Internet Shakespeare Editions


Hell mouth

Hell mouth, as figured in the Roxburghe Ballads. University of Victoria Library.

Here a gaping mouth of the Devil represents a sphere of a different and more terrifying kind. An enthusiastic Devil welcomes King, Bishop, and merchant alike to the flames.

Where precisely Hell was located was, of course, the subject of debate: Marlowe's Doctor Faustus urges Mephistophilis to tell him where it is, and Mephistophilis replies that it is within the lower elements of earth itself -- but at the same time is everywhere that is not heaven:

Faustus: Tell me, where is that place that men call hell?
Mephistophilis: Under the heavens.
Faustus: Ay, but whereabouts?
Mephistophilis: Within the bowels of these elements,
Where we are tortured and remain forever.
Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is there must we ever be.
And, to be short, when all the world dissolves,
And every creature shall be purified,
All places shall be hell that is not heaven.
Faustus: I think hell's a fable.
Mephistophilis: Aye, think so still, till experience change thy mind.