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Sir Francis Bacon was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator and author. In 1597 he wrote a short story called “Of Revenge”. When I came across the short story in my book Reading Literature and Writing Argument I became interested in the story after reading the title. Revenge always happens to be a very interesting topic, typically filled with drama or action. After reading I began to ask myself some questions. Why might someone seek revenge? Is revenge ever justified?
After I was able to finish reading Of Revenge I decided that I should summarize his story to get a better understanding of his views on revenge.
I observed that Bacon’s main argument is that revenge is usually something that never produces a good outcome and is typically only viewed as just if it publicly deserved. He views revenge as a perversion of the law. The first wrong is governed by the law and the act of revenge is outside the law.
He states that ignoring a wrong makes a man superior to the person who committed the first wrong.
He then 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 is best to concentrate on the present and future (academia). So why do people do it? I began my research on Google. I thought it would be good to start searching with “why do people seek revenge? ” According to Apa. org, historically, there are two schools of thought on revenge.
The Bible, Exodus 21:23 instructs us to “give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” to punish an offender. But more than 2,000 years later, Martin Luther King Jr., responded,
“The old law of ‘an eye for an eye’ leaves everybody blind (APA. org). It seems that the concept of revenge has been in the minds of people since the beginning of time. There are some questions you must ask yourself in order to analyze revenge itself. If someone was to kill a member of your family, are you entitled to killing an equal valued family member of theirs? If someone blows up your house, are you entitled to blow up the other person’s house? While it may seem fair in some cases, how much better than the other person are you when you have committed an equal horrible act?
These questions made me think about revenge as a whole. It seems that any way you put it, revenge always appears to others as a negative act. While this is great evidence in helping me understand vengeance this still does not explain why people seek revenge. As Francis Bacon states “This is certain, that a man that studieth revenge, keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal, and do well” (Folger. edu) To understand his idea I began to break down the quote. He claims that whenever a man is focused on revenge, [it] keeps his own wounds green.
I feel that by referring to the color green he is actually referring to the “sickness” of being possessed by revenge because they plague the wounds and mind. When saying “which otherwise would heal” he’s referring to overcoming the wrong-doing that the others have done upon him that will happen over time anyways. When someone does wrong onto someone else, sometimes they may be plagued with the thoughts of revenge when otherwise things would end there. Still, there’s the question is it justified? As I sifted through the links provided on Google, I came upon the website emotionalcompetency.
They state that “revenge is directed passionately at a specific target with the intent of doing them harm because you believe they have intentionally done you harm” (emotional competency). Usually people feel they have been attacked in some way or suffered an unjust loss or injury. They are feeling anger, hate, jealousy, envy, and or shame towards the situation. Sometimes people are simply humiliated. If another person made them feel powerless, foolish, ridiculous, stupid, or ashamed people might try seeking revenge against them.
Other times they may feel they have to defend their honor whether it is for themselves, their family, their ancestors, or another group they identify themselves with. So it goes deeper than just hurting someone’s feelings. This helped me understand that a negatively emotional event triggered the victim to seek equal damage for another person’s actions. You must completely shatter one’s peace of mind to the extent that they cannot get the issue out of their heads for them to seek revenge upon you. Now that I have analyzed these readings I have come up with a few more questions.
Just because you are emotionally distraught, does that enable you to seek revenge without punishment to yourself? I must now differentiate a just and an unjust revenge. Bacon then ends by pointing out that public revenge on bad leaders is “for the most part fortunate; as that for the death of Caesar; for the death of Pertinax; for the death of Henry the Third of France; and many more” (psu. edu). He also reminds his reader that private revenge is “unfortunate. ” While Bacon is in favor of publicly punishing and humiliating authority figures that have done wrong, he still attempts to appeal to a higher sense of moral superiority (enotes).
Bacon points out that ignoring a wrong makes a man superior to the person who committed the first wrong. Since nothing can change past events, wise men, Bacon claims, are able to live in the future and disregard past wrongs that they have suffered (Academia). So we come back to the same questions. Why might someone seek revenge? Is revenge ever justified? Francis Bacon in his short story Of Revenge discusses that revenge is usually something that never produces a good outcome and is typically only viewed as just if it publicly deserved.
He lists the just deaths of a few old world leaders while appealing to a higher morality by believing that private revenge is just as bad. This essay has slightly swayed my view on revenge. It helped me open my eyes to the fact that I would be no better than my oppressor if I sought to vengefully harm them. He ends with the final statement “Nay rather, vindictive persons live the life of witches; who, as they are mischievous, so end they unfortunate”(psu. edu) The people who live the lives of negative, vengeful people will have to suffer the consequences of their way of living.
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