Robert Browning and the Power of the Dramatic Monologue Form

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Robert Browning and the Power of the Dramatic Monologue Form The dramatic monologue form, widely used by Victorian poets, allows the writer to engage more directly with his reader by placing him in the role of listener. Robert Browning utilised the form to a famously profound effect, creating a startling aspect to his poetry. In poems such as “Porphyria’s Lover,” and “My Last Duchess,” for example, Browning induces a feeling of intimacy by presenting the reader as the ‘confidant’ to the narrator’s crimes; in “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” the reader is more a witness to the narrator’s increasing instability. Thus, Browning is able to use the dramatic monologue form both to expose the narrator’s frailties, and as a channel…show more content…
Browning immediately makes this attitude appear ridiculous by demonstrating the Duke’s bullish approach to the painter of his wife’s image. The Duke condemns the “earnest glance” required by the painter’s profession in exaggerating its “depth and passion.” The Duke seems to interpret his wife’s happiness as an affront to his “gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name,” complaining that “She had/ A heart… too soon made glad, / Too easily impressed.” The envy stems from a materialistic fixation similar to that of the Bishop in “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church,” whose holiness is undermined with an obsession for an extravagant resting place. “Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!” declares the Bishop in the poem’s opening line, setting the tone for the rest of the monologue. The Bishop appears transfixed with the idea of an overstated tomb that would undermine the “paltry onion-stone” of that of his rival, Old Gandolf. He interrupts his philosophising to declare that the tomb should be “Peach-blossom marble all… True peach/ Rosy and flawless.” Later though, he supersedes even this outrageous demand, asserting “All lapis, all, my sons,” referring to the incredibly rare lapis lazuli, “Big as a Jew’s head” and “Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast” that he had stolen from the church. The requests seem outrageous for a man who has vowed to live in poverty. However, the most despicable examples of his vanity are demonstrated by
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