Robert Browning is described as ‘a love poet who was acutely aware of
how women and men can be separated by jealousy or the passing of
time’. In studying his poetry, what did you notice about the
relationships he explores? What is revealed about the time in which
Browning was writing?
The ‘Love Poet’ Robert Browning was born in London in 1812. In 1846
Browning married the poet Elizabeth Barrett and eloped with her to
Italy. After Elizabeth’s death he returned to England and continued to
publish a great number of poems and plays. His best poetry was
written, however, in the years that he spent in Italy with his wife.
He died in 1889.
Browning’s time period was a lot different than today’s culture and
social behaviour; this is obvious in his poems. The relationships
between a male and a female were much more formal. The male brought
money into the house, he would work and socialise. For the wealthy
men, it was often they had a pretty girl beside them. She would act as
a pleasant book cover, covering the intelligent dominant man. In
Browning’s poems, however, the characters are often men and women
caught at moments of anxiety and obsession. Since they tend to reveal
more than they actually intend, the interest of the poems lies in
discovering what lies beneath the words that are actually spoken. This
relates to Robert Browning’s description as ‘a love poet who was
acutely aware of how women and men can be separated by jealously or
the passing of time’.
I will be studying five of Browning’s poems including: My Last Duchess,
a dramatic monologue in which the Duke speaks to an imaginary listener
about a painting of his last duchess. Porphyria’s Lo...
... middle of paper ...
...s absence of a female
voice may suggest a representation of a specifically male identity
through the speaker. On the other hand, doubts remain whether he
intended to psychoanalyse the male identity for a particular poem, as
no female voice exists for a comparison.
The central problem in Browning's love poetry is invariably one of
communication between the sexes. The intangible influences that
encourage or destroy intimacy between men and women elicit all his
skill in psychological analysis; for love exists in and through human
intuitions. Reference has already been made to the poet's belief that
destined lovers recognize each other on first sight. But these moments
of full and perfect communion are precarious; and, save for the most
exceptional cases, the initial harmony does not survive social
pressures or the importunities of individual temperament.
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