Read our detailed study guide on the essay “Of Death” by Francis Bacon. Our study guide covers Of Death summary and analysis.
Of Death Summary
Bacon opens the essay with a simile of death and darkness. He starts his argument the men fears that death in the same a child fears the darkness. The fear of darkness increases among the children when the horrific tales about the darkness is narrated to them. Same is the case with men. With the stories of death is narrated to them, the fear inside them increases. It is natural to think about death, however, to think about it with composure is a virtue of the wise men. To worry about the sin after committing is the characteristic of a holy and religious man but to fear the death as the supremacy of nature is man’s weakness.
In spite of sufficient awareness, the human beings still associate a lot of superstitions and mix it with vanity. For instance, one might have read in the friars’ book of meditation that by inflicting certain pain on oneself one can realize the true nature of pain during death. One can experience regret for the cause of others death, by doing so. Moreover, by wounding the legs severely, one could die suffering less pain. The other vital parts of the human body like heart, brain, lungs, etc. do not experience as much pain as a wounded leg can.
It is well said by a philosopher that the assumption of forthcoming death frights men more than the death itself. The advent of death becomes more disturbing and horrifying with the grunts and screams of the dying man along with the frustrated and weeping faces of the dear ones. Such harshness of the situation makes the death appear to be more frightening than it really is.
Bacon argues about the advent of the death on a man from a totally different perspective. As per him, it becomes easy for a man to die when he sees his dear one weeping for him. He feels relief that he is not abandoned by him. Therefore, to Bacon, death is not an enemy for those who have so many attendants who can battle for him.
Whenever someone in the fire of avenging the other kills him, no doubt, revenge triumphs over death but the love insults it. We have heard about the story of King Otho who killed himself. His subject overwhelmed to mourn and drove some of them to suicide. To Bacon, death serves to be vindictive to love as it is considered to be the link between the dead and the one whose heart is filled with love.
Bacon quotes another philosopher Seneca that one will be sensible to imagine and longed-for the death as it brings relief from the sorrows and sufferings of life. In certain condition, someone’s life might be too wearisome to tolerate, and death passes relief to them. Some people live a life without any excitement and actions in it. Such a life could neither be regarded as pleasing one nor the sorrowful. However, one cannot bear such a wearisome life for a long period of time. Eventfully, resulting in death.
With the emperor of Rome was dying, Augustus Caesar, his farewell words are “Farewell, Livia. Never forget the days of our marriage”. Tiberius, another king of the Rome commented on Caesar’s farewell words that “although his bodily power is gone, the power to hide his feeling still remains”. Moreover, bacon mentions two more emperors of Rome, Vespasian, and Galba, who just like Augustus faced the death bravely.
Bacon argues that the Stoics made a lot of costly preparations upon death that make the death appears more dreadful than it really is. To die is a natural phenomenon. For a little infant, it is as much as painful to born as for the young man to die. However, the one who dies early is just like the soldiers who are wounded in hot blood and seldom feels pain.
Bacon concluded the essay by praising the virtues of bravely pursuing to die for the country or noble cause. Whenever a man dies, serving his country, or for a noble cause, the gates of fame opens for him and he receives a lot of adoration even from those who envy and condemns them during the life.
Of Death Analysis
Of Death is an argumentative essay by Francis Bacon in which he argues about the positive aspects of death. One has to die either today or tomorrow. So it is better to die courageously and bravely so that you can win people’s appraisal.
Brevity, directness, wit, and to the point arguments are one of the qualities that Bacon’s essay contain. The systematic way of writing makes bacon’s essay to move from one point to another logically. Moreover, the subject matters he discusses in his writing style are all based on the real life and the reader found an epigrammatic wisdom in it. With the use of metaphors, similes referring to various historical stories makes his essay comprehensible and agreeable.
This essay is the reflection of Bacon’s wisdom and experience that he acquired during the life. Bacon reinforces his arguments with the use of metaphors, similes, and quotation from wise and famous philosophers. The essay comprises of aphoristic sentences that engage the readers.
Bacon attempts to give the readers a nerve to face the death by arguing that the actual pain or death is not as much as we think about it. He starts the essay with a simile of death and darkness and the similarity in the fear that is associated with both. He argues that the death is not as horrifying as it appears to be. However, mourns and groans of the dying person along with the weeping and harsh expression of his dear one makes the sight of death horrifying.
Bacon also argues about the people who are under the strong influence love, revenge and grief. To such people, death doesn’t appear to be terrifying. Bacon mentions few Roman emperors who faced the death with valor, courage, and bravery. He after arguing about the terrifying side of the death mentions that the death has a bright side, too. It is only after the death of a person that he is appraised and his good deeds are remembered. All the envy and bitterness vanishes with the death.
By reading the essay we not only come across Bacon’s rich thoughts about the death but also find some distinctive fictitious qualities in the essay. He by the use of simile he makes his meaning more clear that a man who dies for serving his nation or for any other earnest cause is just like a young soldier who is wounded in the hot blood.
The essay, Of Death, is full of the richness of content and meaning. It is also Bacon’s model of concise and eloquent prose, just like all other essays.
More From Francis Bacon
- Of Adversity
- Of Ambition
- Of Death
- Of Delay
- Of Discourse
- Of Followers and Friends
- Of Friendship
- Of Great Place
- Of Love
- Of Marriage and Single Life
- Of Nobility
- Of Parents and Children
- Of Revenge
- Of Simulation and Dissimulation
- Of Studies
- Of Superstition
- Of Travel
- Of Truth
- Of Goodness and Goodness of Nature