If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?
-- William Shakespeare
Shylock, in The Merchant of Venice, act 3, scene 1
The insatiable drive for revenge and retribution is arguably one of the most familiar and pernicious of human emotions. Unfortunately, homicides that are motivated by a compulsive sense of retribution are commonplace in most Western societies. In general, however, they represent crimes that are easily solved by law enforcement personnel. These felonies are often straightforward because of the obvious relationship that usually exists between the perpetrator and his or her victims or because the murderer's statements and actions made the intent of the crime obvious. A murder that is motivated by revenge is typically a crime of passion that is both blatant in its intent and relatively unplanned in its commission. However, there are exceptions to this broad profile. Some revenge murders are carefully planned and carried out with startling calm and precision.
Serial murder motivated by revenge is a rare occurrence. Because the crime of serial murder incorporates a discrete cooling-off period between homicides, the familiar emotional characteristics of revenge do not easily translate into a sustainable motivation for aggression over a long period of