Of Revenge: Francis Bacon’s Optimistic Tale?
Revenge and vengeance are basic tools of human instinct. Whether society chooses to accept or blind itself to this fact, it is an indisputable truth. Francis Bacon examines this truth in "Of Revenge", a view of society and literary characters that reflects the strive for vengeance. However, "Of Revenge" deeply underestimates the corruption of the human spirit and soul. It completely disregards the presence of the basic human instinct which thrives on the manipulation and destruction of others, for the sake of satisfaction. Though Bacon’s inferences to the book of Job or Solomon are perfectly viable to a character that chooses to take revenge after they have been wronged, to believe that "no man does evil just for the sake of evil" annihilates any complete sense of credibility that Bacon’s thoughts imply. The author’s aspirations of the seeking of revenge solely as a means of retribution for oneself, and not to satisfy the evil within the human soul, is a beautiful and idealistic hope which belongs in some earthen utopia. Unfortunately, it has no bearing on the modern world. Though the beliefs of Bacon expressed in "On Revenge" fulfill the traits of characters such as Medea, they neglect the human thrive for meaningless vengeance in characters such as Shakespeare’s Iago.
Euripides’s Medea uses the theme of the search for revenge in order to instigate the downfalls and deaths of many characters. This theme is expressed through the character of Medea, who fits directly into the mold laid out in the guidelines of "Of Revenge". Medea’s search for revenge commences after her husband, the famous Greek hero Jason, leaves her for the power and prestige of the daughter of the King of Corinth. Medea becomes distraught over the news, especially after she reflects upon all that she had destroyed for Jason. She murdered her brother, was willingly ostracized from her homeland, gave Jason two sons, and killed most of Jason’s enemies using her knowledge of black arts. In short, Jason’s inability to remain faithful to a woman who obsessed over him, causes Medea’s search for vengeance. The wrongs committed by Jason with respect to Medea mirror Bacon’s belief that "revenge makes a man but even with his enemy" as well as "we are commanded to forgive our enemies; but never read that we are commanded to forgive our friends". In this case, Medea cannot forgive her husband and takes revenge by murdering the king of Corinth and his daughter, Jason’s fiancé, as well as murders Jason’s two sons. Though this form of revenge is cold-blooded and sadistic, Bacon would have believed that Medea’s actions were justified due to the wrongs Jason committed against her. It is for this reason that the character of Medea is carefully crafted to fit Bacon’s mold of a person seeking revenge, as well as illustrates the importance of the theme of revenge in the play.