Is it true that “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”? (Congreve)


I’ll list the words in that sentence I find largely unverifiable, shall I? ‘True, heaven, rage, love, hatred, hell, fury, woman, scorned”.

Okay. Possibly I’m being obtuse, but I just don’t know how to talk about truth, hell or heaven in the same sentence.

I’ve said it before, and upset people. I’m a postmodern subjectivist with a strong moral sensibility (that I find hard to explain, as obviously the former is a terrible starting point for the latter, even if it does lead to some interesting moralities). What this points to is seeing the truth in multiple narratives, seeing many possible truths, each as true and untrue as the next.

But simultaneously, I reject the notion of believing in the unverifiable. It doesn’t mean it isn’t true, it’s all true enough to learn from, which is kind of the only thing that matters.

So I don’t believe in Heaven and Hell as anything apart from metaphors. And it’s hard to nail down a metaphor. Also, something like heaven or hell is separate and understood differently by different people, so even the metaphorical representation of something can’t be held on to as something validly assessable.

For me. Any heaven as I’d understand it would have nothing to do with rage. But then, I don’t think my hell has much time for fury. So even as someone who tries to process the world through a filter of ‘everything has some kind of truth in it’ the statement rings hollow and false.

Hatred is bad though. It’s one of those words I try to hold myself from using. It’s too brutal a term for day to day conversation. Taking heaven to mean the holy and the sacred, as ill defined as that is, I can see that hatred becomes an affront. Hatred is a disconnection between you and another. An unwillingness to see the shared experience (love?) that joins us all.

I liked it how Vinay said it: ‘When you die, that which makes you different from everyone else around you, dies. That which makes you the same as everyone else, lives forever.’

Heaven and hell are faulty metaphors for the afterlife (unless they are real, which they could be, but it’s pointless to think of that as it’s all so unknowable), at least for me. They don’t tell you anything useful. They just fill you with fear to try and impose somebody else’s rules. That doesn’t help you learn how to live right.

But hatred stops you connecting with anything. And that leaves you adrift from whatever is really important. However you comprehend the other side of things. I doubt you get closer to it with hatred.

I’m refusing to engage with the woman scorned thing. It just strikes me as a way for Congreve to wrap up some grand philosophy with a bit of cheap misogyny. It’s sad that that’s the bit that people remember.

I’ll tell you what’s true though.


Turn that where you like it.

Illustration by Rosie.


About Alabaster Crippens

Joiner of Dots. Player of Games. Unreliable Narrator. Dancing Fool.
This entry was posted in Illustrations by Rosie, Questions by Alix. Bookmark the permalink.

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