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Robert Browning

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Adrian Radu

on 9 May 2016

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Transcript of Robert Browning

The Dramatic Monologue

overheard confession of a working mind, where an imaginary speaker speaks to an imaginary audience
soliloquy (i.e. without an interlocutor)
with an implied interlocutor
Alfred Tennyson
Robert Browning
Robert Browning (1812-1889)
the representative of a more intellectual tradition
interested in moral and political problems
studied the psychological motivation of characters
copiously exploited the dramatic monologue

Dramatic Lyrics
Dramatic Romances and Lyrics
Men and Women
Dramatis Personae
The Ring and the Book
Robert Browning's
Dramatic Monologues
also called ‘dramatic lyrics’ or ‘dramatic romances’
two kinds:
soliloquies (without an interlocutor): ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, ‘Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister’
monologues with a silent interlocutor: ‘My Last Duchess’, ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’, ‘Andrea del Sarto’
records the speaker’s mind in a moment of crisis
distorted psychology
main aim: to throw light upon the realm of consciousness
Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister
Dramatic Lyrics
speaker: a Spanish monk
situation: jealous of his fellow monk, attributes him all of his own personal sins
My Last Duchess
Dramatic Lyrics
dramatic monologue with an interlocutor
speaker: the Duke of Ferrara (Alphonse II of Ferrara)
interlocutor: the emissary of the Count of Tirol
situation: the Duke (now a widower) wants to re-marry - the Count’s daughter
Lucrezia de Medici
Duchess to Alphonse II of Ferrara
Porphyria's Lover
Drmatic Lyrics
speaker: Porphyria’s lover
situation: Porphyria comes late during a rainy night
Robert Browning
the Dramatic Monologue

Pre-Renaissance vs. Renaissance Painting
The Annunciation
Leonardo da Vinci: The Annunciation
Elizabeth Barrett

G-r-r-r – there go, my heart’s abhorrence!
Water your damn flowerpots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God’s blood, would not mine, kill you!
What? your myrtle bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims – Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with its flames!
The rain set early in tonight
The sullen wind was soon awake,
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,
And did its worst to vex the lake:
I listened with heart fit to break.
When glided in Porphyria ...
And thus we sit together now,
And all night long we have not stirred,
And yet God has not said a word!

Fra Lippo Lippi
Men and Women
Italian Renaissance painter of the 15th century mentioned (Filippo Lippi) in
The Lives of the

Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects
by Giorgio Vassari
dramatic monologue with an interlocutor
situation: Fra LippoLippi is caught by the guards returning from ‘sportive ladies’ to his convent late at night
Your business is not to catch men with show,
With homage to the perishable clay,
But lift them over it, ignore it all,
Make them forget there’s such a thing as flesh.
Your business is to paint the souls of men –
Man’s soul, and it’s a fire, smoke… no, it’s not …
It’s vapour done up like a new-born babe –
(In that shape when you die it leaves your mouth)
It’s … well, what matters talking, it’s the soul!
Give us no more of body than shows soul!
Here’s Giotto, with his Saint a-praising God,
That sets us praising – why not stop with him?
Why put all thoughts of praise out of our head
With wonder at lines, colours, and what not?
Paint the soul, never mind the legs and arms!
Filippo Lippi, Coronation of the Virgin
(Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence)
Andrea del Sarto
Men and Women
Italian Renaissance painter of the 16th century
referred to as ‘The Faultless Painter’
mentioned in
The Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects
by Giorgio Vassari
dramatic monologue with an interlocutor
situation: Andrea talks with his wife about his work and personal achievements
I am grown peaceful as old age to-night.
I regret little, I would change still less.
Since there my past life lies, why alter it?
The very wrong to Francis! – it is true
I took his coin, was tempted and complied,
And built this house and sinned, and all is said.
My father and my mother died of want.
Well, had I riches of my own? you see
How one gets rich! Let each one bear his lot.
They were born poor, lived poor, and poor they died;
And I have laboured somewhat in my time
And not been paid profusely. Some good son
Paint my two hundred pictures – let him try!
No doubt, there’s something strikes a balance. Yes.
You loved me quite enough, it seems to-night.
This must suffice me here. What would one have?
In heaven, perhaps, new chances, one more chance –
Four great walls in the New Jerusalem,
Meted on each side by the angel’s reed,
For Leonard, Rafael, Agnolo and me
To cover – the three first without a wife,
While I have mine.
The Ring and the Book
: found in Florence in 1860
Mrs Browning’s ring (the "aei" ring)
work of the goldsmith
circular structure of the work
Count Guido Franceschini (husband)
the priest Caponsacchi (lover)
the Pope
the multiple point of view
handling of the material:
unexpected point of view
changes of focus (point of view) – from particular observation to transcendental truth
characters represent human typologies
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please sit and look at her? I said
‘Frà Pandolf’ by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst


Oh, Sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive.
The moment she was mine, mine, fair
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string I wound
Three times her little throat around
And strangled her. No pain felt she;
I am quite sure she felt no pain
I, caught up with my monk's-things by mistake,
My old serge gown and rope that goes all round,
I, in this presence, this pure company!
Where's a hole, where's a corner for escape?
Then steps a sweet angelic slip of a thing
Forward, puts out a soft palm — 'Not so fast!'
— Addresses the celestial presence, 'nay —
He made you and devised you, after all,
Though he's none of you! Could Saint John there draw —
His camel-hair make up a painting-brush?
We come to brother Lippo for all that,
Iste perfecit opus
Sonnet 43 (from
Sonnets from the Portuguese
) - 'How Do I Love Thee'
Sonnets from the Portuguese
And yet God has not said a word!
This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive.
Full transcript