Robert Browning's Use of the Dramatic Monologue.

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      Nisha James

B.A.Eng(Hons), I B

     Roll no – 53

I Robert Browning’s Use of the Dramatic Monologue

Robert Browning is one of the foremost poets of the Victorian era and his most noted contribution to English literature is undoubtedly the literary form of the Dramatic Monologue, which was not independently developed but none the less firmly established by him.

His first poem Pauline was published anonymously in 1833 and Browning sent twelve copies of it to his friend W.J.Fox, of which J.S.Mill received a copy. Mill harshly reproached the author with what he considered obsessive autobiographical tendencies with a comment "With considerable poetic powers, this writer seems to me possessed with a more intense and morbid self-consciousness that I have ever known in any sane human being". Thanks to the complete failure of Pauline, which failed to sell a single copy, and the moderate success of Paracelsus, published in 1835, Browning worked on a new poetic mode. He manifestly hesitated between several poetic modes and genres, since he tried the lyrical with Pauline, the dramatic with Paracelsus and the epic with Sordello before choosing to mix the lyrical and the dramatic with the use of the dramatic monologue. Instead of exposing his soul to the readers and critics, who could be tempted to evaluate his poetry in terms of self revelation and autobiography, Browning chose to keep writing in the first person, but with characters who were supposed to speak in their own names and about their own selves. Since the poet did not feel free to write in his own name and about himself, which he obviously did in his first poem Pauline, he logically resorted to other speakers to do just the same, which let him stay in full command of the writing process and allowed him to keep writing first person poetry in the shadow of his speakers.

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The amusing side of Browning dramatic monologues is the fact the t he himself put the speakers in the very uncomfortable position he assumed when he wrote Pauline. His dramatic monologues continue with the "confessing" tone which he adopted in his earlier narratives, without being authentic confessions due to his use of hypocritical speakers who actually betray more than they confess, who incidentally tell the truth when they precisely try to hide it and who hide the truth when they pretend to tell it openly. Sincerity and spontaneity are systematically feigned by Browning’s speakers. The situation is further complicated since ...

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