Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 321
The principal characters of Bacon's futuristic tale The New Atlantis are as follows:
1) The European ship's captain who narrates the story.
2) A priest of the Island of Bensalem where the ship has landed.
3) The Governor of the Island.
4) Joabin, a Jewish merchant who is a citizen of Bensalem.
5) Solamona. This character is merely alluded to by others: he is an ancient king who founded the civilization of the Island.
6) A "Father of Salomon's House." Salomon's house is an advanced Academy of Science at which enormous technological advances have been achieved.
The heart of the tale is the section in which this last person, a scientist, the Salomon's House "father," goes into great detail in describing to the European captain the utopian society of the Bensalemites and its miraculous scientific and technological achievements. The Governor and Priest have previously given the Captain accounts of how Bensalem was converted to Christianity, and the (disguised) contacts that are periodically made by Bensalem with the rest of the world. He is also given information about the "actual" Atlantis described by Plato.
In Bacon's story, the "old" Atlantis is identified with America, which 3,000 years earlier had the fabulously advanced civilization which is described in the Timaeus and the Critias of Plato, and was then destroyed by a flood (not in an earthquake as Plato wrote). In drawing this parallel between a story that has primal mythic and literary meaning for Europeans—that of an ancient, fabulous realm that disappeared from the face of the earth—and the "new" utopian Atlantis of his own tale, Bacon gives an implicit warning to the reader. In the 1620s he was prophesying much of the modern world that would actually be created in the centuries after his time. He accurately foresaw that what we call the "scientific" method would enable humanity to advance, but also that man's works are always vulnerable to destruction, through natural causes or his own misdeeds.
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