Bacon Essays Of Revenge

"On Revenge" (1625) is a typical, highly logical Bacon argument against private revenge and acknowledges that "public revenges are for the most part fortunate."  The language is direct and free of convoluted syntax.

Bacon's chief argument is that revenge is a perversion of the law--the first wrong is governed by the law (but it's offensive), but the act of revenge is outside the law.  Immediately appealing to a sense of moral superiority, Bacon points out...

"On Revenge" (1625) is a typical, highly logical Bacon argument against private revenge and acknowledges that "public revenges are for the most part fortunate."  The language is direct and free of convoluted syntax.

Bacon's chief argument is that revenge is a perversion of the law--the first wrong is governed by the law (but it's offensive), but the act of revenge is outside the law.  Immediately appealing to a sense of moral superiority, Bacon points out that ignoring a wrong makes a man superior to the person who committed the first wrong.  And, in an attempt to add common sense to the mix of reasons, Bacon points out that wise men have enough to do with the present and the future.  Since a wrong in the past cannot be made right, it's best to concentrate on trying to influence the present and future.

Bacon continues to appeal to common sense in his argument that no man seeks to do harm for its own sake (we can argue that one) and that getting mad at someone for trying to better himself is not a worthwhile exercise.  And if a man does harm because he's just bad, well, that's his nature, and his ill nature dictates his actions.

If, Bacon argues, one engages in revenge that has no lawful remedy, then that revenge might be tolerable, but he warns that the person seeking revenge should make sure there is no law that will punish him.  And it's only right that the person one is seeking revenge upon understands that he's the target because that knowledge may make him sorry for his original action.

Bacon ends the essay pointing out that public revenge on bad leaders is "for the most part fortunate" but reminds his reader that private revenge is "unfortunate."

"Francis Bacon, Viscount St Alban" by John Vanderbank is in the public domain.

Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man’s nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out. For as for the first wrong, it doth but offend the law; but the revenge of that wrong pulleth the law out of office. Certainly, in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy; but in passing it over, he is superior; for it is a prince’s part to pardon. And Salomon,[1] I am sure, saith, It is the glory of a man to pass by an offence.[2]

That which is past is gone, and irrevocable;[3] and wise men have enough to do with things present and to come: therefore they do but trifle with themselves, that labour in past matters.Q1

There is no man doth a wrong for the wrong’s sake; but thereby to purchase himself profit, or pleasure, or honour, or the like. There why should I be angry with a man for loving himself better than me? And if any man should do wrong merely out of ill nature, why, yet it is but like the thorn or briar, which prick and scratch, because they can do no other.Q2

The most tolerable sort of revenge is for those wrongs which there is no law or remedy; but then let a man take heed the revenge be such as there is no law to punish; else a man’s enemy is still beforehand, and it is two for one.

Some, when they take revenge, are desirous the party should know whence[4] it cometh: this is the more generous. For the delight seemeth to be not so much in doing the hurt as in making the party repent: but base[5] and crafty cowards are like the arrow that flieth in the dark.

Cosmus, Duke of Florence,[6] had a desperate saying against perfidious or neglecting friends, as if those wrongs were unpardonable: You shall read (saith he) that we are commanded to forgive our friends. But yet the spirit of Job[7] was in a better tune: Shall we (saith he) take good at God’s hands, and not be content to take evil also? And so of friends in a proportion.

This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green,[8] which otherwise would heal and do well.

Public revenges are for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Caesar;[9] for the death of Pertinax;[10] for the death of Henry the Third of France;[11] and many more. But in private revenges it is not so. Nay rather, vindictive persons live the life of witches; who as they are mischievous, so end they unfortunate.Q3

On Revenge by Sir Francis Bacon is in the public domain.

  1. Irrevocable(adjective):

    not possible to revoke or change

  2. Base(adjective):

    lowly

  3. Green(adjective):

    new or fresh

0 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *