all their deubachery, generally despised Human Sacrifice). And then there was the fact that Tantalos had stolen the food of the gods and given it to his friends, along with telling them the gods' secrets. Disproportionate Retribution much?
  • The trope pops up in The Odyssey; Odysseus kills the suitors for revenge in abusing his house's hospitality, refusing any form of payment. Their families in turn blame Odysseus for wiping out another generation of the nobles of Ithaca (the first died during the Trojan War) and want revenge. It threatens to spiral into a civil war of revenge until Athena drops down to declare the feuding over and threatens divine retribution on any who violate her orders.
  • A quote commonly attributed to Confucius advises "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves."

    Newspaper Comics 
  • One Doonesbury strip had an American soldier and an Iraqi soldier staking out a possible insurgent, with orders to capture him alive. However, the Iraqi soldier recognizes the insurgent and insists he must be killed, since a member of his family had killed a member of the soldier's family, and he is sworn to vengeance. When the American soldier asks when this happened, the Iraqi replies "1387".
    American soldier: What is the MATTER with you people?!

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Warhammer, the Dwarfs are in one of these as their natural state. In fact, they're capable of maintaining one without the other party trying to continue it. It works like this: someone does something to wrong them, so they write it down in the Book of Grudges and resolve to take bloody vengeance when they can. While doing so, the people they're attacking defend themselves, killing at least one dwarf. Well, that dwarf also has to be avenged. The dwarfish language has no word for 'forgiveness'.
  • The Ultramarines/Word Bearers enmity in Warhammer 40,000 is predicated on this. The Ultramarines, acting under the Emperor's direct orders, destroyed a city the Word Bearers had converted to a centre of Emperor-worship, which the Emperor was not a fan of. Years later, in the early stages of the Horus Heresy, the Word Bearers responded by attempting to wipe out the Ultramarines to the last man, mingling a greater objective (victory for Horus) with some good old-fashioned revenge. Since then, the two Legions have taken every available chance to murder each other, even after the Ultramarines were divided into largely independent Chapters.

  • Discussed in Hamilton in the song "My Shot":
    "And if we win our independence,
    Is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants?
    Or will the blood we shed begin an endless cycle
    Of vengeance and death with no defendants?"
  • The Marriage of Figaro is a bloodless variation of this — characters in an endless cycle of messing with each other's heads in revenge for what they did earlier in the show.
  • One of the oldest surviving plays, The Oresteia, is about a set of interconnected cycles of revenge that stretch across three generations and involve multiple deities on different sides. In the end, Athena has to be brought in to sort it all out.
  • In the Shakespearean dramas:
    • There's some of this in Hamlet. In the course of avenging his father, Hamlet ends up with Laertes after him for killing his father (which was, ironically enough, an accident). Though Laertes going after Hamlet wasn't simply because Polonius was killed, but rather because Ophelia committed suicide not long after, having gone bat-shit crazy upon hearing of her father's death.
    • In Romeo and Juliet, the Capulets and the Montagues alternately avenge every death that the opposing family caused. It's been going on for so long that the two warring families have forgotten exactly who started it and over what. In fact, it's gotten so bad that the local prince has decreed that the next time one side starts something, the guilty party will be put to death — not that he's able to enforce it as stringently as he'd likenote . Only the deaths of the original Star-Crossed Lovers are enough to get both families to snap out of it.
    • Titus Andronicus is one long and extremely bloody Cycle of Revenge between the title character and Tamora, the Queen of the Goths. And no, it does not end well for either side.
  • The Jets and Sharks in West Side Story; unsurprisingly, since the musical is modelled on Romeo and Juliet.
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street has revenge as one of its main themes. Here, Judge Turpin and Beadle Bamford sent Sweeney to Australia and ruined his life and family. As such, Sweeney spends the whole musical seeking to get back at them. While he finally succeeds, he kills Mrs. Lovett when he finds out she lied to him about his wife Lucy, the Beggar Woman he just killed. And finally, Sweeney gets killed by Tobias "Toby" Ragg for his own murder of Pirelli earlier in the show.

    Web Animation 
  • FreedomToons: "Rioting: Only Ok When We Do It!" shows Democrats and Republicans repeatedly resorting to violence in response to the other side's rioting while utterly refusing to condemn their own side until they finally destroy the Earth.
  • Invoked in Red vs. Blue by Temple, in a desperate attempt save himself, after the Reds and Blues have defeated him and Tucker's about to Finish Him!, saying that if he does this, Temple's friends will just keep this going. Tucker simply asks "What friends?", as all his allies were either dead or captured at that point. Luckily for him, Carolina manages to talk Tucker out of killing him.

