(Elements: Avenging Kinsman; Guilty Kinsman;
Remembrance of the Victim, a Relative of Both.)
Augmenting the horror of Situation XXVII ("Discovery of the Dishonor of Ones Kindred") by the rough vigor of Situation III, we create the present action, which confines itself to family life, making of it a worse hell than the dungeon of Poe's "Pit and the Pendulum." The horror of it is such that the terrified spectators dare not intervene; they seem to be witnessing at a distance some demoniac scene silhouetted in a flaming house.
Neither, it seems, do our dramatists dare intervene to modify the Greek tragedy,—such as it is after thirty appalling centuries.
For us it is easy to compute, from the height of our "platform"—to use Gozzi's word—the infinite variations possible to this theme, by multiplying the combinations which we have just found in the Third Situation, by those which the Twenty-seventh will give us.
Other germs of fertility will be found in turn in the circumstances which have determined the avenger's action. These may be a spontaneous desire on his own part (the simplest motive); the wish of the dying victim, or of the spirit of the dead mysteriously appear ing to the living; an imprudent promise; a professional duty (as when the avenger is a magistrate, etc.); the necessity of saving other relatives or a beloved one (thus did Talien avenge the Dantonists) or even fellowcitizens ; ignorance of the kinship which exists between Avenger and Criminal. There yet remains that case in which the Avenger strikes without having recognized the Criminal (in a dark room, I suppose); the case in which the act of intended vengeance is but the result of an error, the supposedly guilty kinsman being found innocent, and his pseudo-executioner discovering that he has but made of himself a detestable criminal.
A Father's Death Avenged Upon a MotherEdit
"The Choephores" of Aeschylus; the "Electras" of Sophocles, Euripides, Attilius, Q. Cicero, Pradon, Longepierre, Crebillon, Rochefort, Chenier, and of Guillard's opera; the "Orestes" of Voltaire and of Alfieri; Sophocles' "Epigones;" the "Eriphyles" of Sophocles and of Voltaire; and lastly "Hamlet," in which we recognize so clearly the method by which the poet rejuvenates his subjects,—by an almost antithetic change of characters and of milieu.
A Mother Avenged Upon a FatherEdit
"Zoe Chien-Chien" (Matthey, 1881) in which the parricide is counter-balanced by an incestuous passion, and is committed by the daughter, not by the son.
B—A Brother's Death Avenged Upon a SonEdit
(but without premeditation, this accordingly falling almost into the situation "Imprudence"):—Aeschylus' "Atalanta" and Sophocles' "Meleager."
C—A Father's Death Avenged Upon a HusbandEdit
D—A Husband's Death Avenged Upon a FatherEdit
"Orbecche" by Giraldi.
Thus, of twenty-two works, eighteen are in the same class, seventeen in the same sub-class, thirteen upon the same subject;—four classes and one sub-class altogether. Let us, for the moment, amuse ourselves by counting some of those which have been forgotten.
A father's death avenged upon the brother of the avenger. Upon his sister. Upon his mistress (or, in the case of a feminine avenger, upon her lover, for each of the cases enumerated has its double, according to the sex of the avenger). Upon his wife. Upon his son. Upon his daughter. Upon his paternal uncle. Upon his maternal uncle. Upon his paternal or maternal grandfather; his paternal or maternal grandmother. Upon half-brother or half-sister. Upon a person allied by marriage (brother-in-law, sister-inlaw, etc.) or a cousin. These numerous variations may of course be successively repeated for each case:—the avenging of a brother, a sister, a husband, a son, a grandfather, and so on.
Example: The Lion King
Example: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe followed by redemption
By way of variety, the vengeance may be carried out, not upon the person of the criminal himself, but upon some one dear to him (thus Medea and Atreus struck Jason and Thyestes through their children), and even inanimate objects may take the place of victims.
Families very often have extremely strong social trust codes whereby the harming of one family member by another cannot go unnoticed. This can lead to extreme punishment, such as casting out of the offender or even their death.
This is not so unusual even today, where families will, for example, kill a woman who marries or lives with a man who is from outside of cultural boundaries.
It is noticeable that the family metaphor is adopted by such organized groups as the Mafia, and who punish severely any family members who transgress family rules.
As with vengeance of a crime, this act is often filled with great anger, perhaps even more so than for criminal action, although perhaps also tinged with sorrow. In a story, it can be very shocking and perhaps somehow affirming to people where extreme response to family betrayal is not a part of the family code, or even where this is used but has not been needed.