Art of characterization of Robert Browning

Art of characterization of Robert Browning

Question: Discuss Robert Browning’s art of characterization.

Or, “Browning’s poems are a psychological study of characters.”- discuss.


Robert Browning (1812-1889) is one of the chief exposers or exponents of the mind of man in English literature. He has cared little for describing the physical appearances of the characters. He has sketched the appearance of the soul of human beings in his dramatic monologues. As he was concerned with individuals, he never picked up his characters at random.

The psychological study of Browning’s characters

Before starting ingoing discourse on the psychological study of Browning’s characters, one must know about the source of Browning’s characters and his chief interest.

A vast variety of characters

Browning’s characters belong to different countries and ages and almost all of them are from an urban setting. He has taken his characters from England, Italy, Germany, France, and other countries. Arthur Symons who was a British critic and poet of the postmodern period believes that Browning studies at various places. He also asserts that Browning’s observation of life is so vast and vivid that he has filled his characters to forecast and teach the people of the world.

Click here: for all the notes of poetry

Browning’s chief interest

There is a rich panorama or picture of life in the monologues of Browning but his special interest was in artist, scholars, poets, musicians, sculptors, and painters. Browning believes that such categories are perfect to probe into the deep psychology of human beings. But he never neglects other categories too because the range of his character spreads from beggar to king. Here is a weighty discussion on the art of characterization with reference to the poems of leading dramatic monologue composer Robert Browning.

Complex mentality

Browning’s characters are real human beings because they reflect the same combination of simplicity and complexity as people perform in real life. In the poem “The Last Ride Together”, the lover blesses his mistress instead of feeling frustrated because of being rejected.

“My whole heart rises up to bless

Your name in pride and thankfulness!”

The following quotation from the same poem is also the satisfaction of a complex mentality.

“The instant made eternity,—

And heaven just prove that I and she

Ride, ride together, for ever ride?”

Such a feeling is an emblem of complex mental make-up. The Duke Ferrara of the poem “My Last Duchess” and the Bishop of the “The Bishop Orders His Tomb” wear mental obscurity which is just realizable and feelable.

Hopes and aspirations

Hope and aspiration are the guiding force of human life. When somebody loses his hope and aspiration, he loses his life. By the character of Andrea Del Sarto, we can learn the reasons for the failure of the creative genius allegorically. Sarto has compared his painting and mental condition with the dim light of the twilight which means his soul and painting at present are soulless, dull, and colorless.

“A common greyness silvers everything, —

All in a twilight, you and I alike”

Andrea asserts that his contemporary artists are successful because they do not have Lucrezia like wife. He cheats his patron Francis 1 and his parents too for Lucrezia but Lucrezia is indifferent to him and enjoys her days with her boyfriend who has been addressed in the poem as cousin of Lucrezia. In the process, Sarto reveals his own faults and hypocrisy of women. Thus, we realize Andrea’s hopes and aspirations and unfulfilled ambition.

Exposition of cold, arrogant, possessive, and callous mind

It is universal that Browning is a master of characterization. From his characters, we get a vivid insight into the cold, arrogant, possessive, and callous minds of upper-class dudes. The Bishop and the Duke of Ferrara are the specimens of such character.


Mysticism is the most striking psychological aspect of Browning’s characters. Sarto tries to convince Lucrezia that art is valueless without spiritual perfection. Fra Lippo Lippi swears by the end of the poem that he never cares for an outer appearance from now. The Patriot of the poem “The Patriot” believes that he will be rewarded by God though he is humiliated in this world.

The Grammarian of the poem “A Grammarian’s Funeral” is the epitome of Browning’s philosophy and mysticism. He is a man of single-minded devotion. He wants to be a perfect grammarian and works tirelessly with zest and vigor for the achievement of his aim.

“God’s task to make the heavenly period

Perfect the earthen.”

The grammarian is also a man of perfect manner who does not have any covetousness. He is only devoted to the immortality of the soul. That is why he is buried at the high peak of the mountain by his disciples that is the symbol of spiritual perfection.


  1. Reserved mind
  2. Abnormal mentality
  3. Sympathy etc.


In termination, Browning’s character-analysis can be compared to Shakespeare who belongs to all ages of English literature. Browning like Shakespeare has been able to visualize before us a clear picture of human beings.

Ruhul Huda
Ruhul Huda

You can call me Mr. Huda. I am a researcher and doing this work for years. I like to learn everywhere. So, feel free to share your experience with me.

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