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Home » » Justify Browning as a writer or a dramatic monologue?

Robert Browning was a poet. Though his genius and interest lay in drama, it is on the dramatic monologues that Browning's greatness rest. He is remembered mainly as a writer of such dramatic monologues as "My Last Duchess", " Andrea del Sarto","Fra Lippo Lippi " and "the Last Ride Together".

Dramatic monologue is a type of poem in which there is a speaker and a listener or listeners. The speaker of the poem is not the poet. The listener remains silent all though the poem but we infer his presence from what the speaker says. The speaker's utterance is a response to an occasion or event of crucial importance in his life.

In many poems by Browning, there is a single speaker. For instance, in " My Last Duchess" the speaker is a Duke of Ferrara who speak to the envoy of a Count whose daughter he intends to marry. As well as, In "Andrea del Sarto" Andrea is the speaker while his wife is the listener. Again "Fra Lippo Lippi",  Friar Lippo speaks to several watchmen. In all these poems, we find a single speaker who speaks in a dramatic situation. These speakers are not to be identified as Browning himself.

In all these poems, there are some signposts by which we understand the presence of the listener or listeners. In " my Last Duchess" the silent listener is the envoy of a Count whose daughter he intends to marry. In "Andrea del Sarto" Andrea directly addresses his wife and seeks a compromise. "Fra Lippo Lippi", on the other hand, directly threatens a watchman saying that he will be hanged for his rude behaviour.

Browning's dramatic monologue provides an understanding of the speaker's character. For instance," in "Andrea del Sarto" we find an anxious husband, whose love for his wife destroys his career as an artist. And in "My Last Duchess" though his own words it reveals that the Duke is cruel, jealous, proud and arrogant. Similarly, in "Fra Lippo  Lippi", we find a monk who is morally loose.

In Browning's poems, the speaker is placed in a critical situation of his life. Fra Lippo Lippi is caught by the watchmen in a street visited by loose women. Andrea del Sarto reaches a point in his life when he reviews his past, present and future. In " My Last Duchess" the Duke went to marry again and so to describe the portrait of his last wife deals with a dilemma.

Browning composes "The Last Ride Together" as a dramatic one. Here the speaker does not speak directly but makes an imaginary character speak. The character in the poem is a rejected lover and he speaker in the form of a monologue.

One interesting fact about Browning's dramatic monologues is that in these poems Browning portray a wide variety of characters. There are the virtuous as well as the vicious, the brave as well as well as the coward. The subjects Browning deals with are also varied. They are love, art, philosophy, religion and crime. But they are not treated from any particular point of view. They are presented from every conceivable point of view. What makes Browning's dramatic monologues more interesting is the view of life that emerges from them. Browning was a lover of humanity. He valued earthly life with all its aspects. In this respect his approach to life is realistic.

From the above discussion we find that Browning is very successful in handling the from of dramatic monologues in his poems. Almost all the elements of a successful dramatic monologue are present in his poems. When we read them we can mark his mastery. Both in from and matter they have uniqueness. Technically and thematically there is hardly any poet with whom we can compare him.


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