Robert Browning, The reniassance and The Duke of Ferrara

Authors Avatar

Robert Browning

Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell (a suburb of London), the first child of Robert and Sarah Anna Browning. His mother was a fervent Evangelical and an accomplished pianist. Mr. Browning had angered his own father and forgone a fortune: the poet's grandfather had sent his son to oversee a West Indies sugar plantation, but the young man had found the institution of slavery so abhorrent that he gave up his prospects and returned home, to become a clerk in the Bank of England. On this very modest salary he was able to marry, raise a family, and to acquire a library of 6000 volumes. He was an exceedingly well-read man who could recreate the seige of Troy with the household chairs and tables for the benefit of his inquisitive son.

Indeed, most of the poet's education came at home. He was an extremely bright child and a voracious reader (he read through all fifty volumes of the Biographie Universelle ) and learned Latin, Greek, French and Italian by the time he was fourteen. He attended the University of London in 1828, the first year it opened, but left in discontent to pursue his own reading at his own pace. This somewhat idiosyncratic but extensive education has led to difficulties for his readers: he did not always realize how obscure were his references and allusions.

Join now!

In the 1830s he met the actor William Macready and tried several times to write verse drama for the stage. At about the same time he began to discover that his real talents lay in taking a single character and allowing him to discover himself to us by revealing more of himself in his speeches than he suspects-the characteristics of the dramatic monologue. The reviews of Paracelsus (1835) had been mostly encouraging, but the difficulty and obscurity of his long poem Sordello (1840) turned the critics against him, and for many years they continued to complain of obscurity even ...

This is a preview of the whole essay