Critical Estimation of Bacon’s essay ‘Of Adversity’: Man to be Optimistic under Most Adverse Circumstance

Prosperity doth best discover vice; but adversity doth best discover virtue.
Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626)
English philosopher, statesman, and lawyer.
Essays, "Of Adversity"

Francis Bacon was a great Elizabethan of wonderful versatility. He was a true child of the Renaissance. He was a great scholar ‘familiar’ with the scriptures of classical languages, histories and mythologies. He was a shrewd observer of life all around him.

‘Of Adversity’ is a very penchant essay. Besides its literary value it has a great social significance. It teaches man to be optimistic under most adverse circumstance. In order to drive his point home Bacon takes the, help of religious scriptures and this device is very, effective. Bacon puts forward, his ideas in a simple language; besides the examples and illustrations from the Bible, Bacon chooses similes and metaphors, based on common day to day experiences. His choice of needle works and embroideries and of sweet smelling materials is both happy and intelligent. ‘Of Adversity’ is an example of his keen and critical insight in to human nature and firm faith in Providence.

Admiration of Adversity—Seneca a rightly hold that the good things which belong to prosperity are to be wished put the good things that are to be wished putr. the good things that belong to adversity are to be admired. Triumph over nature is called miraclp. Such miracles taken place in adversity.

True Greatness:

 The true greatness is to have the frailty of man accompanied by the security of God. This security of God is freedom from care. It happens only in adversity because in prosperity man is lost in materialism.

A Subject for Poetry:

The sweetness of adversity can best be explained in poetry ‘where the transcendence are more allowed and the poets indeed have been busy with it. The subject of adversity has been well dealt with by the ancient poets “For it is in effect (in reality) The thing which is figured in that strange fiction of the ancient poets, which seemeth not, to be without mystery.

Adversity — The Test of True Greatness :

To have the weakness of man simultaneously with the God like freedom from care is true greatness. Such a situation arises in adversity. The determination of Hercules of liberate Prometheus illustrates the great and noble endeavour and which a weak human being is capable under the heavy odds of life.

Virtues of Adversity:

Temperance is the virtue of prosperity, whereas fortitude is the virtue of adversity. Fortitude is a heroic virtue. Prosperity is the blessing of the Old Testament. Adversity is the blessing of the New Testament. However it cannot be said that Adversity finds no place in Old Testament. Instead Adversity also finds mention with the prosperity in the songs and psalms of David in the, Old Testament. The afflictions or miseries of Job in the Old Testament are mentioned with the wisdom and magnificence of Solomon.

Interdependence of Adversity and Prosperity:

Prosperity also has fears and distastes or unpleasantness. Thus, it can be said that immaculate prosperity or the prosperity devoid of least trace of pains is not possible. Likewise, Adversity is not all painful and formidable ‘Adversity is not without comforts and hopes’. In other words Adversity is relieved by many hopes and comforts ‘we see in the needle works and embroideries it is more pleasing to have a lively work upon a sad and solemn ground than to have a dark and melancholy work upon a light-some ground.

Adversity Better Than Prosperity:

Prosperity reveals the evil in man whereas Adversity shows the noble and the virtuous in man. Virtue is like the precious odours. They are most fragrant when they are incensed or crushed. Thus the virtues inherent in man are revealed when he is grounded between the stones of Adversity.

Ardhendu De


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