  • Played with by the Girl Genius cast and their Parental Substitutes: the cycle tries to roll on, and is promptly... not exactly broken, more like derailed.
  • This is a central theme of the "Hivebent" arc in Homestuck, especially when it comes to Vriska and her dealings with Terezi, Tavros, and Aradia. Make Her Pay.
    • In chronological order: Vriska cripples Tavros by knocking him off a cliff, Aradia sends ghosts to torment her, Vriska mind-controls Aradia's boyfriend into killing her, Terezi informs Doc Scratch about one of his items currently owned by Vriska — which he then explodes, blinding Vriska's special eye and severing an arm; Vriska then pulls a three-step mind-control reacharound to make Terezi stare into the sun and go blind. It all happens in immediate succession. Some time later, after Tavros, with whom everything started, has apparently forgiven her, Aradia (now a ghost inhabiting a robot) delivers a near-fatal beatdown to Vriska. After Vriska awakes as her dream-self, Terezi slaps her, ending the cycle.
    • Some time later, Tavros decides that Vriska must be stopped (after more Kick the Dog moments from her) and attacks her, getting irrevocably killed in retaliation. Terezi finds his body and immediately deduces who did it, starting the cycle anew.
    • The cycle is finally broken when Terezi kills Vriska to stop her from following a course of action that would doom all the other trolls.
    • It is then revealed that the cycle began earlier than that. As in, during their ancestors' time.
  • The plot of Juathuur is for the most part about this. Thomil is the only one concerned with actually breaking the cycle.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The conflict between the Sapphire Guard (an order of Lawful Good Paladins) and the allegedly Always Chaotic Evil goblin races is a perfect example of this. The story makes it abundantly clear that both sides are at fault, but that the destruction of Azure City at the hands of Redcloak's hobgoblin horde is a direct consequence of the Azurites' arrogance in engaging in a preemptive genocidal crusade. For his part, Redcloak is only too happy to continue the cycle of atrocities.
    • Vaarsuvius also gets some quality time with this trope in the arc with the vengeful black dragon and goes straight to the Final Solution to end it. Unfortunately, this comes at the price of owing his/her soul to some fiends who don't plan to wait for his/her death to collect, and s/he still gets hunted by agents of Tiamat, the goddess of vengeance and chromatic dragons, who is less than pleased about a full quarter of the black dragon population getting wiped out of existence thanks to V. Oh, and those "extreme steps"? They killed off a plot-relevant family of NPC guardians, leaving one of the Gates defenseless. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
  • xkcd: "Mobius Battle" features a short comic in which one figure kicks a ball at another's head and laughs. The idea is that, since it works in mirror image too, it can be drawn on a transparent strip that can be formed into a Möbius stripnote , and then you can keep scrolling it forward until you're on the other side of the original stripnote  and the role of the figures (based on which side they stand on) is reversed. This will go on for as long as you keep moving forward along the strip, with the figures forever kicking the ball at each other.
  • One comic of Pet Foolery deconstructs the cycle of revenge in that the pain inflicted during revenge is often more than the original pain inflicted, compounded by the victims' biased perception. This can easily lead to the cycle escalating something harmless into something bloody and wasteful. In the comic, the Elven and Orcish scholars work out their history backwards to find the root cause of their 2,000 years of warfare, only to find out it all started with the Orc King pranking the Elf Queen into sitting on an egg.

