Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell”

I know this isn’t exactly the assignment, but I couldn’t figure out which image I wanted to use and thus can’t focus on that aspect of it, so I thought I’d just give my own opinion/understanding and general interpretation of the text, if that’s okay as a possible alternative.

The first striking role which is cast in Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven of Hell” is the role that Blake casts of Swedenborg, which is that of an Angel who is guarding his empty linens. Since we know that Blake is disagreeing with the writings of Swedenborg, the role Swedenborg occupies is at first perplexing. Angels are supposed to be good, right, and truthful in all things, since they are the sacred messengers of god. However, we are immediately given the reason for it, because Blake introduces the notion of this role-reversal, where he is illustrating the idea that just as logic and passion both exist in the same world, so does his unique definitions of good and evil. This idea is profound—we, as humans, realize that there are opposites in the world, things that are contradictory in nature yet exist simultaneously. We, perhaps foolishly, do not often think of religion in this context. Instead, we try to categorize acceptable human behavior and beliefs, when in fact it is an affront to culture and humanity to do so. We, again as humans, inevitably fail in this separation—we have both good and evil behaviors. The idea is put forth that not only do these things, good and evil, exist together, but that it is indeed impossible to separate them. The world needs both. Human existence itself demands both. Blake’s reversal of the traditional ideas of angels and devils is astonishing and effective. The Proverbs of Hell ring true (to me at least) and remind us that it is not sinful to have passion, it is not sinful to question the teachings of authority. Religion has an ugly tendency to attempt to take our (admittedly lesser) human qualities away from us. We shouldn’t lie, have sex, question god. Blake, as the devil, is telling us that it is no sin to be human. It is a sad thing to crush these follies that make us human (by blindly subscribing to the unnecessary rules of religion), and as Blake himself says, “Those who restrain desire, do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained . . . . And being restrained it by degrees becomes passive till it is only the shadow of desire.”


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