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Robert Browning 1812 - 1889

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Robert Browning 1812 - 1889

Robert Browning was born into a rich family at Camberwell, near London. His father had strong scholarly, literary and artistic interests. Browning was mostly educated at home and was a good reader, though not systematic.

In 1833 he went to Russia, and the following year he visited Italy for the first time, seeing Venice, Florence and Rome. He was a typical upper class Victorian, with hid love of exotic and the picturesque, and his interest for Italian Renaissance.

He only broke social convention once, causing a great stir with his marriage. Browning met his future wife, Elizabeth Barrett, in 1845. She was already famous as a poet. The circumstances were truly Romantic: she was a semi-invalid, six years older than he was, and dominated by her father. Finally, they eloped to Italy in 1846 and lived there for the next fifteen years. Elizabeth died in Florence in 1861.

Browning returned to England to live in London with his son. He took upon himself the role of great poet and became a public ure, known for his conversation and wit.

He died in 1889 in Venice, and he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The Dramatic Monologue.

Browning is the acknowledged master of the dramatic monologue, though strictly speaking he didn't invent it. The characteristics of his dramatic monologue can be summarised as follows:

It's recited by a first-person speaker.

This speaker is obviously not the poet but a historical ure: a poet or artist, failed lover, saint, etc.

It's set in a precise historical and geographical background; many set in the Renaissance and have Italian subjects.

There's a listener who usually does or says little but who is essential to the dramatic or theatrical quality of the piece.

It centres on a crucial point or problem in the speaker's life.

The language is made to appear colloquial and spontaneous.

The use of irregular or unusual punctuation, syntax and rhythm.

Browning's philosophy.

In his time Browning was thought to be a profound and original thinker. He developed an idealistic conception of life in which evil was not-being, inaction.

Browning's originality.

Browning's real originality lies in his technical innovations. His unconventional use of language, syntax and metre was to exert a very great influence on early twentieth-century modernist poetry.


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