Saturday, February 03, 2007


Video Clips from the 2002 film, The Count of Monte Cristo

Before you embark on the journey of revenge, dig two graves. ~ Confucius

Last night ABC TV's 20/20 took on the subject of "revenge." As I was busy doing chores, I heard the program more than I watched it. The stories of the destructiveness and self-destructiveness of the people who sought to take revenge on others was painful to hear.

I believe that everyone, at one time or another, desires revenge. However, it is the action more than the thought that is so destructive. I say that knowing that lives have been ruined by carrying the desire for revenge year after year. Still, until one acts the revenge is limited to the one who desires it; after action is taken, the circle of pain and sorrow increases enormously.

To me the greatest fictional story of the evil of revenge is Alexandre Dumas' novel, The Count of Monte Christo. The protagonist, Edmond Dantés, was just promoted to sea captain and about to marry the woman he loved when he is framed by three enemies as a conspirator in the plot surrounding Napoleon's 1815 escape from exile on the island on return to France. Dantés is imprisoned without trial in the Chateau d'If. Dantés remains imprisoned in the French Alcatraz for 14 years.There he is befriended by the Abbé Faria, who teaches him much and, eventually, through Fraia's death enables Dantés to escape. Following the Abbé instructions, he makes his way to the island of Monte Cristo, where he recovers a huge treasure, that has been hidden there since the Renaissance. He then returns to the European mainland, having re-christened himself the Count of Monte Cristo and, with the wealth of the treasure, sets out to revenge his betrayal and imprisonment on the three men responsible.

His revenge is brutal and complete. The three men are destroyed, although at the end Dantés facilitates the rescue and salvation of the son and daughter of two of his enemies. It is to these two young lovers that Edmond Dantés, Comte 'd Monte Cristo, speaks what I belive are some of the most powerful words regarding revenge:

“Tell the angel who will watch over your life to pray now and then for a man who, like Satan, believed himself for an instant Edmond Dantés, but who realized in all humility that supreme power and wisdom are in the hands of God alone.”

When the desire for revenge come upon us, we may certainly, for an instant or longer, believe ourselves to be "like Satan... equal to God." It is then, perhaps, that we need to remember those words that Dumas put into the mouth of the Comte 'd Monte Cristo. We may also remember the words of Confucius (above) and these words:

"He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well." ~ John Milton

"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." ~ The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"There is no revenge so complete as forgiveness." ~ Josh Billings


  1. That's a great post, Nick. "The Count of Monte Cristo" is an old favourite of mine...not necessarily because of the revenge theme, it's just a good yarn!

    I know, I have imagined all sorts of revenges against people who I thought (rightly or wrongly) have wronged me in some way. However, when I was a child, I found it didn't work for me because my revenges always jumped up and bit me on the nether regions...what you might call instant Karma.

    A good quick lesson on what not to do!

  2. Sorry Nick, I thought I posted but it disappeared...

    Great thought provoking post. Never saw the movie - there's more than one version I think - but I'll put it on my list of must-sees. Someone just loaned me Othello, which I've never seen either, but sounds good.

    God said to forgive - & that vengeance is His. His imagination is a lot better than mine, so I've always figured to leave such things to Him - also remembering that the wrong-doer should be given the chance to repent, which does miraculously happen sometimes.

  3. Ah. This is a tough one for me. I will admit to having 'revenge thoughts' and I wonder where does the thirst for justice cross into a thirst for revenge.

    I also admit that I have prayed to the various incarnations of the Divine for justice. Sometimes its been to Kali, with a request to stop a particular man from seeking out vulnerable women and conning them for money through romance.

    I know that lots of people will see this as a wish for revenge. And probably it is. But it is also a wish for justice and protection for the vulnerable women in his path.

    So, I don't know what to really say on this. Any emotion suppressed will come out tenfold, so I say have the feeling, pray for justice and let it go, leaving it in the hands of your God/dess.

  4. Effortless flow of thoughts, Nick. I liked the opening quote of confucious. It sums up the essence of what you wish to say.
    Nope, didn't like the new template. And the comment window doesn't expand.
    Am still in old blogger. Having two minds about shifting.
    Yeah...will try to blog soon. Thanks for coming over. Hope you're keeping well :-)

  5. PUSS-IN-BOOTS: The Count of Monte Cristo has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Part of the draw was how wealthy he became and part of the draw was that he did obtain revenge.

    I appreciate your example of revenge and "instant karma." It reinforces the words of Confucius so well!

    RHAPSODY: Yes, there are at least two movie versions of the Count of Monte Christo in English. Here in Louisville, when I was a kid, one of the TV stations broadcast the older version (1930s?) every New Year's Eve. I would each spend New Year's Eve with my Aunt Lill and Uncle Otto while my parents went out to celebrate. I watched that movie year after year on TV. It was in black and white and I actually believe (from my childhood memory, at least) that it was better than the 2002 version.

    According to the gospels, central to Jesus' mission is the forgiveness of sins. Teaching us human to forgive must have been extremely difficult, even for the Son of God. I remember preaching a sermon on Matthew 6:9-15. The final two verses, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses," really upset a woman in my congregation. That's a story I must share soon.

    REVEREND SUMANGALI TANIA PINK: Forgiveness is a tough one for me, too. When I was in grad school (social work) I failed one course. That's another story; however, my reaction to my failure was nightly dreams of hiding outside the professor's house with a rifle mounted with a telescopic sight and shooting the professor when he came out his front door. Finally, after that dream awakened me from sleep night after night, I realized I had to do something. I took the course again the next semester, earned an A++, and became close friends with the professor.

    I believe that revenge has played a large part in the Judeo-Christian religions, too. There are several Psalms of disorientation that are cries for God to take revenge on the psalmist's enemies. For example, Psalms 7:

    "Rise up, O Lord, in your anger; l
    lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies;
    awake, O my God;
    you have appointed a judgment. "

    VISHWA: It is good to hear from you, my friend. Don't make the change to new Blogger unless Blogger forces your to change.

  6. I remember reading the book, Don't Get Mad - Get Even. At some point in the reading the idea of revenge began to really turn me off.

  7. Somehow there is a good feeling about getting even that may not be right but sure is nice.

  8. Great post Nick. Very well thought out and interesting. As always, thank you.

  9. My ex took revenge on me after I threw him and his constant drunkeness out of the house by breaking down the door and breaking my arm. He spent the next three years in prison, so I got my revenge. Revenge is terrible in all of its aspects.

  10. I should be getting ready to watch the Superbowl but I want to watch that Monte Cristo video again. Awesome! Thanks

  11. Check out the Revenge Quiz at

  12. Pfah! The best story of revenge is Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan -- "Khaaaaaaaan!"

  13. Interesting post, Rev Saint Nick. I really prefer the Old Monte Cristo film to the new one.

  14. I'm not sure who said it first (Buddha, maybe?), but I've always liked this quote: "Holding onto anger is like picking up a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else."

  15. You have a good post here. I love the quotes that bookend your post.