And then the goddess unleashed her rage; she struck her Grecian rival at once: she sent a Fury to harass poor Io's eyes and mind; she pierced her breast with an invisible, relentless goad; she drove the frightened girl across the world – a fugitive. (1.724-727)
This is passage is only one of many like it in Ovid's poem. The common theme is blaming the victim. Juno gets mad because her husband, Jupiter, has been sleeping with some other woman, and she takes it out on the poor girl. This is especially unfair because, in most cases, the girl isn't at fault – usually Jupiter comes onto her through deception, or by making use of his overbearing divine power. Revenge is not the same as justice.
Now it had come; there was no reason to delay: in sum, her rival, adding wound to wound, had borne a boy, Arcas. As soon as Juno turned her eyes and angry mind to this, she cried: "As if I had not had enough, this, too, was needed: you, adulteress, bore this fruit – a son; the wrong you've done me now is known to all – the living proof of how my Jove behaved! But, shameless, you shall pay; I'll take from you the shape that gives both you and, too, my husband such delight." (2.468-475)
The same could be said for this passage as for the previous one. Ovid explicitly tells us that Callisto tried to resist Jupiter as he raped her. How is this her fault? How is it her fault that she got pregnant? Juno doesn't care. She just wants to lash out at somebody, and Callisto is the easiest target.
Men heard his fate – and disagreed: some thought Diana was too cruel, too unjust; while others said her action, though severe, was worthy of a virgin so austere. Both sides brought suasive arguments to bear. And only Juno neither blamed nor cleared Diana: she was simply glad to hear that now Agenor's house had met disaster. The rage that Juno's rival had provoked was aimed at all who shared Europa's blood. (3.253-259)
Once again, Ovid shows that justice and revenge are not the same thing – or, at least, that there is strong evidence that they aren't the same thing. Sure, there are some people that it was appropriate for Diana to turn Actaeon into a stag and have him killed by his own hounds, but others think she overreacted. It wasn't Actaeon's fault that he stumbled upon her and her nymphs when they were bathing. But she doesn't seem to care; he suffers anyway.
(Leuconoe): "But Clytie was jealous (for the Sun's love of Leucothoe was more than warm). Incensed, she told the world, and she informed her rival's father: she defamed her name. And in the face of his fair daughter's shame, the king is cruel: though his daughter prays, beseeching mercy, even as she claims – her arms stretched to the Sun – that she was raped against her will, he pays no heed, inflicts a brutal burial in a deep ditch; the sand heaped over her is heavy, thick." (4.234-240)
This sickening story follows the same theme as the others here. Revenge is enacted against someone who did nothing to deserve it, and so became a victim twice over. Maybe thrice over, since Leucothoe was the victim, first of the Sun-god, then of the jealous Clytie, and then of her own father, who killed her just to cover up his shame. There might have been some people in the ancient world who would have thought that Leucothoe's father, at least, was acting out of justice, by enforcing his patriarchal rights. Ovid doesn't agree with this: he says straight up that her father acted that way because he was "cruel."
It's true that when her son comes up to her and greets her, as he throws his tiny arms around her neck and, in his boyish way, embraces her, she's moved, her wrath is tamed, her eyes grow damp with tears she can't restrain. But sensing that maternal love has swayed her purpose, Procne turns aside her gaze from Itys to her sister, thinking this: "And why can he still speak endearingly, while she is mute, her tongue cut out? If he can call me mother, why can't she say 'sister'?" (6.625-633)
In these lines, we see how the desire for revenge can trump even the feelings of a mother for a son – though it is true that Procne only manages to achieve this through an act of will. The sufferings of Procne's son amount to "collateral damage"; he is an innocent victim in the revenge enacted by Procne against her husband for his brutal rape of her sister.
Althaea, grateful for the victory of Meleager, her dear son, was bringing gifts for the gods into the sanctuary; she saw them carry in her brothers' bodies. Althaea beat her breast; she filled the city with sad laments; she changed her gilded dress and now wore black. But when she learned who was the author of their death, she left behind her tears and mourned no more; her heart was bent on vengeance. (8.445-450)
This passage is similar to the previous one. Here, once again, the desire to avenge a sibling trumps the love of a mother for her son. In this case, these two commitments come into conflict because it is Althaea's son, Meleager, who killed her brothers. He will pay the ultimate price.
But now the Thracian women – all had cast the hides of beasts around their frenzied breasts – down from a high hilltop, spied Orpheus as he attuned his lyre and his sweet voice. And one of these – hair streaming loose beneath light winds – cried out: "He's there! The man who dares to scorn us." Through the air she hurled her staff against Apollo's poet; it was meant to smash his singing mouth (11.3-8)
In this case, the Thracian women (Ovid really seems to have it in for the Thracians) take revenge on the singer Orpheus because he won't satisfy their sexual desires. Not that he would be under any obligation to do so in any case, but his death seems especially unfair since he is remaining chaste out of grief for his dead wife, Eurydice. (In Greek, Eurydice's name means "Wide-Justice"; does this emphasize the contrast between her and these flagrantly unjust Thracian femmes-fatales?)
(Nestor): "Why must I open bitter wounds that time had hidden, if not healed? I now confess my hatred of your father, my deep sense of harm and hurt he caused me. By the gods, his deeds were glorious, beyond belief! I would prefer to cancel – if I could – the merits and just praise that he received, the fame the world proclaimed (I can't deny the truth). But we don't praise Deiphobus or Polydamas; nor do we extol even great Hector – who would praise a foe?" (12.542-548)
Nestor's attempt to get revenge on Hercules, who killed his siblings, is a kind that Ovid can approve of. By refusing to praise someone, one enacts a kind of revenge against their memory – a power that a poet, especially, would relish. Still, Nestor remains sensible. Shortly after these lines, Nestor tells Tleptolemus, Hercules's son, that his beef is only with his father; his hatred remains within reasonable limits. Nestor's wise self-control stands in contrast to, say, Procne, who gets back at her husband by striking at his (and her) son.
[Apollo] can see, amid that slaughter, Paris aiming shafts from time to time against a crowd of Greeks. Revealing his identity, Apollo asks: "Why waste arrows killing common folk? If you are so devoted to your Trojans, then aim your shafts at Peleus' son: avenge your slaughtered brothers." So Apollo said, and then he pointed out just where Achilles was felling many Trojans with his lance; the god turned Paris' bow in that direction; and when the shaft was shot, Apollo guided the well-aimed arrow with his deadly hand. (12.598-606)
When Apollo wants Paris's help in killing Achilles, he wins him over by appealing to his desire for revenge.
Then – suddenly – she grips him; and she calls upon the other Trojan women – all her fellow captives – as she digs her nails into his lying eyes; and she rips out his eyeballs from their sockets (it is rage that gives her strength). And then into the place that once contained his eyes, she drives her hands, soaked with his guilty blood: she plucks his flesh. (13.558-564)
Here, maternal love is the cause for violent action. Hecuba, the captured Trojan princess, takes extremely violent revenge on the Thracian King Polymestor because he killed her son, Polydorus, for his gold.