    Web Original 
  • Happens in The Blackrock Chronicles. First Sjin attempts to steal from Duncan, who attacks Sjin in retaliation, leading to a massive Tekkit Server war that destroyed pretty much everyone's game. The plot of Rythian's series then involves him heading out to get revenge against both Duncan and Sjin. Duncan, fearing Rythian's warmongering, traps him in a forcefield and builds a nuke under his castle, while Sjin kidnaps their Dinosaur, and it all just escalates from there...
  • This is a recurring occurrence on the Dream SMP, as characters resort to more and more violent methods to seek retribution to those that have wronged them, which tends to result in wars and disasters that drag the entire server into the messes created.
    • Early in the history of the server, Ponk pranked Sapnap and messed with his house for unknown reasons. This caused Sapnap to burn down Ponk's lemon tree in retaliation, where the fire spread to the point of almost destroying the entire tree. Enraged, Ponk allied himself with Alyssa and dragged Tommy and Tubbo, who had just joined the server, into the conflict. This ultimately cultivated into a series of skirmishes that led to Dream stealing Tommy's music discs Cat and Mellohi, kicking off the Disc Saga (which spanned over six months overall) and shaping Dream and Tommy's interactions and relationship with each other for the rest of the server's history.
    • After Sapnap accidentally kills Niki's fox Fungi, Fundy, who gifted her the fox, encourages her to kill Sapnap's pet fox Skechers in revenge, despite Niki initially accepting Sapnap's apology for the animal murder. Sapnap then retaliated by killing the Enderman that lived in Fundy's house, Leonard, and took and burned the diamond block on Fungi's grave. This eventually escalates into the First Pet War.
    • Technoblade setting off two Withers to destroy the ruins of L'Manburg during the Manburg-Pogtopia War encouraged the Butcher Army to go after and execute him (among many other factors). After Techno survives and escapes the execution (with help from Dream), he vows revenge and teams up with Dream to nuke L'Manburg to bedrock in the Doomsday War, causing multiple members of the server to lose their homes and pets, and Jack Manifold to lose his last canon life (though he brings himself Back from the Dead eventually).
    • Later in "Las Nevadas" Episode 4, when Quackity tries to teach Slimecicle "Seek successful revenge because if you fail, the consequences are going to be bitter", Slime rebounds on him, talking about the destructive nature of the Cycle of Revenge he has observed while being Really 700 Years Old and asking him if it was worth it. Having developed a Revenge Before Reason-esque mentality for a period of time, Quackity eventually admits that it's not, and is heavily implied to have taken this reflection to heart after their conversation, though it doesn't take until the series finale and a "The Reason You Suck" Speech for this to sink in.
  • The fake feud between The Nostalgia Critic and The Angry Video Game Nerd was like this at first as both countered perceived slights, before turning into a general hatred that culminated in a decisive final battle. Twice, actually. It's all a joke, so that much is deliberate.
    • The feud has been settled and started up again twice as well, finally being settled for good (for now at least) in To Boldly Flee.
  • In the second Jobe story of the Whateley Universe, Jobe and Counterpoint get into a cycle of revenge at Superhero School Whateley Academy. Jobe wins a sparring match in aikido class, but he does it with poisons (Jobe starts the story with human strength and speed, just talent as a bio-devisor, while Counterpoint has strength, speed, a telekinetic shield, and any other powers he wants to copy). Counterpoint can't let it go, since he's some sort of incarnation of Ares. He gets some muscle to help him pound Jobe. Jobe can't let it go, since he's the crown prince of Karedonia (his father is a supervillain) and has obligations to make sure people know he can't be pushed around. At the end of the story, they are both in the hospital, and at least one of them might be hospitalized for a long time. And they haven't given up their grudges.

