What is Francis Bacon's essay "Of Love" about?    

Frances Bacon's essay "Of Love" explores the nature of love. He uses various metaphors to discuss whether love and its consequences are good or bad for people. He examines the all-consuming power that love possesses over people and how love can have either positive or negative influences on people, depending on which type of love it is.

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In his essay "Of Love," Francis Bacon seeks to examine love as a philosopher and even as a scientist, attempting to pin down the nature of what love is and to divide the phenomenon into different types. He begins by complaining that the type of romantic and dramatic literature which usually takes love as its subject portrays the emotion unrealistically, since it is frequently regarded in this context as a source of comedy. In fact, love often does a great deal of harm, though the wisest people throughout history have always managed to avoid its more destructive excesses.

Bacon then gives the examples of Mark Antony and Appius Claudius as contrasting personalities who both fell in love, making the point that

love can find entrance, not only into an open heart, but also into a heart well fortified, if watch be not well kept.

However, his main concern is to attempt a taxonomic classification of love and to show how certain types of love inexorably lead to folly, while others are ennobling. He disparages a highly romantic attitude, reminding the reader that Paris rejected the gifts of both Pallas (Minerva) and Juno in his infatuation for Helen.

Bacon ends with the observation:

Nuptial love maketh mankind; friendly love perfecteth it; but wanton love corrupteth, and embaseth it.

The negative tone of the essay in pointing out the dangers of love comes from the fact that the author spends much more time on what he calls "wanton love" than on the other two varieties combined.

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In this essay, Bacon examines the overall negative results of love, particularly a love arising out of lust and carnal desires. From the beginning, he states that the way love is often portrayed in theater is misleading. While it is frequently recognized as being comedic and light, the actuality is that love often brings great "mischief."

Bacon admonishes men who engage in an uninhibited love. He claims that these men make themselves insignificant by using high flattery. Such efforts devalue one's own sense of self and are unbecoming. Bacon concludes that it is "impossible to love, and to be wise."

Love that is not reciprocated also lessens a man's character, according to Bacon. He states that men who attempt to flatter women will face one of two outcomes: either the woman will reciprocate those feelings or she will hold "contempt" toward him for engaging in unsolicited efforts to woo her. If rejected, a man faces deflated self-esteem and feelings of self-doubt.

Bacon maintains that men who engage too passionately in "amorous affection" abandon their own wisdom. Additionally, they are likely to forsake their acquired wealth as they seek out the sensual pleasures which women can offer. They are much more likely to engage in unrestrained acts of passion during times of "great prosperity" than they are when facing "great adversity." As men pursue their own sensual pleasures, they often abandon their business, health, and wealth.

He concludes by examining the particular influences of both love and wine on men who engage in fighting (such as warriors). These men seem to look toward the pleasures of life, as women and alcohol can offer, to alleviate the "perils" they often endure.

In closing, Bacon acknowledges the benefits of marriage, as this kind of love "maketh mankind." Additionally, friendly love makes life more perfect. Conversely, sexual promiscuity embarrasses both the true nature of love and the man who seeks such pleasures.

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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.

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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.



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