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Browning Monologues

Updated February 28, 2020

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.. achievement of Browning’s because unlike the other two speakers he has done nothing wrong. He is even referred to as ‘The faultless painter’ in the subtitle, though we realise that there are no errors in his hand with its matchless skill, there is in the soul that directs that hand.

The reason we detest Andrea by the end of the poem is because although he recognises his faults of character he doesn’t address them or take blame and adopts a very fatalistic attitude to his life, ‘All is as God over-rules’ Similarly as in the other poems the rhythm also says a lot of the character. Andrea’s sentences are often short and break off and the verse is blank which make the speaker seem dull and not very articulate, unable to structure his thoughts. This is backed by the imagery when creating the impression of Andrea; Andrea is often linked with the colour grey, which is bleak and dull. Colour is also used to highlight Andrea’s greatest fault, when he stole the money the king of France gave him for artwork to build his house, ‘The walls became illuminated, brick from brick Distinct, instead of mortar fierce bright gold’ The brightness of the gold is a strong contrast to the grey his achievements are associated with in his mind and highlights the greatness of his misdemeanour compared to his moderate achievements. Fra Lippo Lippi though as a character is like the reversal of Andrea, his paintings are criticised for the amount of life in them rather than lack of it.

Lippi paints a world of perceptions rather than the intellectual abstraction of it which is seen as far to realistic to be inspiring religious feeling. Lippi, unlike Andrea believes in his painting, whilst Andrea aims to achieve merely technically perfect paintings Lippi can be considered a great painter as his paintings contain soul and inspire the viewer that the beauty of a higher reality is made manifest through the appearances of the world. The tempo and rhythm characterise Lippi as highly articulate with highly strategic changes in tone towards the watchmen and he has the ability to quickly swap between pleading to cheeky to slightly aggressive depending on the reaction he receives, unlike the monotone Andrea. The life and gaiety that Lippi is depicted with is implicit in the jigging refrains, which run though the poem.

Lippi is the only character from any of the monologues who is in a situation where he has been forced to explain himself, yet he is the only character who manages to explain his actions. We sympathise with his mistakes and can understand that a man forced into religion through poverty may be excusable of his misdemeanours, Porphyria’s lover is the only other character who arouses our sympathy, though he because of his state of mind rather an understanding of his actions. The Duke in ‘My Last Duchess’ though is the character hardest to relate to, he is the one character not to repent his actions, be able to explain them or to seem to have the inability to grasp them. The Duke is portrayed as arrogant, callous and solipsistic.

One of the key poetic methods used to characterise the Duke is the repetition of certain words. The words; I, me, mine, my and myself begin to stand out as you read the poem because they are used so much in the Dukes speech, this immediately reflects to the reader the Duke’s self-centred view of the world. This is backed up with the use of assonance to draw attention to certain phrases, ‘ .. She had A heart- how shall I say?- too soon made glad’ The long slow vowel sounds sound emotionless and flat, which is a cold tone to take when talking of his late wife’s happy nature. The language used also reflects his character well, ‘ .. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt Whene’er I passed her’ The use of the word ‘passed’ shows how little time the Duke spent with her, yet he still fully expected to be the only receiver of her attention.

The ending shows fully though how power-mad the Duke is, he finishes by name-dropping and showing off one of his prize art-works. The Duke finishing in this way is reminding the listener of his power and wealth and how he is unanswerable to anyone for his actions. This also makes us dislike the Duke more, all the other speaks desperately need something to fulfil themselves, whilst the Duke has everything, power, money and a pleasant wife yet he still demands, and gets, more. The Duke is abusing power whilst the other speakers have no power to abuse.

Browning’s characters are very different in their natures but are also very similar. Three killers as different as Porphyria’s lover, the speaker in ‘The Laboratory’ and the Duke are similar as they are all killers due to jealously, but this jealously provokes very different feelings in the different characters. They vary from a megalomaniac to a psychopath to someone acting on childlike ideas and whims. The two painters are similar also has they both live from means which they have no rights to use, though one deceived people out of need and the other stole due to greed. The reason these characters can be so distinct simply due to their speeches is because of the various poetic methods used to represent them.

Browning made his poetry compete with prose, and used idioms of ordinary speech in his text. He was also highly skilled at concentrating his meaning into very few words, using imagery to reflect the character. Such as how Andrea’s compliments to his wife are all backhanded and add to the impression of him being a poor conveyer of his feelings and how weak he is. Such as his compliment to Lucrezia, ‘My serpenting beauty’, though Andrea is presumably referring to her curves and suppleness of youth the serpent is also widely recognised as a manipulative and deceitful. A true master of the arts would be expected to have a better imagination and grasp of imagery.

This poem also particularly demonstrates Browning’s mastery of dramatic monologues as he has written in blank verse and written in the tone of a dull and lifeless man but still creates a deep dramatic monologue that reveals a lot more through it’s poetic methods employed in it than the speaker actually tells us. The way such different portrayals are formed of each character show us how successful Browning has been in using different poetic methods to convey each characterisation as a lot can be established simply from the rhythm and rhyme scheme of the poem and other poetic methods used before even analysing the speaker. English Essays.

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Browning Monologues. (2019, Feb 19). Retrieved from