Evaluate Browning as a writer of dramatic monologue.

Evaluate Browning as a writer of dramatic monologue.

Introduction: There is no single poet in the history of English literature who adhered to a single form for composing poetry. But Robert Browning(1812 –1889) is quite different as he sticks to the single tradition of writing poetry. He and the form of poetry are inevitably known as dramatic monologue though he did not invent it.

A conception of the dramatic monologue: A dramatic monologue is a poetic form in which a single character addresses a silent auditor at a critical moment and reveals himself or herself through a dramatic situation. In 1915, Claud Howard who is an American wrote an informative article, “The Dramatic Monologue: Its Origin and Development,” Published by the University of North Carolina Press, in which this poetic genre is explored from a technical standpoint. According to Claud Howard, this form of poetry was introduced in English literature by Geoffrey Chaucer and started its way of development in the Elizabethan period, and was perfected by Robert Browning in the Victorian period.

Browning as a writer of dramatic monologue: Browning achieved his best in the dramatic monologues in the collections, “Men and Women”, “Dramatic Lyrics”, “Dramatic Romances” and “Dramatic Personae”. The poems of these collections of poetry are blandished with the defined features of dramatic monologue. Here is an ingoing discourse about Browning as a writer of dramatic monologue.

The occasion or creating atmosphere: In order to have a clear conception of this type, one needs to have a clear conception of the occasion which is one of the constituent parts of a dramatic monologue. The occasion can be best understood by considering the purpose of the poem. Browning’s plan is to present the fickleness of popular opinion in the most impressive way. In his poems such as “My Last Duchess, Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea Del Sarto, The Last Ride Together, The Patriot, A Grammarian’s Funeral”, Browning has created an outstanding impressive occasion to declare his purpose.

The soliloquy or single speaker: Because of a single speaker, this type of poetry is called a dramatic monologue. M. H. Abrams in his “A Glossary of Literary Terms” recommends that in a dramatic monologue a single speaker who is patently not the poet utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem. Almost all the poems of Browning bear the testimony of a single speaker. In the poem “My Last Duchess”, the Duke negotiates with a messenger or emissary for a second wife.

Thats my last Duchess painted on the wall,

Looking as if she were alive.

The presence of silent auditors: A silent listener is a fundamental feature of the dramatic monologue. The single speaker addresses and interacts with one or more other people who remain shut up throughout the poem. In the discourse of the single speaker, we can learn what the auditor or auditors say or do. The following quotation from the poem “Andrea Del Sarto” must be amazing for this purpose.

should you let me sit

Here by the window with your hand in mine

And look a half-hour forth on Fiesole,

Focusing on self-revelation: The necessary condition of a dramatic monologue is to focus on the self-revelation of the character. This feature also distinguishes between dramatic monologue and dramatic lyric. The metaphysical poems are dramatic lyrics because there is no self-revelation in this type of poetry but in a dramatic monologue, the speaker expresses his soul in front of the silent listener or listeners. As in the poem “Fra Lippo Lippi”, the speaker discloses his soul. 

Startling beginning: The monologue reveals character not through outward action but through the clash of motives and emotions in the soul of the speaker. That is why the poet chooses a moment of crisis in the life of the speaker that starts abruptly or arrestingly. This abrupt beginning suggests that the present situation is a continuation of something that has gone before. Any number of examples may be quoted. We have here such one from the poem “Fra Lippo Lippi”.

I am poor brother Lippo, by your leave!

You need not clap your torches to my face.

Others: The moral story, a vast variety of characters, themes, peculiar perspective, and argumentation or case-making which are also domineering features of a dramatic monologue, found in the poem of Tennyson, Mathew Arnold, Cristiana Rossetti and T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” that is a fine example of a dramatic monologue of the modern age. Browning is a master of these.

Conclusion:In termination, Browning has been universally praised for his handling of dramatic monologue. Though he did not invent by no means this type of poetry, his position in the history of English poetry is unparallel because of his inimitable stamp of poetic genius for the adherence and perfection of this form of poetry.

Shihabur Rahaman
Shihabur Rahaman
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