Date of Award

Spring 1969

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Joseph Ward

Second Advisor

Robert Heywood

Third Advisor

Rev. Daniel Smith

Abstract

To know Robert Browning is to have some feel for his profound sensitivity and understanding of the arts. Browning does not stand in great favor with modern critics and his popularity with the reading public is slowly lessening} nevertheless, a critical study of the man’s -works may well let us know how much our contemporary regarding aesthetic appreciation he truly is, although his idiom is slowly sinking into history. "When Browning’s poetry first appeared in print before the British public it was thought to be elliptical, even too obscure for the reader to understand. Today the very opposite is thought of his workss that Browning is hopelessly prosaic and wordy.In Browning’s own time he was thought to be a great thinker, even a prophet} whereas today he is often looked upon as the shallow pop-philosopher that typifies his age. Browning never intended to be obscure nor did he claim, to be a prophet, and even a superficial investigation would reveal that he is not the uncritical Victorian optimist that he is so often labelled, lie should try to transcend the differences of time and idiom if we want to come to a critical understanding of Browning the poet. Not in the sense of dialectical philosophy, but in a strictly poetic sense of the word, "Browning is one of the most intellectual poets in the language."! In this study I will approach Browning not as a philosopher of art, hut strictly as a poet. It would he in the gravest violation of Browning’s own principles if I were to attempt to separate the matter from the form of his poems in an essay to show exactly what was Browning’s "medicine within his sugar-coated pill". (Hence, I use lengthy direct quotation from his poems.) This unreal separation is the mistake that the Victorians made with Browning. Browning is not a poet of abstract philosophy or of aesthetic theory: he is the poet of human life. Any didacticism in his poems is not dry and abstract: always it is sensitively felt through a brilliantly drawn character in a dramatic situation. Browning’s dramatic monologues are didactic in the same way that T. S. Eliot’s plays are didactic.

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