The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Different interpretations

There are many differences between the 1790 version of “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” and the 1794 version. These stark differences lead to completely different interpretations of the same written words. The colors of the engravings around the words have changed, completely changing our perspective on the two pieces. This is seen on plate 14. The images on plate 14 are the same in both places but there are subtle changes in the coloration leading us to different interpretations of each one. The 1790 version ( is much more defined than the 1794 version ( Also in the 1790 version, the colors are darker than in the 1794 version, giving the 1790 version a more sinister tone.It also affects the way one reads the words and views their meaning. The darker coloration leads to a darker, more twisted notion, that man has willingly blinded himself to the freedoms out there rather than risk his soul. But, the soul shall eventually be taken and all that will be left is man bound to his blindness. In the 1794 version, the lighter coloration suggests a happier meaning, that man through the words of Blake, will find that his soul is his body and will see that his freedom is infinite.

Another example of this is on plate 21. The words are the same “I have always found that Angels have the vanity to speak of themselves as the only wise; this they do with a confident insolence sprouting from systematic reasoning.”(Blake, 200). With only the text, one would think that Blake was discussing how those with greater power at the given time like to envision themselves above everyone due to the fact that they are the strongest. With Blake’s illustrations and the use of color, these words can take on new meanings. In the 1790 version, Blake’s coloration is lighter and more precise.( This leads one to think of how mankind puts themselves above others due to their  “superior” talents, such as the ability to create and inspire. The 1794 version,, is shrouded in darkness and is unfocused, with blood-like splotches underneath the figure in the picture. This version suggests a darker meaning of how man climbs to the top, through bloodshed and betrayal and yet holds himself up as a paragon of correctness, when he, himself is not at all correct. 



2 thoughts on “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Different interpretations

  1. I completely agree about the differences from plate 21. It was one of the most obvious changes from the two sets. I felt that the second version which is darker gave off a more intense feeling from the reading, and that it was more of a bold statement from Blake. The first set that is lighter seemed optimistic and did not make me assume that Blake was discussing violence or bloodshed.

  2. I totally agree with your views of the differences in the use of color between these two works. I also reall like the quote you used from plate 21 that one stood out to me as well.

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