In his essay “Of Revenge”, Francis Bacon delves into the topic of revenge, approaching it with objectivity. He acknowledges the pervasive tendency that is revenge, likening it to a which is and yet it must be given legal retribution. A firm believer of the law, Bacon mostly criticizes revenge, and argues that it is more honourable to avoid revenge altogether as it is a misguided form of justice. Bacon identifies that “in taking revenge, a man is but even with his enemy,” as they are now equally lawbreakers, Evidently, Bacon suggests that those who can pardon others and take the high road are people of nobility that equates them to that of a prince.
The act of forgiving wrongdoers is not easy, it takes the utmost form of compassion for one to ignore and move on from scarring wounds; after all, to indulge in the gratifying pleasure of vindictiveness is much easier. To illustrate this argument, Bacon quotes a famous saying of King Solomon’s which essentially says that those who ignore the wounds inflicted upon them are able to achieve glory. He further elaborates by saying, Through this quote, it is clear that Bacon holds a stance of moral superiority as he claims that it is futile to be bitter about what has already passed. To him, the past is now of history and cannot be changed, therefore, those that are wise know not to concern themselves with the past but rather the present and what lies ahead. Bacon then contemplates the motivations behind those that commit wrongful crimes: According to him, it is rare for a man to commit an immoral act for the sake of it, instead there are benefits to be had, such as money or pleasure. Viewing through a lens of consideration for others, Bacon rhetorically asks why must he be angry then, at those that seek to love themselves? Instead of criminalizing those that commit such acts, he understands that they too, are driven by a compulsion to better their life; furthermore, he compares the likes of those that merely act out of malice to that of a thorn, which solely serves to prick others as its purpose; similarly, a man of ill-nature is cursed to hurt others, as they have no other purpose in life other than to cause mayhem to society; finally, Bacon wraps up his main idea with Cosmus, the Duke of Florence, who held grudges against his deceitful friends and never pardoned them.
He contrasts Cosmus with the Biblical character, Job, who ponders about how man accepts what he likes from god yet rejects what he does not like from god. Through Job’s deliberation, Bacon explains that it is important to accept the good and the bad. In this case, while being appreciating the good, man should also accept that immorality exists and that vengeance is not the answer to it. Additionally, Bacon realizes that What he is referring to is that those who are vengeful and maintain grudges, only disallow themselves to heal and move on from their wounded past. On that note, Bacon finishes with the acknowledgement of two revenges: Public revenge and Private revenge. The former proves to be beneficial in rare, circumstantial situations, whereas the latter consumes the person, as they are condemned to a life of wretchedness marked by vengeance; regardless, It is clear then, that in Bacon’s eyes, to avoid revenge is the honourable thing to do; because those that are vindictive are akin to old hags of witchcraft, in which they lead the lives of misery, and also die of misery.