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and for the security of good and just men

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And they that have the will to do wickedly restrain their evil purpose when they see the punishment and chastisement of other wrongdoers." To this replied Dame Prudence: "Surely," said she, "I grant that much good and much evil come of vengeance; but vengeancetaking does not belong to everyone, but only to judges and such as have a proper jurisdiction and authority over wrongdoers. And I say, further, that just as an individual sins in wreaking vengeance upon another man, so sins the judge if he does not fully exact payment from those who have deserved to be punished. For Seneca says: 'That is a good master who convicts criminals.' And as Cassiodorus says: 'A man shrinks from crime when he understands and knows that it angers the judges and the sovereigns.' And yet another says: 'The judge who fears to deal justly makes criminals of men.' And Saint Paul the apostle says in his Epistle to the Romans that not without reason are the fasces borne before the magistrates. For they are borne to punish criminals and miscreants, and for the security of good and just men.
If, then, you would have revenge upon your enemies, you should turn to and have recourse unto the judge having a proper jurisdiction over them; and he will punish them as the law demands and requires." "Ah!" exclaimed Melibeus. "This idea of vengeance is no longer to my liking. I remember, now, how Fortune has nourished me from my childhood, helping me over many a difficult place. I give heed to this; and now will I make trial of her again, believing that, with God's help, she will aid me to avenge my shame." "Indeed," said Prudence, "if you will act according to my advice, you shall not make trial of Fortune in any way; you shall not bow down before her. For, to quote Seneca: 'Things done foolishly and in the hope of Fortune, shall never come to any good end.' And as the same Seneca says: 'The clearer and the more shining Fortune appears, the more brittle she is and the more easily broken.' Trust not in her, for she is neither steadfast nor stable; for when you believe yourself to be most secure and most certain of her help, she will deceive and fail you. And whereas you say that Fortune has nourished you from your childhood, I say that by so much the less should you trust now to her and to her ingenuity. For Seneca says: 'As for the man who is nursed by Fortune, she will make of him a great fool.' Now then, since you desire and demand vengeance, and since the sort of vengeance that is to be had according to law and before a judge is not to your taste, and since the vengeance that is attempted in reliance upon Fortune is dangerous and uncertain, then remains to you no other remedy than to have recourse unto the sovereign. Judge Who punishes all villainies and avenges all wrongs. And He will avenge you, as He Himself promises, for 'Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.'" Melibee answered: "If I do not revenge myself for the injury that men have done to me, I invite and advertise to those who have injured me, and to all others, that they are free to do me another wrong. For it is written: 'If thou take no revenge for an old injury, thou invitest thine enemies to do thee a new evil.' And also, what of my sufferance, men would do to me so much of villainy that I could neither endure it nor sustain it; and I should be held in contempt. For men say: 'In patient sufferance shall many things happen to one, the which one may not grin and bear.' "Certainly," said Prudence, "I grant you that too much of sufferance is not a good thing; but yet it follows not therefrom that every person to whom men do a rascality may take vengeance for it; for that is the duty of and belongs only to the proper judges. Wherefore the two authorities that you have quoted are only to be understood as speaking to and of the judges; for when they suffer overmuch that wrong and crime remain The Canterbury Tales The Canterbury Tales 147unpunished, they not only invite new injury and wrong, but they command that they be done. Also a wise man says: 'The judge who does not chasten the sinner, bids him to sin again.' And it is conceivable that the judges and sovereigns of any realm might show so much leniency to criminals and evildoers that, from such sufferance, in process of time, they might so wax in power as to turn out the judges and the monarchs from their places, and thus, at last, deprive them of the mastery. "But now let us assume that you have a proper leave to avenge yourself.

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