Robert Browning and the Dramatic Monologue

Topics: Robert Browning, Poetry, Dramatic monologue Pages: 5 (1404 words) Published: November 30, 2005
Gabrielle Stith
English 12-2
May 13, 2004

Robert Browning and the Dramatic Monologue

Controlling Purpose: to analyze selected works of Robert Browning.

I.Brief overview of Browning
A.Greatest Poet
B.Family Life

II.Brief overview of "My Last Duchess"
A.Descriptive adjectives
B.Cause for death
C.Description of his wife

III.Definition of Dramatic Monologue

IV.Comments by Glenn Everett
A.Point of View
C.Audience Imagination

V.Comments by Terry Bohannon
A.No Christianity
B.Evil Characters

Robert Browning and the Dramatic Monologue

Robert Browning, one of the greatest poets of his literary period, was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, London. He was the first child of Robert and Sarah Anna Browning ("Robert Browning's Bibliography" 1). His father was a clerk at the Bank of England and his mother was a zealous Evangelist. By 1846, Browning got married to Elizabeth Barrett. From this marriage his wife conceived a son, Robert Barrett-Browning. At about the same time, he began to discover that his real talents lay in taking a single character and allowing him to discover himself to us by revealing more of himself in his speeches than he suspects In doing so, he wrote a great dramatic monologue called "My Last Duchess" (Everett 1). Murder, mystery, and intrigue all describe Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess" (Oliver 1). From the speaker's meandering insinuation, the death of his wife in the reader's point of view may seem like a crime committed because of jealousy. In this monologue, the duke has attempted to justify himself, and to portray his wife as silly and ungrateful. But in fact he does the opposite, and the duchess is revealed as the innocent victim of the duke's outraged pride. There is also the suggestion that other suitors have mad a fool of the duke. But he cannot fully recognize that his wife might love another, and simply calls her "too easily impressed." By the end of his monologue, the duke is already hinting at his next conquest—the count's daughter ("My Last Duchess" 1). The style and structure of this poem play a significant role in the effect of the poem. The dramatic monologue fits this favorably because the speaker, who is the Duke of Ferrara, comes across as being very controlling, especially in conversation. Browning also exercises many techniques, including a simple rhyme scheme, enjambment, and caesura to convey various characteristics and qualities about the speaker and the situation. He uses an AA BB rhyme scheme, which is very common to ballads and songs. The enjambed lines indicate the control that the speaker is exerting on the conversation and give the feeling that the speaker is rushing through parts of the poem. When the duke is speaking of the death of his wife, for example, the lines running over suggest that he is nervous about the subject. The caesuras also suggest to the reader that he is hiding something or that he is pausing to think (Oliver 1). Much of the dramatic tension in Browning's monologues lies in the contrast between the "truth" that the character tries to create and the real truth that is gradually revealed in the telling of his story. Often the language is evasive, suggesting the character's reluctance to face reality. But although the poetry can sometimes be difficult, Browning proved himself to be a master at impersonating a wide range of characters through verse. In doing so, he demonstrated that the poet and the speaker of the poem do not need to be the same person ("My Last Duchess" 1). A dramatic monologue is a poem in which only one person speaks (Algeo). When discussing the poetic form of dramatic monologue, it is rare that it is not associated with its usage attributed to the poet Robert Browning (Sorce 1). He has been considered the master of the dramatic monologue. Although some critics are skeptical of his invention of the form, for dramatic monologue is evidenced in poetry preceding...

Bibliography: N.Y.: Macmillan, 1992.
Boston: Bedford/St. Martin 's, 1998.
"My Last Duchess." World Book Online Reference Center. 2004. World Book, Inc.
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