Revenge is a kind of wild justice, which the more mans nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out: for as for the first wrong, it does but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong putteth the law out of office. Certainly, in taking revenge a man is but even with his enemy, but in passing it over he is superior.
Public revenges are for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Cæsar; for the death of Pertinax; for the death of Henry the Third of France; and many more. But in private revenges it is not so; nay, rather vindicative persons live the life of witches; who, as they are mischievous, so end they unfortunate.
To forgive our enemies is a charming way of revenge, and a short Cæsarean conquest, overcoming without a blow; laying our enemies at our feet, under sorrow, shame, and repentance; leaving our foes our friends, and solicitously inclined to grateful retaliations. Thus to return upon our adversaries is a healing way of revenge; and to do good for evil a soft and melting ultion, a method taught from heaven to keep all smooth on earth. Common forcible ways make not an end of evil, but leave hatred and malice behind them.
Revenge is a debt in the paying of which the greatest knave is honest and sincere, and, so far as he is able, punctual. By paying our other debts we are equal with all mankind; but in refusing to pay a debt of revenge, we are superior. Yet it must be confessed that it is much less difficult to forgive our enemies than our friends; and if we ask how it came to pass that Coriolanus found it so hard a task to pardon Rome, the answer is that he was himself a Roman.
With this consolatory creed came, of necessity, the devils grand luxury, Revenge. Say to yourself, For what I suffer I condemn another man, or I accuse the Arch-Invisible, be it a Destiny, be it a Maker! and the logical sequence is to add evil to evil, folly to folly,to retort on the man who so wrongs, or on the Arch-Invisible who so afflicts you. Of all our passions is not Revenge the one into which enters with the most zest a devil? For what is a devil?A being whose sole work on earth is some revenge on God!
Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton: What Will He Do With It? book x. ch. i.
If anything can legalize revenge, it should be injury from an extremely obliged person: but revenge is so absolutely the peculiar of heaven, that no consideration whatever can empower even the best men to assume the execution of it.
A pure and simple revenge does in no way restore man towards the felicity which the injury did interrupt. For revenge is but doing a simple evil, and does not, in its formality, imply reparation; for the mere repeating of our own right is permitted to them that will do it by charitable instruments. All the evils of human felicity are secured without revenge, for without it we are permitted to restore ourselves; and therefore it is against natural reason to do an evil that no way co-operates the proper and perfective end of human nature. And he is a miserable person whose good is the evil of his neighbour; and he that revenges, in many cases, does worse than he that did the injury; in all cases as bad.