The Masks of Robert Browning
The Victorian era was a time known for its family values. Robert Browning broke the mold of the Victorian writers by turning to dramatic monologue. Readers at the time could not appreciate his technique. Today some of his poems can be linked with authors such as Stephen King or Dean Koontz. Do his writings give us an insight into a hidden mad man? No. Robert Browning brought his characters to life and awakened the very real possibilities of the common man having a dark side. His use of persona and dramatic dialogue can be seen in “Porphyria’s Lover,” and “My Last Duchess”. These works show his use of a mask and give insights into the “true” Victorian era. Even though the entire era of the Victorian's was a mask to give the impression that family values were their main concern, Robert Browning revealed the hidden chaos of his generation, the anger of the lower class against the upper class and the rise in news media coverage of tragedies.. The Victorian era of family values was a mask to hide the social conditions which included orphanages, extreme poverty and civil conflict. “The mid-Victorian period was dominated by a double standard which insisted on a rigid public respectability while condoning widespread sexual immorality by men. This hypocrisy led to extensive protests culminating in a series of highly publicized scandals in the 1880s and '90s which marked the triumph of dogmatic puritanical morality” (Fisher 14-19). Robert Browning focuses on the hypocrisy of men in “My Last Duchess”. Victorian men treated women as possessions which were disposable. Men felt as if it were their duty to control women (45-46). In this work Browning displays how the men of wealth and power treated women. The poem was based on true events of Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara in Italy, whose first wife, Lucrezia, was rumored to have been poisoned after three years of marriage. Browning portrays the bad qualities of the Duchess as being easily pleased,...
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