America, as we know, is an exception to every rule. Here, all the various ethnicities have blended into a harmonious multi-ethnic nationality that defines itself neither by blood nor religion.
Americans seem to have a growing obsession with the idea of revenge. Popular culture, which is often a better guide to national attitudes than social surveys, has elevated the avenger to the status of hero, and ever since the 1970’s, films like Death Wish and Dirty Harry have glorified the brave man who defied the law and “did the right thing.”
Revenge or vengeance is a personal act of retribution committed against a person who has wrong the avenger or someone close to him. Retributive punishment is normally, at least in civilized societies, left up to what the Italian press like to call “the forces of public order,” but there is no society known to me where revenge, in one form or another, is not sometimes taken by men and women who have been offended.
Some time ago, I abandoned the regular discussion of selected books. The reason should have been obvious. The cause has disappeared, and we can resume. Working on the second volume of Properties of Blood, I need to rewrite the chapters on revenge. This is a good occasion for looking at the classic work of the English stage, The Avenger’s Tragedy….
Chatterton, a late 18th century poet, is more famous as a legend–the teenage poet who died at 17–than as a writer. The Romantics, French as well as English, lionized him. His best known poems are the medievalizing verses he attributed to a 15th century poet, but his talent for painting satiric portraits is evident in “Apostate Will”–a fine sketch of the clergy on the make,
Mankind has got to know its limitations, but from the Tower of Babel to Soviet Union to Woke America, too many men have attempted to build a heaven on earth that turns out to resemble Hell.
Men and women have been trying to reason their way into a good life for centuries. Accepting every ideology proposed by the latest crack-brained intellectual, they fall farther and farther away from the moral and political realities required by human nature.
This post is a composite of a series of pieces I did on Sophocles. Religious and skeptical of sophistry, Sophocles was both a profound writer and an Athenian citizen who served his city in war and peace. His works are a warning against intellectual and political arrogance,