Hurl My Soul From Heaven



Heaven and Hell, along with words that represent one or both of them are used frequently throughout the play and have significance  because of their connection to the state of mind of the person who uses them.  Some important instances come from both Othello and Iago.  Iago uses contrasts like heaven and hell to push for his goals while Othello uses them to describe his own state of confusion.  Iago makes convincing arguments to several different people all to the ultimate end that is the destruction of Othello.  Othello himself often feels torn and confused by the suspicion planted by Iago and as his conflict grows, so does the way he expresses it.

 References to light and dark as representations of heaven and hell come up when a dark act is happening presently or has just passed.  Iago uses the light and dark, the base and noble to incite the greatest possible misery and to further his plans. The lines where he is telling Brabantio about his daughter and Othello again show his skill in pulling people’s emotions in the ways he wishes (p.13).  These lines are very carefully crafted to incite the greatest possible anger in Brabantio. The contrast between black and white gives Brabantio the struggle between heaven and hell and Iago also tells him that his daughter is in the process of losing the battle to the dark side.  Referring to Othello and Desdemona as animals expose the vulgarity and baseness of what they are doing, two things that would make any father angry if his daughter were involved.  This is not to say that all fathers are angry at the thought of their married daughters having sex, but the way Iago tells it, “An old Black ram is tupping your white ewe” brings a vulgarity that would not be there had Iago not wanted the phrase to have a shock value for Brabantio.[1] The lines are also meant to make Brabantio angry because they are insulting to his daughter as well as making her a victim.  Even though she is “white” and thus somewhat good, she is still referred to as a common dirty animal.  Judgment of Desdemona is implied in these lines and it is a hard judgment of someone who would copulate with an “old Black ram”.  Iago paints a picture of Desdemona that any father would be ashamed of, but since these acts are happening right now, he also gives Brabantio hope that he can stop his daughter.[2]

          Heaven and hell as metaphors are closely connected with the concept of baseness, which Iago also uses to aid his plans. Iago exemplifies this technique as he tries to break up Othello’s Marriage. p.127, act 3 sc 3 Ln. 150 Although he appears to be attempting to dismiss Othello’s inquiries, Iago’s language reveals he is actually trying to further Othello’s curiosity.[3]  Iago is warning Othello about the danger that may come if he does express his “vile and false”  thoughts. Ln.159. Calling the place where these thoughts don’t go a “palace” seems to be an effort to convince Othello not to listen.  He does not imply that such a “Palace” exists, but contends that not talking about such matters would be more pleasant.[4]  Iago compares the torment Othello would have to sitting in court where the “vile thoughts” of Iago would continuously run though his head.  However, Iago is actually making sure that Othello will hear him and be interested because with each assertion of the ideas’ foulness, Othello will only want to hear them more.

           For much of the play, Heaven and hell are invoked to push someone towards one or the other, but as Othello becomes more and more distraught about his suspicions, he brings the two extremes together to show the growing conflict in his mind. P.149.”All my fond love thus do I blow to heavan”Ln.505  Othello’s anger here is extreme as he shows the change in his heart from love to blind violent rage and puts this change on a much larger scale by giving up his old love to heaven and finding his new emotions in hell. He relinquishes his love to heaven and follows only with “Tis gone”. The statement is powerful because it stands alone in the stanza as a two word line in the middle of more regular ones[5] and also because it is such a simple statement and thus has a strong sense of finality to it.[6]  Othello then commands “Black Vengeance to take over his heart and rule it with “tyrannous rage”.  He commands these things to come out of “hollow hell” and because he has given up his heavenly love, this shows an about face from the light to the dark.  In the end Othello reveals that the plague has become a real poison overloading his “bosom” and heart. This contrasts with what he has been doing in the rest of the passage, where he has been almost actively trying to get his love out and the poison in.  This shows that he still wishes to be allied with heaven as supposed to hell, but is unable to do so because of the circumstances.  Othello’s change of heart is dramatic and although he has an active role in the change, he is still confused by the battle between his former heavenly love and the poison that is destroying it.

          Iago uses these two extremes very effectively to accomplish his goals while Othello’s references seem only to further confuse him.  Iago succeeds in getting Brabantio to rush furiously at Othello and also turns Othello on his own wife with the use of heaven and hell as tools for making an argument.  Othello talks about heaven and hell at first to describe his conflicting emotions about his wife’s suspected infidelity, but is still confused even after he has killed Desdemona. Looking at her dead body “this look of thine will hurl my soul from heaven”p.259, Othello is still unsure about his place in the cosmos as a result of the act he has just committed.  He is even further conflicted as his grief overflows with “O Desdemon! Dead, Desdemon! Dead! O, O!”p.259.  In the end, Othello’s descriptions of oscillating between the good end and the bad end reflect his madness very well because who could be sane moving from one extreme to another? 


[1] Catherine Brewster

[2] Catherine Brewster

[3] Ethna Riley

[4] Catherine Brewster

[5] Catherine Brewster

[6] Catherine Brewster


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