Poetry and Death

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Robert Browning's "Prospice" is a dramatic monologue written about a man's thoughts on his impending death. Browning was an ambitious poet who wrote with both great range and variety. Through the vividness of imagery, swiftness of movement, and notes of hope and courage, Browning expresses his optimistic outlook on death and the afterlife.

Born in Camberwell, London, on May 7th, 1812, Browning inherited his scholastic tastes from his father-- a clerk in the Bank of England. Browning's personal life revolved around his relationship with the poet Elizabeth Barret, whom he secretly married in 1846. The pair resided in Italy until 1861, when Elizabeth passed away. This resulted in Browning leaving Italy with a heavy heart, and settling in London, where he continued his writing. The verse novel The Ring and the Book, which was written in the last few decades of his life, achieved Browning his true literary prestige. Although heart broken after his wife's death, Browning could be described as a congenial, gregarious man. In the words of William Sharp:

"Everybody wished him to come and dine; and he did his utmost to gratify everybody. He saw everything; read all the notable books; [...] knew all the gossip of the literary clubs, salons and the studios; was a frequenter of afternoon tea-parties; and then, over and above it, he was Browning; the most profoundly subtle mind that has exercised itself in poetry since Shakespeare." Robert Browning died in Venice on December 12th, 1889, and was buried in the Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey.

Browning's "Prospice" is written as a dramatic monologue. A dramatic monologue is a poem with a speaker who is clearly separate from the poet, who speaks to an audience that remains clearly present in the scene. This implied audience is what distinguishes the dramatic monologue. The purpose is to develop the character of the speaker, rather than make a statement about the declared subject matter. For...
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