Taking the law into our own hands
Most people have been shocked at the images on the news last week about the summary execution of James Foley, just as they were by the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013. Both deaths were prepared for and carried out by people with a grievance – people wanting to ‘get their own back’, not on the victims themselves but on those the victims represented.
Vengeance is a powerful motive for crime. It is particularly associated with people who set a lot of store by status and the impression of power. When this is dented or removed, such people are impelled to restore their own honour, or that of the family or group they represent. Typically the vengeful will brood over the perceived wrongs that have been endured, until the thirst for retribution pushes aside any moral considerations they may have had and turns them into villains. They no longer trust that the law will deal appropriately with the object of their obsession. Although they may, like Hamlet, be conflicted over the idea that retribution should be left to God, rarely does this actually stop them, until it is too late.
Time to reflectRevenge is sometimes hasty but more often delayed following the initial offence. And it is the means by which such vengeance is enacted that provides the plot for many a literary work. The time lapse allows for twists and turns of fate, for an examination of motive and character, for feelings to turn murderous and potentially worthy characters to tip over into villainy. From Chaucer to the twentieth century suspense thrillers of page and screen, via the revenge dramas of the Jacobean dramatists and the careful plotting of Dickens and Poe, audiences have been absorbed by humankind’s capacity to plan evil.
A Level explorationIt is a fertile field to explore for an individual or genre study. That’s why Crossref-it.info have provided some help along the way by giving you a guided tour across a variety of texts and genres of how villains operate and vengeance is enacted. Only connect: Villainy and vengeance also provides the source material which so many writers drew on – the murderous outcomes of classical myths and gritty retribution in biblical narratives.
There will be many more stories on this theme than you’ll find on site, but Only connect gives you a standing start on your way to academic success.