Of Revenge by Francis Bacon
In Of Revenge by Francis Bacon we have the theme of morality, letting go, control, acceptance and selfishness. Taken from his The Essays collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Bacon is against the act of revenge. He considers it to be morally wrong and not of the spirit of man. It is better to live in the present and look towards the future than to dwell on issues that may have caused an individual offense in the past. It is for this reason that man should let go of any temptation to get revenge on another person. Also by seeking revenge an individual is allowing themselves to be compared to the person who committed the wrong in the first place. Be that person selfish or ill. They should be firmly placed in the past and not allowed to consume an individual who may be adamant on getting revenge. It is for this reason that an individual should control their desires on seeking revenge. Nobody will profit and two wrongs will have occurred. Whether they be illegal wrongs is irreverent. The matter rests with those in the judiciary should the matter be brought forward. Revenge in itself is a selfish act and serves no good purpose but to place two people underneath the wrong spotlight.
It is also possible that revenge will not satisfy an individual as the individual will be tempted to let others know of his act. This in itself could lead to complications with the law and an aggrieved party simply becomes the guilty party. Just like the original perpetrator of a wrong. Bacon also argues that one should not hold offensive against someone who commits a wrong because they like themselves better than the injured party. Selfishness is a trait of human nature and is to be expected when it comes to the actions of others. All parties concerned in fact are guilty of selfishness and as such have the potential to wrong another individual. The act of revenge can even be more problematic as the revenged party will likewise seek revenge. Though they are the instigators of the original wrong. If anything Bacon may be suggesting that revenge is cyclical. It will run and run forever should either party wish it too or till someone is injured or killed.
Revenge is also against the law both God’s law (moral) and legal law. It is better for the individual to accept that they have been wronged and to move forward. Something that may be difficult due to the nature of man. Nobody likes being taken advantage of or being beaten inappropriately by another man so it is inevitable that revenge will spring to a person’s mind. However Bacon argues that this should not be the case. If anything the offended party should take the higher moral ground and accept what has happened and move on without retaliation. Their lives will be simpler and more productive. They also would not have to worry about the wrong doer themselves seeking revenge. In reality revenge does not show a love of others but rather again highlights how selfish revenge may be. Even if some may find the act of revenge pleasing. It is not ultimately satisfying. There is no real satisfaction to be gained from seeking revenge on another person no matter how instinctive the feeling may be. In reality Bacon appears to be suggesting that revenge does not pay.
What is also interesting about the essay is the fact that Bacon is being rational in his judgement. He is not allowing for his own feelings towards revenge to influence how he might feel. He is being logical while examining the act of revenge. It is as though Bacon has the ability to detach himself emotionally from the act of revenge. Which may be the point that Bacon is making. One has to think with one’s head rather than with one’s heart when it comes to revenge. No matter how difficult the task may be. By acting on instinct or feelings an individual will only get themselves into trouble. Whereas should they think logically and rationally they will see that the act of revenge is not a route that should be taken. If anything revenge will hurt the individual more than it will help them. It is also interesting that Bacon compares revenge to nature throughout the essay as in many ways he is helping to highlight the natural desires of the individual to seek revenge. Though like the weeds in the essay any feelings of revenge should be curbed. It is better for the individual to let go and move forward with their lives. Forgetting that they have been wronged and accept that selfishness in itself as a motive for wrong doing is natural.