What are the themes of the essay “Of Marriage and Single Life" by Sir Francis Bacon?

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Sir Francis Bacon explores the themes of independence, liberty, and marriage throughout his essay "Of Marriage and Single Life." As was mentioned in the previous post, Bacon examines the positives and negatives attached to being single and married. Bacon comments on the liberty that being single provides individuals...

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Sir Francis Bacon explores the themes of independence, liberty, and marriage throughout his essay "Of Marriage and Single Life." As was mentioned in the previous post, Bacon examines the positives and negatives attached to being single and married. Bacon comments on the liberty that being single provides individuals who wish to live free from the restraints and responsibilities of marriage. He also mentions that single men have the time and money to give back to society in charitable ways. Bacon believes that single men are often "best friends, best masters, best servants." However, Bacon also writes that being single can make a man "cruel and hardhearted" because he does not enjoy the tenderness and love that married men often experience. Bacon proceeds to explain that he believes that only middle-aged men should get married at the right time and discusses why wives choose to marry bad husbands. Bacon recognizes that independence gives single men liberty which provides them the opportunity and capital to help society, but can also make them callous in certain situations. He also explores the positives and negatives of being married throughout the essay.

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In this essay, Bacon debates the advantages and disadvantages of being married (which in those days, generally meant also having children) and of remaining single. Bacon writes that unmarried or childless men tend to provide the greatest benefit for public life, as they bestow their kindness on the public instead of on their families. However, married men who are fathers are far more careful when thinking about the future, as they know their progeny will have to deal with it. Bacon writes, "Unmarried men are best friends, best masters, best servants; but not always best subjects." Unmarried men can devote themselves with greater freedom to others, but they don't make the best subjects because they can run away and don't have to subject themselves to other people's rule for the sake of their families. Unmarried men are also, Bacon thinks, more likely to be cruel hearted, as they have not learned tenderness from their families. While Bacon debates the merits of marriage, he says at the end of his essay that bad men often have kind wives, which argues for the benefits of marriage for men. 

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