Of Revenge by Sir Francis Bacon | Summary and Critical Analysis
“Of Revenge” as the name suggests is about a revengeful person, who thinks to take revenge from an enemy. Sir Francis Bacon, in a didactic tone, talks about merits and demerits of revenge. The essay is full of wisdom but it is of a strange kind. He gives examples from the past, quotes opinions of philosophers and uses allusions to clear his point of view. This essay although has morality yet it is limited to worldly wisdom. He also uses similes, metaphors, and illustrations so that his readers can better understand his message. He puts the pros and cons of taking revenge. Sir Francis Bacon explains some situations, in which revenge is allowed. He also elucidates us why people harm others. Let us see what else he has to say to his readers.
Revenge and its Cons: Views of Sir Francis Bacon:
He starts his essay while saying, “Revenge is a kind of wild justice”. He believes that revenge comes in the category of justice but it is certainly rough kind of justice. Firstly, Sir Francis Bacon tries to convince every revengeful person not to take revenge but if someone has decided to take it then he should adopt a legal method. In his eyes, breaking the law is not a rational act. Moreover, a person should do his best to forget the bad deeds of his enemy; by doing so, he will get two benefits; one of them is moral superiority. Forgiveness makes a person noble. He quotes the wise words of Solomon, who said, “It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence.” Secondly, a loss is loss forever. Revenge cannot recover a loss.
Moreover, wise men do not think about past; they concentrate on the present and future. Sir Francis Bacon considers a person unwise if he remembers worst days of the past to take revenge. Moreover, it is a fruitless effort.
Why People Harm Others?
There are certain reasons due to which people harm others; “profit”, “pleasure”, “honour”, “or the like”. Some people harm others to make financial gain; some do it to pleasure themselves or their near and dear ones; whereas some do it to get the honour. All these acts show the selfishness of a person. If a person is selfish then not everyone should follow him. Sir Francis Bacon here suggests that a revengeful person should ignore him. He does not need to keep a selfish person in his mind for the whole life as by doing so, he just wastes his time. There is also another reason due to which people harm others; “ill-nature”. If a person is of ill-nature, then it is better to ignore him. Bacon calls him “thorn or briar, which [only] prick[s] and scratch[s]”. He cannot damage a person at the largest level; therefore, there is no need to think about an ill-natured person.
In Which Situation, a Person Can Take Revenge?
There is a situation when a person can take revenge from his enemy. Where the law does not provide any remedy a person can take revenge. However, precautions should be kept in mind. Firstly, he should keep in mind that law does not go against him. Otherwise, he will still be at disadvantage as compared to his enemy. Moreover, identity should be revealed while doing any harm to an enemy. The true meaning of revenge lies in seeing the miserable condition of the victim. Revenge completes only in case the enemy repents on his wrongdoings. He should know that why harm is being done to him; and it is possible only if the revengeful person has revealed his identity to his enemy. A person who does not reveal his identity while taking revenge is a coward in the eyes of Sir Francis Bacon.
Anyone Is Pardonable but Not friends:
Francis Bacon has deeply studied “Cosmus, Duke of Florence” and “Job”. He quotes their words. Dosimo de Medici (Cosmus) has said that anyone is forgivable but a traitorous friend. It is unwise to pardon treacherous and unfaithful friends. Job, on the other hand, thinks the opposite. He has said that if a person obtains benefits from friends then he should forgive them for their misconducts. Bacon supports Job in this regard while saying that “But yet the spirit of Job was in a better tune”. Here too, readers can witness the worldly wisdom of Sir Francis Bacon. If a person gets favours from his friends then it is necessary for him to ignore the disloyalty of his friends.
Why Revenge is Harmful?
First of all, it wastes time. Secondly, it keeps vengeful person’s wounds fresh. Thirdly, it mentally tortures him as he always thinks of doing harm to his enemy; therefore, he lives a miserable life. Bacon calls this kind of life “the life of witches”. However, there are some revenges, which are necessary to be taken. Sir Francis Bacon named them “public revenge s”. He supports his assertions by referring a “public revenge” from Roman history. Julius Caesar was assassinated for the murder of “Pertinax, and “Henry III of France”. Another kind of revenge is “private revenges”. “Public revenges are for the most part fortunate….. But in private revenges it is not”.
The conclusion of “Of Revenge” By Sir Francis Bacon:
Sir Francis Bacon highly criticizes a revengeful person. He suggests that he should either forget his past or ignore his enemy. Otherwise, he is going to live a miserable life. Nevertheless, we see Bacon’s worldly approach. The essay is moral in nature but nowhere in the essay is morality related to spirituality. This essay is only thoughtful from worldly perspectives rather than religious perspectives. Bacon adds relevant quotations of ancient philosophers and makes his essay rich. The advice of not taking revenge, which Sir Francis Bacon gives to his readers, is not new, but his arguments and references makes it fresh. Indeed, this essay is worth reading especially it is dedicated to those persons, who are living an unhappy life while having revenge in their minds.