10 Feb 2015

Of Revenge

Jemimah's paraphrase of Francis Bacon's Of Revenge:

Of revenge

Revenge is an uncontrolled form of justice, and the more men try to use it, the more the legal system should try to prevent it. The first offence breaks the law, but by getting revenge, you merely commit a sin yourself, breaking the law again, and preventing the law from helping you. Taking revenge means you get even with your enemy, but by choosing to ignore it, you become a greater man, because it is noble to forgive. Solomon said that it is honourable of a man to ignore an offence. Once it is done, it is done, and there is nothing you can do to change that. Wise men worry about the present and future, and those that agonise over the past, waste their own time. Nobody does wrong for the sake of doing wrong. Rather, they do it to get themselves profit or pleasure or honour. So why blame a man for loving himself more than me? If a man does wrong because he is ill natured, why should anyone be surprised that he is acting in character? It is sort of okay to revenge wrongs that the law can’t prevent, but in that case you must ensure that your revenge is not a crime, or else the enemy still wins, and two crimes have been committed instead of just the original one. When they take revenge, some people want the offender to know where it comes from. This is kinder, because they are not really wanting to cause harm – they just want justice. On the other hand, revenge by stealth is cowardly, like shooting an arrow in the dark. Cosmus, duke of Florence refused to pardon his deceitful and neglectful friends, saying that we are told we must forgive our enemies; we are not told we have to forgive our friends, but I think Job spoke more wisely when he said that we shouldn’t expect good from God if we are not willing to take bad from him as well. In a way, it’s the same with friends. This is for sure – a man who indulges in revenge allows his wounds to fester, instead of letting time heal.
Public revenges are mostly okay, for example, the deaths of Caesar, Pertinax or Henry III of France and so on. Private revenges are different. Vindictive people are like witches. They live a life of wickedness, and pay the price for it.

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