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From The Tale of Melibee, paragraph 46-50:
Revenge is reserved to a judge, not to an individual
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Tale of Melibee
Paragraph 51-57
To avenge or not to avenge, that's the question

§ 51        "Certes," quod Prudence, "if ye wol werke by conseil, ye shul nat assaye fortune by no wey, ne ye shul nat lene or bowe unto hire, after the word of Senec; for 'thynges that been folily doon, and that been in hope of fortune, shullen nevere come to good ende.' And, as the same Senec seith, 'the moore cleer and the moore shynyng that Fortune is, the moore brotil and the sonner broken she is.' Trusteth nat in hire, for she nys nat stidefast ne stable; for whan thow trowest to be moost seur or siker of hire help, she wol faille thee and deceyve thee. And where as ye seyn that fortune hath norissed yow fro youre childhede, I seye that in so muchel shul ye the lasse truste in hire and in hir wit. For Senec seith, 'what man that is norissed by Fortune, she maketh hym a greet fool.' Now thanne, syn ye desire and axe vengeance, and the vengeance that is doon after the lawe and bifore the juge ne liketh yow nat, and the vengeance that is doon in hope of fortune is perilous and uncertein, thanne have ye noon oother remedie but for to have youre recours unto the sovereyn juge that vengeth alle vileynyes and wronges. And he shal venge yow after that hymself witnesseth, where as he seith, leveth the vengeance to me, and I shal do it'" § 51        "Certainly," said Prudence, "if you will work by my advice, you shall not test Fortune in any way, nor shall you rely on or bow unto her, according to the word of Seneca, for `things that are foolishly done, and that are in hope of Fortune, shall never come to a good end.' And, as the same Seneca says, `The more clear and the more shining that Fortune is, the more brittle and the sooner broken she is.' Trust not in her, for she is not steadfast nor stable, for when you believe her to be most sure or certain of her help, she will fail you and deceive you. And whereas you say that Fortune has nourished you from your childhood, I say that to that degree should you have the less trust in her and in her wisdom. For Seneca says, `Whatever man that is nourished by Fortune, she makes him a great fool.' Now then, since you desire and ask vengeance, and the vengeance that is done according to the law and before the judge pleases you not, and the vengeance that is done in hope of Fortune is dangerous and uncertain, then have you no other remedy but to have your recourse unto the Supreme Judge that avenges all villainies and wrongs. And he shall avenge you according to what he himself witnesses, where he says, `Leave the vengeance to me, and I shall do it.'"
§ 52        Melibee answerde, "if I ne venge me nat of the vileynye that men han doon to me, I sompne or warne hem that han doon to me that vileynye, and alle othere, to do me another vileynye. For it is writen, 'if thou take no vengeance of an oold vileynye, thou sompnest thyne adversaries to do thee a newe vileynye.' And also for my suffrance men wolden do me so muchel vileynye that I myghte neither bere it ne susteene, and so sholde I been put and holden overlowe. For men seyn, in muchel suffrynge shul manye thynges falle unto thee whiche thou shalt nat mowe suffre.'" § 52        Melibee answered, "If I do not avenge myself for the evilness that men have done to me, I summon or announce to them that have done to me that evilness, and all others, to do me another villainy. For it is written, `If you take no vengeance of an old villainy, you summon your adversaries to do you a new villainy.' And also for my patience men would do to me so much villainy that I might neither bear nor sustain it, and so should I be put down and considered too humble. For men say, `In much suffering shall many things happen to thee which thou shalt not be able to endure.'"
