OF DEATH – FRANCIS BACON


Death is a reality of which much has been said and written by philosophers and writers like  Valluvar,  Bharathi, John  Donne etc.  Bacon has a unique vision of death.  He has written “Of Death” in order to end the fear of death from human minds. He suggests that a person should either nip the fear of death in the bud or at least overpower it.   Bacon has written

“Of Death” to end the fear of death from human minds. He suggests that a person should either nip the fear of death in the bud or at least overpower it.  Bacon fully explains the fear of death and elucidates its different perspectives. He also speaks against the false preaching of Monks and religious scholars. In his views, they have exaggerated death, due to which it has become dreadful. The essay has many ideas; he supports every idea through an example. He also mentions proverbs of old philosophers, through which he strengthens his stance. 

Why people  fear  death?

It is true that people are afraid of death just like children are afraid of the darkness. Why do they fear? Bacon answers it. Children listen to stories of ghosts; elders tell them that ghosts appear at night; therefore, they feel afraid of darkness. Similarly, agonies of death are told to human beings due to which they fear from it. When a person thinks about death, he imagines it from one of the two perspectives: religious and natural. If he is thinking that death is a procedure to travel from one world to the other and he would be punished because of his sins, then he is thinking from a religious perspective. Conversely, a person may think from a natural perspective; he may think that death is certain; it is the law of nature. However, Bacon thinks that in the case of natural death, fear is an act of cowardliness.

Bacon then criticizes religious beliefs. He believes that scholars have mixed religion with superstition. There are some books, in which it is mentioned that death is painful suffering. He then quotes an example of squeezing a finger; “a man should think with himself what the pain is if he has but his finger’s end pressed or tortured, and thereby imagine what the pains of death are when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved”. In Sir Francis Bacon’s eyes, death has been exaggerated due to which people are afraid of death. Death Vs. Its Concept:

Death Vs Its Concept 

What is more horrifying? Death or its concept? The author refers to Roman Philosopher Seneca, who said that it is not death but its concept, which is fearful. When people put their feet in the shoes of the person, who is near to death, they become frightened; his groans, his face and his convulsions increase the fear of people. Moreover, the dead body of near and dear one also enhances the fear of people. Death itself is not as dreadful as circumstances and funeral ceremonies are. Thus, it is not death but its concept, which is horrible. Furthermore, Sir Francis Bacon believes that anyone can overpower the fear of death. However, he should have the wish to do so. If he has, he can control his fear. Even the feeblest desire of a person subdues the fear of death.

The Fearless People:

Bacon has prepared a list of people, who are not afraid of death. Even they deliberately pursue death. Here is the list of those people.
1. A person who wants revenge has no fear of death. Even if he knows that his enemy would kill him. What he wants is just revenge.
2. Passionate lover; he can die for his beloved.
3. A man of honour; he can die to protect his honour.
4. Downtrodden man (a sufferer); he would prefer death to suffering.

Bacon has also quoted an incident of Roman Emperor Otho, who committed suicide. His followers also killed themselves because they were his true supporters. Afterwards, the author again refers to Seneca, who says that a person may commit suicide if he is fed up with life.

Similarly, due to boredom and feelings of monotony, a person may kill himself.

Brave Men from the History:

Bacon then mentions those people who were not afraid of death, even when it approached them. Here is the list of those people who remained calm at the time of death. Bacon then mentions those people who do not afraid of death, even when it approaches them. Here is the list of those people who remained calm at the time of death.
1. Augustus Caesar, Roman Emperor; he was so calm that he gave a compliment to his wife.
2. Tiberius, Roman Emperor; died during maintaining up appearances. His death was fearless.
3. Vespasian, Roman Emperor; he said, he was going to be a god and died.
4. Galba, the  Roman Emperor; was killed. He died gladly for the welfare of his people.
5. Septimius Severus, Roman Emperor was curious to die after realizing that death is approaching him.
Numerous similar examples are there in the world when people died gladly.

Suggestions of  Bacon to overcome the fear of  death:

Bacon supports the opinion of Juvenal, a Roman writer, who has said that we should not afraid of death. It is natural; it is certain. When a person came into the world, he bore pain; the same pain that the elders go through at the time of death. Bacon does not support the concept of preparing for death. In Athens, Stoics used to prepare for death. Bacon is of the view that it just increases fear. A person, who remains busy in his works and suddenly dies, suffers less pain as compared to a person, who prepares for it. A person should concentrate on doing good deeds; if he does so, he would suffer less pain at the time of death.

The last example, which Bacon quotes, is of Simeon. He wished to see Christ and when he achieved his goal of seeing Christ, he happily died. Thus, everyone has goals in this world. If a person achieves them, he can gladly die.

The first benefit of death, which  Bacon mentions is that people glorify the good deeds of the dead. This custom is very common in every society. When a person dies, people appreciate him. However, in his life, fewer people talk about his good deeds. The second reason, which Bacon has mentioned is sarcastic. He says that when a person dies, his enemies do not feel jealous for him.

    Bacon encourages his readers to accept death as a law of nature. Instead of being cowards and running away from death, people should become brave and feel its beauty. The author has a good knowledge of Roman history and Greeks philosophy. He makes references from ancient Roman history. He has also read the philosophy of ancient Romans; therefore, he supports his depositions through examples and solid references. Latin phrases have also been illustrated in this essay. In short, the essay is highly optimistic, as death has been presented as a natural thing.


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