Of Revenge Summary and Analysis: Francis Bacon

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About the author:

Francis Bacon is a well-known, prominent contributory of the late 16th and the early 19th century. This period is regarded as the period of Renaissance and scientific illumination. Being scientist and lawyer, Bacon also served as Lord Chancellor of England. He is famous for his essays. Bacon’s essays are usually considered as Aphoristic i.e. short, meaningful and intended to tell the truth. His expression is abrupt and uses direct, simple language. The thoughts are efficiently expressed and to the point. He secures a place in prose writing, not for his subject matters but his unique style of expression and adequate literary sensitivity. Due to this, he is regarded as the Father of English essays.

Genre:

Of Revenge is a short argumentative essay by Francis Bacon on his own views about taking revenge.

Of Revenge Summary:

Of Revenge by Francis Bacon is a short but meaningful essay that carries the author personal views about the great upsurge of nowadays society that is “revenge”. Bacon starts the essay by calling revenge as animalistic behavior by using the words “wild justice” for it. By such contrast, he describes the whole picture of the animal and human life. The more one’s nature turns toward for taking revenge, the more he is taking the law into his hands. If one commits a crime or does some harm to anybody, he/she is offending and violating the law but when the victim counterattacks, it make the law of no use. The law is useless when a person tries to take revenge himself. Undoubtedly by taking revenge, the wrongdoer and the counter-attacker are equal and at the same level. There is no difference between both, apparently. Bacon highlights the point that revenge is totally against the law. By ignoring or forgiving the wrong done to one by other makes a person superior to other as it is the quality of kings and prince to forgive others. By forbearing others, one makes a respectable place in the society.

By quoting Salomon, a wisest Jewish philosopher, Bacon designates the quality of wise men that a secret of their glory is they always ignore the wrongs from others. To him, wise men don’t think about past. For what is done, is gone that cannot be changed. But the wise men focus on the present and they learn through their previous experiences and apply them in the present. Why should one care about the past as they have much to do about present and future? Forgive, forget, and move on.

Bacon interestingly illustrates that why will a person do wrong to someone? What could be possible reasons behind? Is he/she doing wrong for the sake of wrong? If so, then why? The answer is given by bacon himself. One doesn’t do wrong with others for the sake of wrongs but to gain and acquire himself certain profit ( that could me of money or something else), or a particular pleasure (just like a sadist enjoys sufferings of others), or it might be to avail some respect and honor, or could be anything like that. Bacon, then, argues that why should I become mad at a person who loves himself more than me? This is then not a well-to-do workout to do.  And if a person does wrong because it is his nature then these people are like “thorn” and “briar” (bushes) which can only puncture and cut. So, let them do, don’t complain.

Bacon, moreover, points out that if one makes himself engross in revenge that has no legal remedy, “the most tolerable sort of revenge”, then the one looking to avenge should make sure that there is no rule or law to rebuke him. Bacon suggested that the person taking revenge should make his enemies informed as it might make the opposition party repent. It is more delightful to make one repent than to hurt. But if you take revenge silently by not provoking them, you will be a coward which is like an arrow that could hit anyone in the dark.

Bacon extends his argument about the wrongs that cannot be pardoned. These wrongs usually come from our beloved friend, as one can forgive the enemy form whom we can expect such wrongs but these sort of friend are like snakes who stabs at your back and doesn’t give you a moment to understand what they have done to you. The author quoted the Cosmos, the Duke of Florence that we have read that we are commanded to forgive our enemies, but we have never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends. But still, bacon says, we should not be so much inclined toward avenging them. As we are satisfied to take all good deeds from God but why are we not happy to take evil from him, too? So, we should forgive even our friends and consider them an evil from the God.

A person who is always in sickness to take revenge and searching for a good moment to take will keep his wound evergreen and will never let them cure. In such condition, the only loss is to the sufferer which would otherwise heal and move on and focusing more on his present and future than to remain buried in his past.