§ 53        "Certes," quod Prudence, "I graunte yow that over-muchel suffraunce is nat good. But yet ne folweth it nat therof that every persone to whom men doon vileynye take of it vengeance; for that aperteneth and longeth al oonly to the juges, for they shul venge the vileynyes and injuries. And therfore tho two auctoritees that ye han seyd above been oonly understonden in the juges. For whan they suffren over-muchel the wronges and the vileynyes to be doon withouten punysshynge, the sompne nat a man al oonly for to do newe wronges, but they comanden it. Also a wys man seith that 'the juge that correcteth nat the synnere comandeth and biddeth hym do synne.' And the juges and sovereyns myghten in hir land so muchel suffre of the shrewes and mysdoeres that they sholden, by swich suffrance, by proces of tyme wexen of swich power and myght that they sholden putte out the juges and the sovereyns from hir places, and atte laste maken hem lesen hire lordshipes. § 53        "Certainly," said Prudence, "I grant you that over-much patience is not good. But yet it follows not thereof that every person to whom men do evilness should take vengeance for it, for that pertains and belongs entirely only to the judges, for they shall avenge the villainies and injuries. And therefore those two authorities that you have spoken of above are only understood in the judges, for when they allow over-much the wrongs and the villainies to be done without punishing, they summon a man not entirely only to do new wrongs, but they command it. Also a wise man says that `the judge who corrects not the sinner commands and bids him to do sin.' And the judges and rulers might in their land so much tolerate the scoundrels and evildoers that they should, because of such tolerance, by the passage of time grow in such power and might that they should put out the judges and the rulers from their places, and at the last make them lose their lordships.
§ 54        But lat us now putte that ye have leve to venge yow. I seye ye been nat of myght and power as now to venge yow; for if ye wole maken comparisoun unto the myght of youre adversaries, ye shul fynde in manye thynges that I have shewed yow er this that hire condicion is bettre than youres. And therfore seye I that it is good as now that ye suffre and be pacient. § 54        But let us now suppose that you have leave to avenge yourself. I say you are not of might and power right now to avenge yourself, for if you will make comparison unto the might of your adversaries, you shall find in many things that I have showed you before this that their condition is better than yours. And therefore say I that it is good for now that you suffer and be patient.
§ 55        Forthermoore, ye knowen wel that after the comune sawe, 'it is a woodnesse a man to stryve with a strenger or a moore myghty man than he is hymself; and for to stryve with a man of evene strengthe, that is to seyn, with as strong a man as he is, it is peril; and for to stryve with a weyker man, it is folie.' And therfore sholde a man flee stryvynge as muchel as he myghte. For Salomon seith, 'it is a greet worshipe to a man to kepen hym fro noyse and stryf.' And if it so bifalle or happe that a man of gretter myght and strengthe than thou art do thee grevaunce, studie and bisye thee rather to stille the same grevaunce than for to venge thee. For Senec seith that 'he putteth hym in greet peril that stryveth with a gretter man than he is hymself.' And Catoun seith, 'if a man of hyer estaat or degree, or moore myghty than thou, do thee anoy or grevaunce, suffre hym; for he that oones hath greved thee, may another tyme releeve thee and helpe.' Yet sette I caas, ye have bothe myght and licence for to venge yow, I seye that ther be ful manye thynges that shul restreyne yow of vengeance-takynge, and make yow for to enclyne to suffre, and for to han pacience in the wronges that han been doon to yow. First and foreward, if ye wole considere the defautes that been in youre owene persone, for whiche defautes God hath suffred yow have this tribulacioun, as I have seyd yow heer-biforn. For the poete seith that 'we oghte paciently taken the tribulacions that comen to us, whan we thynken and consideren that we han disserved to have hem.' And Seint Gregorie seith that 'whan a man considereth wel the nombre of his defautes and of his synnes, the peynes and the tribulaciouns that he suffreth semen the lesse unto hym; and in as muche as hym thynketh his synnes moore hevy and grevous, in so muche semeth his peyne the lighter and the esier unto hym.' Also ye owen to enclyne and bowe youre herte to take the pacience of oure lord Jhesu Crist, as seith Seint Peter in his epistles. 