Sunday, March 20, 2011

Research Paper on Browning

Research Paper on Browning

In 1851 Browning wrote an essay on Percy Bysshe Shelley, and in it he both praised the Romantic poet who had so influenced him, and also explained how he, Browning differed in his own poetic project. Shelley, according to Browning, was a subjective poet, a poet who wrote from the perspective of the inner self, while Browning wishes to be an objective poet. Browning felt that subjective poetry which is never relieved by objectivity meant that “the world is subsisting wholly on the shadow of a reality”. He wanted to present the world from a distanced objective view, not through a haze of abstraction, and to show the world and the people in it clearly and directly. Employed by Browning, among others, the dramatic monologue is one poetic strategy which allows us a vision of both worlds. The character in the monologue tells his or her story in a subjective manner, while allowing the distanced poet and reader to remain objective.


The “action” in a dramatic monologue is mental, psychological and verbal. Browning also became adept at indicating physical action and gesture but the important one is the act of speaking—of arguing, pleading informing, reminiscing, of thinking aloud or of justifying oneself. The form also allowed him to indulge his fondness for eccentric or often morally reprehensible characters and opinions while, it freed him from the responsibility of bringing his villain to justice. Browning chose the Renaissance as the historical setting of many of his poems because it was a time of great energy and change. However Browning’s characters are not famous personages but minor players. They are too busy concentrating on themselves and their own needs to think about their role in history. Through these moments in history Browning discusses such themes as Love, Art, Beauty and Evil. He also shows us that it is very difficult to hear the whole story as it is made up of many different versions.

In 1833 Browning’s first published poem, the lyrical, confessional form of Pauline looks back to the dominant mode of the Romantic poets rather than forward to his mid-Victorian acheivement. In Paracelsus he abandoned the confessional mode and put many of the same thoughts and feelings into dramatic form. Therefore from now on his poems would be “dramatic in principle”. Two poems that Browning published soon after are even more fully dramatic. These poems Johannes Agricola and Porphyria’s Lover, are objective studies in morbid psychology. In Porphyria’s Lover the world is restricted to a single point of view, to the words of the character who is speaking. This is the source of much of the richness and power of the dramatic monologue. We soon deduce even without the 1842 title Madhouse Cells that the speaker in the poem is insane. He reveals himself as a murderer, and a necrophiliac. He believes God’s silence indicates that God condones his act.

“And yet God has said not a word!”

Or is it that God has not yet spoken and the speaker fearfully awaits God’s judgement. By giving us only the speaker’s version of events, Browning creates a poem that is fundamentally ambivalent. We could say the man’s madness extenuates his crime, or was there really a crime and if so, was it committed in such a way. He could just be imaging everything, or perhaps this happened in the past and his mind is trapped within the memory of that night. Once our imagination is engaged by these ambiguities, each line becomes an index to the complex human mind Browning has portrayed. For example, the opening lines tell us that it is the man, not the wind that is sullen and spiteful. Porphyia’s Lover is technically a soliloquy as there is no listener to hear the speaker’s words. In Browning’s later works a listener is usually clearly indicated so that the poem becomes a one-end conversation that the reader is permitted to overhear.

In Pippa Passes 1841 we find Browning using an experimental form which is closer to the dramatic monologue than to legitimate drama. He presents Pippa a child labourer, on her yearly day of freedom walking through her town singing various songs. As she passes Pippa’s unconscious singing influences the lives of some of the people in the town. Because Pippa passes through the world her presence changes it, but that is not to say that she unequivocally improves it. Although each character has been changed it is not easy to say if she has been an agent for good, or perhaps the unconscious agent of God's will or even just an agent of chance.. In Pippa, Browning develops a poetic form that displays that mixture of good and evil, of the beautiful and the ugly which so distinguishes his vision of life. Once again he makes no authorial comment and the reader has to decide the outcome for his or herself.

My Last Duchess 1842 represents a definite advance towards the dramatic monologue. The setting is more precise and the Duke’s motive for speaking more distinct (to lay down a set of rules for his new Duchess by describing the flaws of the previous one). The language is more natural and the listener, (an envoy from the Count whose daughter will be the next Duchess) is more openly indicated. This device of including a listener seems to account for the greater sense of reality. The style is conversational as the listener is asked to sit and look at a painting of the Duchess while the Duke describes her. Here too the Duke carries on a sort of dialogue with the listener by anticipating his questions and responses. Gestures like drawing the attention of the envoy to the bronze statute stresses the Duke’s pride in possession that leads him to treat people as objects and tools to be used. Here Browning seems to be saying that the Duke is representative of the dehumanising forces which were brought on by industrialisation.

The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church 1845 which describes a materialistic bishop giving orders for the decoration of his tomb to his illegitimate sons as he lies on his deathbed brought the dramatic monologue to full and mature expression. Although the bishop is meant to be representative of corrupt Catholic churchmen and was one of the poems written to dispel what Browning saw as wrong-headed nostalgia for the rituals of the Catholic church, by the time the monologue has ended he has become an individual. Sensual, vain, capable of bribery, threats even anger but also appreciative of beauty, the bishop has developed into a realistic character.

In Fra Lippo Lippi 1855 he fused painting, history and religion into a demonstration of , and argument for, realism in art. Set in Florence of the Renaissance it tells of a licentious monk known for his naturalist style of painting. The other monks are shocked at his realistic portrayal of the human body because they see the function of religious painting as spiritual, to help people forget the materialistic world of flesh and blood. However Lippo Lippi believes that art, which attempts to represent things as they really are, is itself a path to the spiritual. Browning too wishes to be a poet who sees and describes “objects for men’s outer not inner sight.”

Therefore Browning is maintaining that if the artist or poet represents things truly and objectively, those things can enter the inner sight of man. Through the use of the dramatic monologue Browning achieved this visionary goal.

Warning!!! All free online research papers, research paper samples and example research papers on Browning topics are plagiarized and cannot be fully used in your high school, college or university education.

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