The Victorian era was a time known for Its family values. Robert Browning broke the mold of the Victorian writers by turning to dramatic monologue. Readers at the time could not appreciate his technique. Today some of his poems can be linked with authors such as Stephen King or Dean Kenton. Do his writings give us an insight into a hidden mad man? No. Robert Browning brought his characters to life and awakened the very real possibilities of the common man having a dark side. His use of persona and dramatic dialogue can be seen In “Porphyry’s Lover,” and “My Last
Duchess”. These works show his use of a mask and give insights Into the “true” Victorian era. Even though the entire era of the Victorians was a mask to give the impression that family values were their main concern, Robert Browning revealed the hidden chaos of his generation, the anger of the lower class against the upper class and the rise In news media coverage of tragedies.. The Victorian era of family values was a mask to hide the social conditions which Included orphanages, extreme poverty and call conflict. The mid-Victorian period was dominated by a double tankard which insisted on a rigid public respectability while condoning widespread sexual immorality by men. This hypocrisy led to extensive protests culminating in a series of highly publicized scandals in the asses and ‘ass which marked the triumph of dogmatic puritanical morality (Fisher 14-19). Robert Browning focuses on the hypocrisy of men in “My Last Duchess”. Victorian men treated women as possessions which were disposable.
Men felt as if it were their duty to control women (45-46). In this work Browning displays how the men of wealth and power treated women. The poem was based on true events of Alfonse II, Duke of Ferreira in Italy, whose first wife, Lucrative, was rumored to have been poisoned after three years of marriage. Browning portrays the bad qualities of the Duchess as being easily pleased, modest and courteous to those who served her. This description was a perfect depiction of what was considered the female duty during the Victorian age.
Robert Browning focuses on the chaos between the upper and lower classes In his poem “Porphyry’s Lover,” an example of Borrowing’s Interest In criminal psychology and violence. The deader learns that the speaker is a man who alone in a cottage, he waits for his beloved Porphyry to enter. Evidently, her absence had been the result of her attendance at a “gay feast,” one of the “vainer ties” this suggests the upper class (lines 24-27). The speaker is in a substantially lower class than his lover.
The idea of her sneaking away to be with her lover implies the unacceptable of the affair. In a Literary Correctly of the poem, Gayety Devil suggests, “The plot revolves around a socially mismatched love affair; upper class girl falls in love with boy from the wrong side of the tracks. The boy has his revenge on society by murdering its representative: the girl. ” Another view of this poem is the religious connotation at the closing, “and yet God has not said a word” which necessitates the idea that the speaker has escaped punishment (60). Porphyry’s Lover was printed with “Johannes Gorilla In Meditation,” under the heading “Madhouse Cells” suggesting that the two poems are related. Eleven drowning tendency to use analytical Taluses In Nils poetry to relate to current events, Johannes Gorilla , “was the founder of the Reformation sects of antinomian, a belief labeled heretical by the orthodox because it taught hat those among the elect (that is, those predestined for salvation, according to some forms of Calvinist and Wesleyan) could not sin regardless of the apparent evil of their acts” (Dickinson).
The belief in predestination was strong during the Victorian era. Browning thought a man who believed in predestination and a man who killed the woman he loved were both insane (Carson 397-398). Using masks or different persona Browning could speak out with greater originality and boldness than would ever have been possible in his own person. His writings were ahead of their time in action and thought. He delved into the history and assumed characters to represent current events. Through these characters he revealed the dark and evil acts of mankind.
Readers often relate the mental states of the speaker in his poetry to his own state of mind; nothing could be further from the truth. The reader must look into the time in which these poems were written to get a complete analysis of them. The nineteenth century brought the printing of newspapers which were filled with stories of violence from the wars and in society. Just as the media of today seems to only portray the dark side of mankind, Browning centered his writings to he demands of the public.
Human beings seem to be fascinated with the twisted minds of seemingly “normal” people. Browning reaches that part inside people that is drawn to look at a car wreck, silently hoping to see blood. This need for the grotesque dwells inside of man; Browning had the audacity to reveal that hunger to the world. Robert Browning avoided sharing himself inside his writings to escape criticism. He developed the technique of the dramatic monologue which reveals hidden characteristics of the speaker. His experience in writing plays may have influenced this technique.
He had the ability to get inside the mind of a schizophrenic killer and hypocritical monks. During this era the reader must remember the developments of scientific research and the psychological studies by Freud. This was a time of intense developments and deep thought. Society demanded more knowledge. Robert Browning could be considered a genius of the human mind because of his uncanny understanding of the workings of the mentally challenged. Browsing writings can be seen as a type of transference of persona instead of a mask. He is not hiding behind his characters, he is inside them.