What is Francis Bacon's essay "Of Love" about?
Frances Bacon's essay "Of Love" details questions and answers regarding the very complicated concept of love. The essay begins by comparing love to the stage. According to Bacon, love mirrors the stage because it is filled with comedy, tragedy, mischief, and fury. Like the plays produced on the stage, love is multidimensional.
Bacon goes on to state that love makes people act in very different ways. People, consumed by love, will find themselves filled with "great spirits" and "weak passion(s)."
Perhaps the most thought provoking statement that Bacon makes in the essay is "That it is impossible to love, and to be wise." This could force one to think that to be in love makes them stupid.
Bacon goes on to present the different aspects of love.
There is in man’s nature, a secret inclination and motion, towards love of others, which if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable; as it is seen sometime in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth, and embaseth it.
Here, Bacon readily admits that love possesses a power which no man can control. Regardless of the will to give love, love will, itself, spread out among those around him.
Frances Bacon's essay "Of Love", as the title suggests, is about the nature of love. The essay, consisting of a single, moderate-length paragraph, is exploratory rather than argumentative and analytical. It is addressed to a well-educated audience familiar with Greek and Latin culture.
Bacon considers whether love itself is good or bad for people. He suggests that the metaphor of the Judgement of Paris is a useful way of thinking about love, that when one chooses Aphrodite (the goddess of love) one abandons pursuit of Athena (the goddess of wisdom) and Hera (representing power or civic duty in this case).
He next falls back on the traditional distinction of carnal versus other types of love, and suggests that while being subject to sensual desire is a bad thing, some types of love, such as charity (love for all people in the Christian sense), friendship, and love within the family are positive influences on people.