Essay Robert Browning and the Power of the Dramatic Monologue Form

Essay Robert Browning and the Power of the Dramatic Monologue Form

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Robert Browning and the Power of the Dramatic Monologue Form

The dramatic monologue form, widely used by Victorian poets, allows
the writer to engage more directly with his reader by placing him in
the role of listener. Robert Browning utilised the form to a famously
profound effect, creating a startling aspect to his poetry. In poems
such as “Porphyria’s Lover,” and “My Last Duchess,” for example,
Browning induces a feeling of intimacy by presenting the reader as the
‘confidant’ to the narrator’s crimes; in “Soliloquy of the Spanish
Cloister,” the reader is more a witness to the narrator’s increasing
instability. Thus, Browning is able to use the dramatic monologue form
both to expose the narrator’s frailties, and as a channel for them to
relinquish their sins. Furthermore, the form allows for a direct
insight into the character’s thinking, thus creating an atmosphere of
urgency and drama whilst the narrator’s contemplate their situations
and actions. Thus, Browning’s use of the dramatic monologue form
allows him to both deepen and dramatise the action developing within
the poems.

It is interesting to note that traditionally high-standing members of
society narrate many of Browning’s dramatic monologues. Browning
utilises the form to expose the frailties of these characters. He
reveals the envy of The Duke in “My Last Duchess”; the lust of the
monk in “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister”; and an excessive amount
of greed and pride in “The Bishop [who] Orders His Tomb at Saint
Praxed’s Church”. The Duke’s requirements of his wife seem
unreasonable, exposing an aspect of instability within his supposedly
impeachable character. He complains that “’t was not/ Her husband’s
presence only, called that spot/...


... middle of paper ...


...lines
before the action is revealed. “And strangled her” is the poem’s most
dramatic line, affording it a line of its own. In describing Porphyria
as “little” before the crime and “as a shut [flower] bud” after it,
the sin is further compounded. Thus, the monologue form is essential
in both explaining and dramatising the actions of Browning’s
narrators.

In using the monologue form so frequently, Browning develops an
intimate relationship with his readers through the narrators. The
reader acts as ‘confidant’ to the narrators’ crimes, and as witness to
their frailties. Further, the action is dramatised by the monologues’
ability to draw out the poems’ most crucial moments. Thus, Browning
creates a profoundly accessible element to his poetry. The Victorians
who once criticized his “incomprehensible and unapproachable” poetry
might well regret their words.

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