    Real Life 
  • This is one of the reasons why vigilantism is not permitted. If you come after someone because they harmed you or one of your loved ones, what’s to stop one of your target’s loved ones from coming after you (and so on and so forth). As imperfect as law enforcement and the courts are, at least they can have more neutrality and can put aside their emotional side to extent to carry out justice — and even then, they have to deal with Rage Against the Legal System. Not to mention, there are checks and balances to help correct when they do get things wrong.
    • To prevent cycles of revenge from going on forever, or turning into spirals of revenge, the Anglo-Saxons, as well as many other medieval societies had the institution of weregild ("man gold"), or blood money. Someone outside the feud would come in and decide who had suffered the most (i.e., which side had suffered the most murders). The side that had suffered less would then have to pay a fine to the others' side proportional to the overzealousness of their revenge killings. The "value" of a person was dependent on things like class (i.e a noble was worth more than a free man), sex (and in the case of women, fertility), age or general fitness. Killing an elderly free man would have been much less expensive than killing a young pregnant noblewoman.
    • The damage these cycles of violence could cause (especially if it starts involving very powerful and well connected nobles) and how they could cripple entire societies was recognized as early as the Bronze Age. The "eye for an eye" laws in Hammurabi's Code of Law aren't there to be "barbaric" like many people think, but were actually an attempt to avoid this and limit the punishment. The idea was that the state would intervene, gouge out the offender's eye, and then say it's settled and everyone goes home, rather than have them start escalating violence in revenge until it becomes everyone's problem.
  • A part of the reason the Arab–Israeli Conflict has lasted so long is largely because of this. Everybody knows somebody who was killed by someone on the other side, and hardliners on both sides feel that they need to take action to make everything even — Palestinian terrorists and/or freedom fighers launch an attack on Israel, which causes Israel to retaliate more forcefully, which increases support for violent retribution in Palestine, which prompts Israel to retaliate more forcefully... Both sides will also claim the other side started it.
  • There are several tribes particularly in South America and Africa that are plagued by this, having been stuck in perpetual warfare for generations because each death must be avenged with death.
  • The culture of Vendetta on the islands of Sicily, Corsica, and Crete caused this kind of thing to happen until very recently (and maybe it's not quite all over yet).
    • On Corsica, this combined with the separatist movement and the tendency of both feuding families and separatists to use bombs as weapons of choice has led to the stereotypical association of the island in French media (including comics) with the onomatopoeia boum.
    • This cycle of vendetta has led in many regions to severe depopulation, as all males have either been killed or forced to flee due to centuries of vendette. In Albania, it is commonplace in such situations for a woman to take the gender role of a male (to have "social sex change").
  • A lot of gang violence boils down to this. Most being retaliations for other gang hits. For many "OGs" ("original gangstas"; i.e. the older generation of members, possibly dating back to the creation of the gang itself) this endless lifestyle of getting wronged, getting revenge, and then having revenge inflicted on you for the revenge, which prompts another revenge is what wears them down and inspires them to give up the life. The fact that many gang rules outright demand that revenge be taken in response only worsens the problem as trying to break the cycle is unacceptable and can be met with violent response from within.
  • World War I. The Christmas Truce of 1914, as well as the general 'live and let live' attitude of 1914-15 (in which there were unofficial ceasefires wherein both sides tacitly agreed not to shoot each other), were unthinkable by the end of 1916. Too much blood had been spilt, everyone had lost too many friends, and the General Staffs on both sides had tried to encourage aggression by frequent patrols/'trench raids'. The result was a sort of savage joy in the opportunity to kill the enemy in defensive engagements (in which they would be vulnerable to machine-gun fire) and to 'get at them' (in hand-to-hand fighting, preferably) when on on patrols/raids or on the attack. The Cycle Of Revenge is the main reason that the armies engaged on the Western Front (French, British, German, Italian, Austro-Hungarian) didn't simply fall apart from low morale, despite the mutiny of half of the entire French army in 1917 and the enormous underlying resentment for what was basically a pointless war. On the Eastern Front, the limitations of the Cycle Of Revenge were laid bare, as a steady decline in the relative number of trained officers and NCOs and the rations' quantity and quality and the relative value of the pay (due to inflation) eventually resulted in an French-style mutiny in 1917. It should be noted that the French and Russians were still eager to kill Germans and more than willing to defend their positions while mid-mutiny, it's just that at the time (1917) their concerns with food and pay meant they refused to go on the attack until all that was fixed.
  • The Hatfield-McCoy feud, which, according to popular lore, began with a dispute over a hog and eventually led to the murder of dozens of people. The real reason for the feud probably had more to do with jealousy and a dispute over property rights in the valley where both families lived.
  • Most wars between Maori tribes were "revenge wars", where they would try and get "utu" for their fallen chief, by killing the other tribe's chief.
