It is quoted in Augustine's confessions, "the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life." if this is so, then I believe Ambrose is telling Augustine the the letter, or the law, or exact words in the bible aren't meant to be taken literally, but figuratively in order to obtain spiritual life and understand God.

How then is Iago teaching the opposite lesson to this then? to as you say, take things as they are stated?
what would specific examples be?

I'm so sorry but I'm just having trouble understanding

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  1. Not having read Othello, and not having read Augustine since 1979, I cannot comment about the works other than what you've quoted.

    My question for you is this: Are you taking this one quotation from Augustine as representative of the overall message in ALL his confessions?

    Here are some sites that may help:



    from https://www.google.com/search?q=augustine+confessions

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  2. Laura, that quote of Ambrose is really a quote from the Apostle Paul in the New Testament. In a general sense it means the spirit of the word is more important than the words used to describe them. Paul did not ever condone adding to the simple spirit of love God, and love one another. Gnostics and a few others of those times took Gods law and made Man law to follow, in convoluted meanings. Paul was saying ignore those secret meanings, stick with the basic meaning: Love God, love one another. Ambrose is the strawman Paul here, it is a literary trick Augustine used to get the basic truth out, without church censure. After all, who in the church can attack Paul's teaching....remember that Ambrose was a teacher who was not in widely held esteem in the church at that time (Later, he and Augustine were made saints).
    Ambrose is arguing against reading too much into words that describe God's word. The simple fact was God loved man, and forgave him his sins, and God commanded us to love God with all our heart, and love one another. Now, with the words in the Bible describing that love, wars are waged in God's name, killing is done in God's name, and basic indecency (starving populations, destruction, etc) is done in God's name. Ambrose is stating as Paul did: Those are not the meaning of God's word, it is a convoluted meaning taken from twisting words in the Bible and other texts. I hope this helps.

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  3. One last thought on this. Paul preached the Spirit of the law was love (Romans 13:10 et al). The meaning of the law was love. Jesus stated that clearly (Matt 22:47,40). Ambrose is saying the same thing Paul is saying, that the message of the law is simple, don't try to make more of it with convoluted words and logic. To me, Iago's lesson in Othello is a lesson in hate, deception, jealousy, and evil. Paul teaches these things are a result of twisting the law, and not following the spirit. The irony is Iago wanted to be known as the honest one, the one who spoke truth, that others should not go beyond what he said to be truth. So we have a comparison of Ambrose's teaching of Pauline principles, and Iago who demonstrated those same principles in his use of the letter of the word as causing evil. Paul (Ambrose) can easily now reflect.."I told you so", and Iago can reflect "It is not me who is evil, it is you".
    The truth is that the evil we see is as Augustine stated, in us all. Iago, and Ambrose see different ways it can be used. One for the good of man, the other the good for a particular man.
    You have a great assignment. Have fun with it.

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