Quotations about   revenge

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Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself. It creates bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, orator
Stride Toward Freedom, “Three Ways of Meeting Oppression” (1958)
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Added on 2-Sep-17 | Last updated 2-Sep-17
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Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs.

Charlotte Brontë (1816-1855) British novelist [pseud. Currer Bell]
Jane Eyre, ch. 6 [Helen Burns] (1847)
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Added on 19-May-17 | Last updated 19-May-17
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In such a regime, I say, you died a good death if your life had inspired someone to come forward and shoot your murderer in the chest — without asking to be paid.

Chinua Achebe (1930-2013) Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, critic [Albert Chinualumogu Achebe]
A Man of the People (1966)
Added on 13-Sep-16 | Last updated 13-Sep-16
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His voice was soft,
His manner mild.
He seldom laughed,
But he often smiled.
He’d seen how civilized men behave.
He never forgot and he never forgave,
Not Sweeney,
Not Sweeney Todd,
The demon barber of Fleet Street.

Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930) American composer and lyricist
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979) [with Hugh Wheeler]
Added on 29-Apr-16 | Last updated 29-Apr-16
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Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

Tacitus (c.56-c.120) Roman historian, orator, politician [Publius or Gaius Cornelius Tacitus]
(Attributed)

In Machiavelli, The Discourses, 1.29 (1517) [tr. Detmold (1940)]
Added on 2-Oct-15 | Last updated 2-Oct-15
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What has occurred in this case must ever recur in similar cases. Human nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak and as strong, as silly and as wise, as bad and as good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) American lawyer, politician, US President (1861-65)
Speech, Washington, DC (10 Nov 1964)
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Added on 4-May-15 | Last updated 4-May-15
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I have never made but one prayer to God, and very short one: “O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.” And God granted it.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Letter to M. Damilaville (16 May 1767)
Added on 21-Apr-15 | Last updated 21-Apr-15
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Never kick a man when he’s down — he may get up.

Louis A. Safian (contemp.) American theatrical producer, writer
The Book of Updated Proverbs, ch. 1 (1967)
Added on 16-Apr-15 | Last updated 16-Apr-15
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We should be wanting to ourselves, we should be perfidious to posterity, we should be unworthy that free ancestry from which we derive our descent, should we submit with folded arms to military butchery and depredation.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) American political philosopher, polymath, statesman, US President (1801-09)
Declaration on Taking Up Arms (1775) [Papers 1:202]
Added on 31-Mar-15 | Last updated 31-Mar-15
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Guard your honor. Let your reputation fall where it will. And outlive the bastards.

Lois McMaster Bujold (b. 1949) American author
A Civil Campaign (1999)
Added on 6-Aug-14 | Last updated 6-Aug-14
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We always say, one day we will laugh at this. I always try to make sure that this one day is today.

Jacob Aagaard (b. 1973) Danish-Scottish chess grandmaster, author
“Are chess players intelligent?” Quality Chess Blog (6 Oct 2010)
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Added on 19-Feb-14 | Last updated 19-Feb-14
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People who serve you without love get even behind your back.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) American poet
Remark to author (18 May 1888), in Horace Traubel, Walt Whitman’s Camden Conversations, ed. W Teller (1973)
Added on 3-Feb-14 | Last updated 3-Feb-14
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He who has injured thee was either stronger or weaker than thee. If weaker, spare him; if stronger, spare thyself.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On Anger [De ira],” 3
Added on 24-Jan-14 | Last updated 24-Jan-14
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Zeus, who guided mortals to be wise,
has established his fixed law —
wisdom comes through suffering.
Trouble, with its memories of pain,
drips in our hearts as we try to sleep,
so men against their will
learn to practice moderation.
Favours come to us from gods
seated on their solemn thrones —
such grace is harsh and violent.

τὸν φρονεῖν βροτοὺς ὁδώ-
σαντα, τὸν [πάθει μάθος]
θέντα κυρίως ἔχειν.
στάζει δ’ ἀνθ’ ὕπνου πρὸ καρδίας
μνησιπήμων πόνος· καὶ παρ’ ἄ-
κοντας ἦλθε σωφρονεῖν.
δαιμόνων δέ που χάρις βίαιος
σέλμα σεμνὸν ἡμένων.

Aeschylus - awful grace - wist_info quote

Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
Agamemnon, ll. 175-183 [tr. Johnston (2007)]
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Alt. trans.:

  • [Hamilton (1930)]: "God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. And even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God."
  • [Hamilton (1937)]: "Guide of mortal man to wisdom, he who has ordained a law, knowledge won through suffering. Drop, drop -- in our sleep, upon the heart sorrow falls, memory’s pain, and to us, though against our very will, even in our own despite, comes wisdom by the awful grace of God."

The first alternate was used, slightly modified, by Robert Kennedy in his speech on the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. (4 Apr 1968). Kennedy's family used it as an epitaph on his grave Arlington National Cemetery: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, until in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom, through the awful grace of God."

See here for more discussion.

Added on 19-Aug-08 | Last updated 4-Dec-15
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Kindness, nobler ever than revenge.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English dramatist and poet
As You Like It, Act 4, sc. 3, l. 129 (1599)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 20-May-16
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Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned.

Buddha (c.563-483 BC) Indian mystic, philosopher [b. Siddharta Gautama]
(Attributed)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Sep-14
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A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Revenge,” Essays, No. 4 (1625)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Revenge,” Essays, No. 4 (1625)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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