'Jhesu Crist,' he seith, 'hath suffred for us and yeven ensample to every man to folwe and sewe hym; for he dide nevere synne, ne nevere cam ther a vileyns word out of his mouth. Whan men cursed hym, he cursed hem noght; And whan men betten hym, he manaced hem noght.' Also the grete pacience which the seintes that been in paradys han had in tribulaciouns that they han ysuffred, withouten hir desert or gilt, oghte muchel stiren yow to pacience. Forthermoore ye sholde enforce yow to have pacience, considerynge that the tribulaciouns of this world but litel while endure, and soone passed been and goon, and the joye that a man seketh to have by pacience in tribulaciouns is perdurable, after that the apostle seith in his epistle. 'The joye of God,' he seith, 'is perdurable,' that is to seyn, everelastynge. Also troweth and bileveth stedefastly that he nys nat wel ynorissed, ne wel ytaught, that kan nat have pacience, or wol nat receyve pacience. For Salomon seith that 'the doctrine and the wit of a man is knowen by pacience.' And in another place he seith that 'he that is pacient governeth hym by greet prudence.' And the same Salomon seith, 'the angry and wrathful man maketh noyses, and the pacient man atempreth hem and stilleth.' He seith also, 'it is moore worth to be pacient than for to be right strong; and he that may have the lordshipe of his owene herte is moore to preyse than he that by his force or strengthe taketh grete citees. And therfore seith Seint Jame in his epistle that 'pacience is a greet vertu of perfeccioun.'" § 55        Furthermore, you know well that according to the common saying, `it is a madness for a man to strive with a stronger or a more mighty man than he is himself, and to strive with a man of even strength, that is to say, with as strong a man as he is, it is dangerous, and to strive with a weaker man, it is folly.' And therefore a man should flee striving as much as he might. For Solomon says, `It is a great honor to a man to keep himself from quarrels and strife.' And if it so befall or happen that a man of greater might and strength than thou art do thee grievance, take pains and busy yourself rather to still the same grievance than to avenge yourself. For Seneca says that `he puts himself in great danger that strives with a greater man than he is himself.' And Cato says, `If a man of higher estate or degree, or more mighty than you, does you annoyance or grievance, endure it, for he that once has grieved thee, may another time relieve thee and help.' Yet I assume (for the sake of argument) you have both might and permission to avenge yourself, I say that there are very many things that should restrain you from vengeance-taking and make you to incline to suffer, and to have patience in the wrongs that have been done to you. First of all, if you will consider the faults that are in your own person, for which faults God has allowed you to have this tribulation, as I have said to you before. For the poet says that `we ought patiently to take the tribulations that come to us, when we think and consider that we have deserved to have them.' And Saint Gregory says that `when a man considers well the number of his faults and of his sins, the pains and the tribulations that he suffers seem the less unto him; and inasmuch as he thinks his sins more heavy and grievous, insomuch seems his pain the lighter and the easier unto him.' `Also you ought to incline and bow your heart to adopt the patience of our Lord Jesus Christ,' as says Saint Peter in his Epistles. `Jesus Christ,' he says, `has suffered for us and given example to every man to follow and be guided by him, for he did never sin, nor never came there a villainous word out of his mouth. When men cursed him, he cursed them not, and when men beat him, he menaced them not.' Also the great patience which the saints that are in Paradise have had in tribulations that they have suffered, without their deserts or guilt, ought much stir you to patience. Furthermore you should force yourself to have patience, considering that the tribulations of this world but little while endure and soon are passed and gone, and the joy that a man seeks to have by patience in tribulations is ever-lasting, according to what the Apostle says in his epistle. `The joy of God,' he says, `is perdurable', that is to say, everlasting. Also think and believe steadfastly that he is not well trained, nor well taught, who can not have patience or will not receive patience. For Solomon says that `the doctrine and the wit of a man is known by patience.' And in another place he says that `he that is patient governs himself with great prudence.' And the same Solomon says, `The angry and wrathful man makes quarrels, and the patient man moderates and stills them.' He says also, `It is more worthy to be patient than to be very strong; and he that may have the lordship of his own heart is more to be praised than he that by his force or strength takes great cities.' And therefore says Saint James in his Epistle that `patience is a great virtue of perfection.'"
