Read below our detailed study guide on the essay “Of Discourse” by Francis Bacon. Our study guide covers Of Discourse summary and analysis.
Of Discourse Summary
Francis bacon opens the essay by arguing about the narcissistic orators who always make use of the opportunity of joining a discourse just to show off their sharp intelligence. They struggle to win all their arguments from other orators though more by ferociousness than by reasoning. They forget about the sole purpose of the discussion, which to arrive at a thorough decision of an issue, in addition, to find out the truth by careful participation, in the search to show off their mental ability.
Such speaker, the self-confident and over-bearing, think that by expressing themselves before the meeting would help them to win the approval for their aptitude to direct other of what should be discussed and understood on the subject under argument. They are a kind of self-appointed “moderator” of the discussion.
Bacon, moreover, mentions that these orators are specialized only in their particular areas. A famous lawyer will only know laws and much better than any doctor, similarly, a doctor will know much better about the human body than any philosopher. However, the understanding of such specialists is only unidirectional plus limited, which makes their conversation uninspiring and boring. Consequently, the other participants in the discussion find their arguments to be dull, narrow, and absurd (ridiculous).
The exemplary member in a conversation or debate has to be fairly diverse from the big-headed speakers, as mention before. Such an ideal orator should not attempt to pinch his grandeur away by showing an overbearing attitude. He must participate as a polite moderator whenever the discussion wanders away disagreeably and should allow the other participants to talk. In this way, a true speaker/ orator can lead the discussion.
An ideal orator should struggle to interpose his speech on the issue with various thoughts, arguments, and relevant stories. He must attempt to stab the minds of other participants with incisive questions tracked by rational answers. Through such an act, he can easily present his opinion and argue about it. An ideal speaker’s eagerness to instruct others and attempt to bring them on the single point should accord with the sincerity to add worth to the discourse.
While on the other hand, if the speaker tries to execute himself on other, his talk might bet over-bearing. Consequently, the listener would react in disgust and irritation.
Bacon, furthermore, adds that a determined speaker would speak keenly on any issue should not speak anything perilous about religions, the government, the monarchs, and the eminent people. He should not be carried away to utter anything critical of religions, the royalty and the government, the monarchs, and eminent people enjoying considerable clout in the society. He must abstain from passing offensive remarks on someone else’s occupation or scornfully show pity on anyone.
In addition to this, Bacon mentions another kind of speaker who has a desire for being provoking. In order to express their feelings, they remain unsuccessful to restrain their sense of wittiness and humor. They wandered in the ‘forbidden’ zones of discourse.
Similarly, a sensible individual should restrain himself from taking recklessly. He should grip his wayward tongue with a tight string. In order to lighten up his talk with some meaning reasonable disapproval, he should take care not to embitter others. By presenting his off-the-cuff remarks, he might put himself in substantial trouble.
Moreover, a satirist might intimidate other by his skillful wit and invasive vision, however, he should keep that thing in his mind that others memory is working and his satire is not taken kindly.
Bacon, once more, argues about the qualities of an ideal speaker who always know from whom he should ask his question. Such speakers are prodigious learners and most desired listeners. Such speakers ask questions from those who have a particular specialization in the matter regarding which the question is being asked.
By doing so, the speaker is giving them the opportunity to express themselves happily; simultaneously, the questioner will gain better knowledge about the issue. Moreover, Bacon argues that by asking questions, one should not test the knowledge of other as this will leave an impression of interrogation.
Additionally, a speaker should not put one question after another but also allows other to speak to take part in discourse. Dominating propensities to seek time and attention is not the characteristics of a good speaker. To bring other participants to the front brightens the discourse just as the musician do with those who dance for the long triple time in two.
Bacon argues that if the speaker allows himself to take gaps between his argumentation, it will refresh his memory and restores his ability to recall. Moreover, a speaker should not take part in every discourse. He should choose a few relevant occasions to express himself. By availing every opportunity offers scorn and ridicule than appreciation. Similarly, by admiring the endowment of other speakers makes a speaker to evaluate himself.
One must be very careful and judicious while referring to someone in arguments. Discourse should not be based upon the particular individual rather one should keep the discourse issue-based and broad in nature.
Bacon talks about the two great men from the west part of England. One of these was arrogant, an oblivious speaker with harsh speaking style. However, he was also a good comedian as his points were at other. While the other person would inquire from the guest that what the former person spoke. He gave his opinion that such hurtful remarks leave the hearer shaken. Bacon argues that such talks and satire should be avoided in order to maintain the cheerful atmosphere during the meeting.
Bacon argues that discreetness and courtesy in speaking are the great characteristics of the good speaker. Speaking someone in a good manner and in agreement with them is far better than using good words and sentences to speak. In addition to, a long speech without a good conversation or interruption is useless; similarly, a reply, no matter how intelligent and benefitting, losses its charm, if it is short in debating abilities.
Bacon closes the essay by comparing the greyhound and the hare to the two types of orators. Hare, being slow and weak, takes an ambiguous turn while greyhound, being strong and fast, makes very deadly predator of the hare. Bacon argues that in the same way, we have two type of speakers. One who starts the speech with a long pompous introduction to the subject matter fails to clasp the attention of the audience while the other, who starts without a brief introduction to subject matter appear to be blunt.
Of Discourse Analysis
Of Discourse by Francis bacon is a rhetorical argumentative essay in which he argues about how an ideal speaker should act in a discourse and compares him to a shrewd speaker who shows off his knowledge by over-bearing the audience.
Of Discourse Critical Appreciation
Bacon, by drawing the comparison between two types of speaker, intelligently argues about how a discourse should be carried out. Rather than calling the speakers who amazed the audience with their skillful tongue, one should call the speakers who are not only well educated but well-mannered as well. By arguing about such shrewd speakers, bacon says that they are just availing the opportunity for the sake of showing off their wit and intelligence. These speakers are just like the self-appointed moderator of discourse. When they ask questions, it is merely to test their knowledge.
While on the hand bacon argues about an ideal speaker, who not only presents his viewpoints in the essay but also allows other to speak. When such a person asks the question, he merely asks for the sake of enlightening.
Moreover, Bacon argues that the subject matter of the discourse shouldn’t be bound to a specific individual rather it should be a general topic. Similarly, one should abstain oneself from talking ill about religion, rulers, government, and nobilities. Bacon lived in an era where there was restriction on a freedom of speech. This essay reflects his spirit of the time. No one would dare to speak against the rulers or monarchs.
Bacon ends the essay by using simile to compare the two animals, greyhound and hare, with the two types of speaker. He argues that one should be relevant and well-prepared about the subject matter under analysis. This will not only make the audience less boring but also to appreciate.
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