  • In Northern Ireland during The Troubles, cycles of revenge killings known as "tit for tat killings" were very common. Essentially, random Protestants or Catholics were killed within hours of another killing — which would lead to another random killing...
  • Germany & France between 1870 and 1945. Germany's resounding victory in the Franco-Prussian war and subsequent annexation of territory led to 40+ years of "Revanchism" (from the French revanche, meaning "revenge") being a dominant political movement in France and to France seeking alliances and preparing for another war with Germany. And then the ethnically-German Habsburgs' Generals use the excuse of Archduke Franz Ferdinand's assassination to annex Serbia, which indirectly (once Russia committed itself to supporting Serbian independence) gave France an excuse to participate in World War I once Germany had demanded they give up several strategic fortresses (upon threat of war). A decade-and-a-half after the French & Allied victory in World War I, the Nazis came to power and (eventually, once war broke out over Poland) pursued their own agenda of revenge against France. Luckily after World War II, in which both nations were devastated and left reliant on US support in the face of possible Soviet aggression, they decided to work together... The development of the atomic bomb and the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (a precursor to The European Union) put the final nail in the coffin of Franco-German warfare as now both nations had too much to lose and peace was more economically profitable.
    • It went back further than that. From a German point of view, 1870/71 was payback for the humiliating defeats of The Napoleonic Wars (yes, they had beaten Napoleon in the end, but not without help from other great powers, most notably Russia and Great Britain). While in France, the victory of Jena and Auerstedt in 1806 was seen as revenge for the humiliating defeat at Rossbach against the Prussian army in 1757 during the Seven Years' War, which in turn was seen by Germans as revenge for Louis XIV's wars of aggression, and so on until the middle ages. People in all seriousness talked of the "hereditary enmity" (Erbfeindschaft) between Germany and France, but that term actually first was coined to describe the long-running enmity between the houses of Habsburg (Austrian Archdukes, Dukes of Burgundy, Kings of Naples and Sicily, Holy Roman Emperors, and sometime-Kings of Castile and Aragon [Spain]) and Valois/Bourbon (Kings of France) that went back to Francis I of France and the accession of Charles V Holy Roman Emperor in 1519.
    • The fear of yet another of these cycles of revenge is partly what led Hitler to order France looted dry (food, fuel, timber, coal, industrial machinery, etc...) and have French people enslaved in order to make France permanently crippled and remove a potential rival for power in Europe.
  • Sadly, Truth in Television among the Roma and Sinti people. They are known to have the blood feud culture with Hair-Trigger Temper and vendettas existing for centuries. In Finland, the Roma make half of all murder sentences in Finland while they represent only 0.5% of the Finnish population.
  • The Norsemen during the Viking age were infamous for this. If a man felt wronged by another, meaning an insult or an act of violence, there were four ways to resolve the conflict.
    • They could reach a settlement, tallying damages for both parties and having one pay a restitution to the other. Any man was honour-bound against breaking such a settlement.
    • Next, there was the option of taking revenge. If a family member had been killed, his relatives as far related as cousins (including in-laws) were obligated to avenge the victim. With communities being small, it wasn't that uncommon for men to have to choose families as they had relatives in both, and usually, it ended up with entire communities fighting for generations. A man was honour-bound to avenge an unsettled vendetta, and the only alternative if he was unable or unwilling was fleeing the country.
    • If a Viking wanted revenge without starting a blood feud, they would sometimes make their case at a thing (a court of chiefs and nobles). And while revenge killings were considered good and just, legal action was seen as underhanded and hostile, and as such was reserved for only the most serious of circumstances. Sentences were fines, banishment, or being declared outlaw (effectively a dishonourable, unavengable death sentence for you or anyone who helps you).
    • Lastly, there was the option of demanding a Trial by Combat. This meant either death, or a verdict of banishment or outlaw, for the loser, with a risk of death from wounds for the victor too.
      • Blood revenge continued in the Norse-lands even as they became monarchies, with the chieftains as nobles and jarls, until the 1200s, when the practice was banned in Norway and Sweden and replaced with courts and laws.
  • The Montenegrins in particular are especially infamous for this. It even has its own name: Krvna Osveta, Blood Feud. Though it isn't as common nowadays, it still does happen in more remote areas.
  • The Balkans in general. The breakdown in Yugoslavia involved (at least per the excuses given): Serbians taking revenge on Croats for siding with the Germans in World War II in revenge for the Serbians doing something to the Croats even earlier, and everyone against the Muslims due to the Turkish invasions of the 1500s, and so on and so forth. And then there are the Greeks and the Turks...for everyone else in the area, the joke goes that they're starting to get over grudges dating back to the Roman Empire. The Greeks and the Turks involve a revenge cycle going back to Classical Greece and the Persian Empire.
  • Sadly, this is Truth in Television and a common Freudian Excuse for Real Life school bullying and cyberbullying cases. Some victims of school bullies eventually snap and go on a school shooting. Victims of cyberbullying who commit suicide will eventually lead to their friends or families hunting for the cyberbully's blood.
