Critical Appreciation of ‘A Toccata at Galuppi’s’
‘A Toccata of Galuppi’s’ is a dramatic monologue by Robert Browning in which the persona is critical of Galuppi’s music. As Galuppi plays his somber toccata and expresses contempt for the decadent lifestyle that his listeners seem to lead, the persona advocates a different message: the essence of life is flamboyance and enjoyment; Galuppi is mistaken in his belief that everything we do should be of serious bearing.
This is another poem of Browning’s in which he delves into themes of aesthetics and art and morality. While in ‘My Last Duchess’ he analyzed the interplay of sex, violence and art, with the Duke (the persona) flaunting his collection of masterpieces and his excessive ego being the reason for his wife’s murder, in ‘A Toccata of Galuppi’s,’ he questions the urban lifestyle in which people had a sense of insecurity blended into their increasing sense of freedom. Indeed, the poem carries with it a heavy warning of why we shouldn’t waste our lives immersed in frivolity. This message is delivered by Galuppi’s toccata to those dancing to his music. As the music’s sobriety hits them and they contemplate the inevitability of death, Browning communicates to us his critical views on the sense of corruption and decay that urban lifestyles increasingly embody.