Bacon, lastly, ends the essay by arguing that public revenge, on the most past for bad leader or rules is fortunate. He gives examples of the public death of Caesar, Partinax (a Roman emperor), and Henry the Third of France. In public act of revenge, there is a huge lesson for the public and rest of people as it set an example for other while the private revenge, on the other hand, makes a person, who nourishes evil desires for others, to live a life of witches. Such life is full of rascal so they end, unfortunately.

Of Revenge Critical Appreciation:

In the essay, of Revenge, Bacon presents the extremely reasonable argument contrary to the private revenge and recognizes “public revenge on the most part is fortunate”. He calls revenge a “wild justice”. Such contrast is made by him to show the animalistic nature of revenge. It is characteristic of an animal to avenge not of humans as they are entitled to forgive and show compassion to fellow beings. Bacon’s essays are characterized as brief but highly comprehensible. Just as by a single statement of wild justice, he presents the whole picture of human and animal life.

Moreover, Bacon argues that the first wrong is overseen by law, but avenging it is out of the law. To avenge is a distortion of the law.

This essay appeals to one’s wisdom of ethical supremacy when the author points out that the wise man is the one who ignores the wrongs of other done to him as he has much more to do in present and future rather than considering his past matters. As wrongs in the past cannot be changed because they are irrevocable, one should move on.

Bacon explains a logical argument for why should one look for to harm others? As one doesn’t go wrong for the wrong sake. To him, one might get some profit by harming others, or some pleasure like a sadist or to achieve some honor. If these could be the reasons to do wrong with others then one should not avenge them as you cannot hate someone because they love themselves more than you. Further, if someone is doing wrong because of their ill-nature then they are just like “thorns and briars that can only cut and scratch”. Forgive them, and move on.

By taking revenge, Bacon argues, one takes the law into his hands. Law becomes useless if one tries to take revenge. But such type of revenge is bearable which has no lawful remedy.  One should make sure, Bacon warns, that there is then no law to punish. Along with this, one should make the opposition informed before avenging them. This might make them sorry which is more worth than harming them.

We can forgive the wrongs done by enemies because we expect them to do so, but what about the wrongs that are done to us by our beloved friend, are such wrongs forgivable? Bacon seems to change his opinion against taking revenge by quoting Cosmus, the Duke of Florence, that we are commanded to forgive enemies but we are never commanded to forgive friends. But immediately after this he quotes Job and stands upon his argument that ‘we are satisfied and happy to take all goods from God than why we are not happy to take all evil’? Such friends should be considered as evil from God and shouldn’t be avenged.

Bacon is totally against private revenge but suggests that public act of revenge are for the most part fortunate as it set an example for all. On the other hand, private revenge is unfortunate. The person who takes revenge lives a life of witches and his wound never heals.

Of Revenge Main Themes:

Following are the main theme of the essay Of Revenge.

Revenge: A Wild Justice:

“Revenge is a kind of wild justice”, Bacon argues. Wild justice symbolizes animalistic behavior. Animals don’t have any rules and regulation nor do they have any law to maintain order in their society. So they are inclined towards taking revenge. While, on the other hand, human society has a law to regulate human behavior. They shouldn’t be inclined towards avenging others like animals. By doing so they are taking the law into hands and in such cases the law is useless.

  • Private Revenge is Useless:

Private revenge is unfortunate and useless as by avenging others one takes the law into his hands. One should consult law to take revenge. The revenge for that wrongs is tolerable and fortunate which has no lawful remedy. If there is law then it’s unfortunate. The one who is always in search of the moment to take revenge is the most unfortunate person as his wound are evergreen and lives a life of witches.

  • Forgive, Forget, and Move on:

Bacon’s argument about revenge highly appeals to one moral and ethical sense of supremacy. According to him, the wise man is the one who forgives others and concentrates on his present and future than on past. Since the wrongs done in past is gone and irrevocable so, it is useless to live in past. Just forgive, forget, and move on.

  • Public Revenge is Fortunate:

Bacon argues that public act of revenge on the most part are fortunate as they set examples for others. Bad leaders should be punished publically and in the worst way so that other learns a lesson from it and avoid doing such acts.