  • In intelligence circles, this was known as "blowback", and was one of the biggest reasons behind the decision to catch and deport enemy spies during the Cold War, rather than summarily executing them as had occurred during war-time. If they kill one of your agents, then you find and kill one of their agents in revenge, and everything quickly devolves to everyone trying to kill everyone else, impeding the actual gathering of intelligence that agents are supposed to do. Blowback now generally refers to an intelligence operation where the results and/or consequences of it have negative effects on the country that initiated it, whether foreseen or otherwise.
  • In the War of 1812, the British would commit war crimes on American settlements in response to "American savagery" inflicted on British-American settlements, which in turn would cause the Americans to burn more British settlements, in revenge for "British savagery". The most triumphant example of this was when the Americans burned the Canadian city of York (modern Toronto, the largest city, and the De facto capital of British Canada at the time) only for the British to respond by torching the public buildings of Washington DC. In the same war, soldiers from both sides would routinely collect the scalps from the corpses of enemy soldiers as trophies. Newspapers on both sides demonised the other side for this practice, calling their enemies "little more than Indian savages", but at the same time, newspapers would be willing to turn a blind eye to this exact same activity on their own side. Since the war ended with the exact same borders that existed before the war, neither side gained anything from this activity except a bunch of burned down ruins where wealthy and thriving cities used to be, a large number of dead or displaced civilians, and a massive reconstruction bill costing thousands of pounds for both sides. But hey, at least they got a nice scalp collection out of it!
  • A non-violent and somewhat humorous variant occurs sometimes in Japan. When one person gives another a gift, it is often considered polite to give a "thank you" gift in return. This can occasionally prompt the first person to give another gift, until neither party wants to "lose" by being the first to not give a gift.
  • One of the practical reasons why there are laws of war and treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners is specifically to reduce the risk of this happening. If you don't want your troops being tortured or murdered if captured, you don't torture members of the enemy force. This is one reason why the war on the Eastern Front during World War II was considerably more prone to atrocities than fighting in other areas of Europe: when you have two dictatorships not particularly concerned about human rights or the welfare of the civilians on the other side fighting one another, then, inevitably, atrocity is met by atrocity.
  • This is also the case with children retaliating against their Abusive Parents by becoming Abusive Offspring in response.
  • Make no mistake, the Massacre of Glencoe was a horrific crime on many, many levels. But the fact that there is still lingering resentment between some MacDonalds and Campbells, more than three centuries after the crime itself, gives you some idea how long people can hold a grudge.
  • The origin of the widespread civilian bombing in World War II. German bombers sent to oil storage got lost, and low on fuel, bombed the first urban target they saw, hoping they found their mark. They had instead bombed London, and Churchill ordered revenge bombing on Berlin, which in turn led to Adolf Hitler to rescind his prior order to the luftwaffe to focus military-industrial targets and to ignore civilians. This lasted throughout the war in Europe, with the British wasting nighttime bombing runs on petty terror bombing and leaving the US with the unenviable job of destroying German industrial production by themselves through high-risk daylight raids.
    • It's been theorized (though not confirmed) that the infamous firebombing of Dresden was retaliation for the German bombings during The Blitz.
  • The origins of Singhasari Kingdom in the history of Indonesia: Ken Arok killed Tunggul Ametung with a cursed Kris to claim his kingdom and his wife Ken Dedes, forming Singhasari and expanding the kingdom. Little did he know that Dedes already has a child from Ametung, Anusapati, who heard about his dad's murder and then took the same Kris and killed Arok. Unfortunately for him, Arok already had another child, Panji Tohjaya, from his first wife, and so he took the Kris and killed Anusapati. Anusapati's son, Ranggawuni, on the other hand, learned about the curse and so stepped out of the cycle by killing Tohjaya WITHOUT the Kris. Curse averted.
  • The situation in Iraq. When the Ba'athist regime took power, the Sunnis controlled the government and discriminated against the Shias, despite these being the majority of the country, out of fear that they would topple them like what happened in Iran after the Islamic Revolution. After Saddam Hussein was overthrow by the US in 2003, the Shias were placed into power and began persecuting the Sunnis in retaliation. It became much, much worse in The Arab Spring with the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria which was formed in the sectarianism that preceded it and they were assisted by disaffected local Sunnis that were sick and tired of Shia oppression and former Ba'athists wanting to regain lost power. ISIS began a genocidal campaign against not only the Shia Muslims, but also Assyrian Christians (forcing them to leave, pay a tax, convert or die) and Yazidis (enslaving their women and children). While Iraq had succeeded in beating ISIS, the Iraqi Sunnis are now even more ostracized, not just by the Shias, but by the Assyrians and Yazidis as well.

Alternative Title(s): Cycle Of Hatred, Cycle Of Vengeance


Nicole vs. her parents

Talk about parental issues.

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Main / CycleOfRevenge

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