§ 56        "Certes," quod Melibee, "I graunte yow, dame Prudence, that pacience is greet vertu of perfeccioun; but every man may nat have the perfeccioun that ye seken; ne I nam nat of the nombre of right parfite men, for myn herte may nevere been in pees unto the tyme it be venged. And al be it so that it was greet peril to myne enemys to do me a vileynye in takynge vengeance upon me, yet tooken they noon heede of the peril, but fulfilleden hir wikked wyl and hir corage. And therfore me thynketh men oghten nat repreve me, though I putte me in a litel peril for to venge me, and though I do a greet excesse, that is to seyn, that I venge oon outrage by another." § 56        "Certainly," said Melibee, "I grant you, dame Prudence, that patience is a great virtue of perfection; but every man may not have the perfection that you seek; nor am I of the number of very perfect men, for my heart may never be in peace until the time it is avenged. And although it be so that it was great danger to my enemies to do me a villainy in taking vengeance upon me, yet took they no heed of the danger, but fulfilled their wicked will and their desire. And therefore it seems to me men ought not reprove me, though I put myself in a little danger in order to avenge myself, and though I do a great excess; that is to say, that I avenge one outrage by another."
§ 57        "A," quod dame Prudence, "ye seyn youre wyl and as yow liketh, but in no caas of the world a man sholde nat doon outrage ne excesse for to vengen hym. For Cassidore seith that 'as yvele dooth he that vengeth hym by outrage as he that dooth the outrage.' And therfore ye shul venge yow after the ordre of right, that is to seyn, by the lawe, and noght by excesse ne by outrage. And also, if ye wol venge yow of the outrage of youre adversaries in oother manere than right comandeth, ye synne. And therfore seith Senec that 'a man shal nevere vengen shrewednesse by shrewednesse.' And if ye seye that right axeth a man to defenden violence by violence, and fightyng by fightyng, certes ye seye sooth, whan the defense is doon anon withouten intervalle or withouten tariyng or delay, for to deffenden hym and nat for to vengen hym. And it bihoveth that a man putte swich attemperance in his deffense that men have no cause ne matiere to repreven hym that deffendeth hym of excesse and outrage, for ellis were it agayn resoun. Pardee, ye knowen wel that ye maken no deffense as now for to deffende yow, but for to venge yow; and so seweth it that ye han no wyl to do youre dede attemprely. And therfore me thynketh that pacience is good; for Salomon seith that 'he that is nat pacient shal have a greet harm.'" § 57        "A," said dame Prudence, "you say your will and as you please, but in no case of the world should a man do outrage nor excess to avenge himself. For Cassiodorus says that `as evil does he that avenges himself by outrage as he that does the outrage.' And therefore you shall avenge yourself after the order of justice; that is to say, by the law and not by excess nor by outrage. And also, if you will avenge yourself of the outrage of your adversaries in other ways than justice commands, you sin. And therefore says Seneca that `a man shall never avenge wickedness by wickedness." And if you say that justice asks a man to fight off violence by violence and fighting by fighting, certainly you say truth, when the defense is done immediately without interval or without tarrying or delay, to defend himself and not to avenge himself. And it is fitting that a man put so much temperance in his defense that men have no cause nor matter to reprove him that defends himself from excess and outrage, for otherwise it would be against reason. By God, you know well that you make no defense right now to defend yourself, but to avenge yourself; and so it follows that you have no will to do your deed temperately. And therefore it seems to me that patience is good. For Solomon says that `he that is not patient shall have great harm.'"

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From The Tale of Melibee, paragraph 58-59:
Melibeus says he is richer and more powerful than his enemies