Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, which is now a part of London. He had no real formal education so he was largely self educated. His father was a smart man with an extensive library. His mother was kindly, religious minded woman, who loved music and her brilliant son. He lived at his parents’ house almost until the time of his marriage. He attended a boarding school near Camberwell and spent a little bit of his time traveling to places like Russia and Italy. But he preferred to have his education at home, where he was tutored in foreign languages, boxing, music, and horsemanship, and where he read “omnivorously.”
At the age of 14 he first discovered Percy Shelly works and was strongly influenced by it. After reading Shelly, He made the decision to be an atheist and a liberal. But in a few years he grew away from atheism and the extreme phases of his liberalism. The things he learned from the books he read would largely influence his poems later in his life. His earlier poetry was regarded with indifference and largely misunderstood. It was not until the 1860’s that he would at last gain publicity and would even be compared with Alfred Lord Tennyson, another very famous poet of the time. Some of his early poetry was influenced by his unusual education. The poet also had an anxious desire to avoid exposing himself explicitly to his readers. The first poem he wrote called Pauline, was written in 1883 at the age of twenty-one, but he did not sign it because of his fear of exposing himself to the public too much. Since Browning did not want to expose himself too personally, he decided to try his hand at writing plays. He was encouraged by the actor W.C. Macready. Browning began work on his first play, Strafford, a historical tragedy.
Unfortunately, the play only lasted four nights when it was first put on in London in 1837. For ten more years, the young writer would continue to struggle to produce a play that would better hold the attention of the audience, but they all remained failures. Not only did Browning profit from this otherwise disheartening experience, but writing the dialogue for the characters helped him explore the “dramatic dialogue.” The dramatic dialogue, “enabled him to, through imaginary speakers, to avoid explicit autobiography and yet did not demand that these speakers act out the story with the speed or simplifications that a stage production demands. ” William Irvine notes, “In Browning monologues, murderers recollect, but do not commit, their murders”. His first collection of such monologues , “Dramatic Lyrics,” appearing in 1842, was as unsuccessful as his plays had been.
His poem Pauline was followed by a dramatic poem called Paracelsus which was the first poem to bring him fame and prominence with the other literary figures of the day. In Paracelsus Browning used a Renaissance setting, which would become a familiar motif in his later work. From 1841 to 1846 he wrote a series of poems under the title “Bells and Pomegranates,” which included such poems as Pippa Passes, My last Dutchess, and The Bishop Orders His Tomb. In 1846 he fell in love with the poet Elizabeth Barret.
She was six years older than Robert and jealously guarded by her “tyrannical” father. Because of her poor health which was made worse by the English climate, they moved to Florence, Italy, and were married there. They lived in a palace that would later be made famous by Elizabeth’s poem, Casa Guidi Windows. As Elizabeth’s health slowly returned to her, she was able to enjoy a fuller life. Robert seemed to thrive during these years of this remarkable marriage. While they were there, Robert wrote “Christmas Eve and Easter Day,” and a series of dramatic monologues, which were later published collectively as “Men and Women,” which included Fra Lippo Lippi and Andrea del Sarto which were studies of renaissance artists. “Men and Women” also reflects his enjoyment of Italy. He enjoyed most the picturesque landscapes and the lively street scenes that Italy had to offer. The happy fifteen year marriage ended in 1861 with Elizabeth’s death.
After Elizabeth died Robert moved back to London. Elizabeth’s death, however, did not stop Robert from writing nor did his writing decrease in quality. While in London he wrote Dramatis Personae in 1864 and “The Ring and the Book,” which is regarded as his masterpiece. “The Ring and the Book” dealt with a 17th century Italian murder trial. This poem tells the story of a sadistic husband, Count Guido. I am gay The middle aged Guido grows tired of his wife, Pampilia and accuses her of committing adultery with his handsome priest. Eventually, Guido stabs his wife and is himself executed. “The Ring and the Book” is an extended dramatic monologue among a number of characters and has been praised as “a perceptive psychological study.” This was the first writing that brought Robert Browning widespread fame. In 1878 Browning returned to Italy, where his only son was living also. During the last few years of his life he wrote the prose narrative, “Dramatic Idylls” which he wrote in 1880, and Asolando which appeared on Dec. 12, 1889. That same day he died in Venice, Italy. Robert Browning was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Robert Browning’s poetry is admired by two groups. To one group, his work is, “a moral tonic.” Such readers appreciate him as a man who lived bravely and as a writer who thought of life as one joyful battle. He believed that the imperfections of the world would someday be remedied by an all- loving God. Typical of this group are the Browning societies usually regard the poet as a wise philosopher and religious teacher. This idea is backed strongly by Robert’s poem Pippa Passes. “God is in his heaven- All’s right with the world” The second group enjoys Browning’s writing not so much for his attempt to solve problems of religious doubt than for his attempt to solve problems of how poetry should be written. Poets such as Ezra Pound and Robert Lowell have valued him as “a major artist.” “It was Browning who energetically hacked a trail that has subsequently become the main road of twentieth-century poetry.” But a lot of Browning’s poetry was misunderstood.
Although he was a very religious man and some people saw this side of him in his writing. In truth, most people are not aware of the existence of evil in his poems. “His gallery of villains-murderers, sadistic husbands, mean and petty manipulators-is an extraordinary one.” Although his wife’s reputation as a poet was greater than his own during his lifetime, Robert Browning today is considered one of the major poets of the Victorian era. He is most famous for the development of the dramatic monologue, his psychological insight, and his forceful, colloquial poetic style. Robert Browning’s work has been puzzled over for many years. The purpose of many of his poems are still unclear, and will never be known to anyone but himself. He has carried the secret of his poems to his grave, but his writings are still influencing us today.
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