Through his contribution to poetry, Robert Browning is one of the most well-known and significant poets and playwright of the Victorian era. Having lived between the years 1812 and 1889, Browning died at the ripe age of seventy-seven years old. Browning’s history indicates that he used to be born into a middle-class family where his father, Robert Browning, was a clerk with a giant wage while his mother, Sarah Anna, was a talented musician. Sarianna Browning, Robert Browning’s youthful sister, was also talented in exclusive arts. Browning’s father had an interest in literature and was, therefore, an avid literature collector and encouraged his children to pursue literature and different forms of art. As a result, Browning had a firm foundation in art and literature.
In his early years, Browning’s father hired Italian grammarian Angelo Cerrutti to tutor Browning and his sister Sirianna. As a result, this tutor initiated Browning’s relationship with Italy which would later shape most of his works (Mukherjee 614). Most notable of Browning’s friends and acquaintances who helped develop his poetry into focus include Charles Dickens, Rev. W.J. Fox, Alfred Dommett, John Forster, and Harriet Martineu (Hawlin, 45). These individuals are just but a few who shaped Browning’s development into literary stardom.
Poets and authors’ successes are distinguished their acclaimed works. To know Romeo and Juliet and other plays is to understand Shakespeare. It is no different on the part of Robert Browning. Some of his globally acclaimed works include The Ring and the Book, Men and Women, My Last Duchess, and the Parleyings with Certain People of Importance in Their Day. Most of the poems in various works are famously monologues.
Despite his renown success in poetry, Robert Browning struggled to establish himself as a renown poet. However, one of the most significant influences on Robert Browning’s poetry and writing was his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Elizabeth Barrett, was an acclaimed poet who, incidentally, was Browning’s senior regarding age. Barret acclaim was significant as she was one time considered for the Poet Laureate (Stott and Avery 7). Having read her poetry, Browning corresponded with Elizabeth through letters from which, romance ensued. The couple later married against Elizabeth’s father’s wishes and relocated to Italy due to her poor health. As a result, Elizabeth is credited for her influence on Robert more so in the collection Men and Women which Robert dedicated to her. Robert Browning’s success in poetry begun after his marriage to Elizabeth and increased even after her death.
Browning’s’ relocation to Italy was very influential to his writing because there is the abundant presence of Italy in many of his works. In various works credited to him, most of the characters in works such as Men and Women and My Last Duchess present Italian personas with Italian socio-cultural backgrounds. The names such as Alfonso and Filippo Lippi indicate his continued relationship and influence with Italy (Sinfield 1). Despite being well-traveled in other areas such as France, Italian influence is dominant and is equitable to the English influence on Browning’s works.
Despite the Italian influence on his works, the social and cultural organization of Victorian society remained a significant influence on his works. Politically, Browning can be argued to be a liberal left leaning of his time. In some of his poems, it is evident that he was against slavery and supported abolition, was in support of the North in the American Civil war, championed women emancipation, and characteristically ought for animal rights (Woolford, and Karlin 157). Furthermore, he was characteristically absent in the Victorian Society support and glorification of war. From the various observations, it is evident that Browning was very ahead of his time.
From the various pieces of literature, it is evident that Browning engages in dramatic monologue. This aspect of writing and contribution to the Victorian era literary scene distinguishes Browning as one of the influential playwrights (Sinfield 1). The notable tools that he uses in his monologues include diction, symbolism, and rhythm. Consequently, his success in this mode of poetry writing influenced other poets such as the notable twentieth-century poets such as Robert Frost and T.S. Eliot. In the aspect of dramatic monologue, Browning uses single characters in poems whose speech comprises of the whole poem. The primary aim of this form of the literary method is to enable the reader to understand the personality, feelings, and temperament of the speaker in the poem about a specific social setting and history. Dramatic monologues draw the audience into the head of the speaker. In My Last Duchess, Browning brings the audience into the mind of Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara. From the poem, one can easily observe that the duke is self-centered, arrogant, and conceited.
In conclusion, it is evident that Robert Browning is a successful Victorian-era poet. Notable influences to his works include his father, Robert Browning, who initiated him to the literary scene, his tutor Angelo Cerrutti, and most notably his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. His encounters in Italian and English societies form a critical influence in most of his works. Politically, Browning can be argued to be a liberal who is left-leaning due to his modern views on different issues. His main contribution to the Victorian era poetry is dramatic monologue which is evident from works such as My Last Duchess.
Hawlin, Stefan. Robert Browning. Vol. 10. Routledge, 2012.
Mukherjee, Baidehi. “Contextualizing the Italian Influence in Reading Robert Browning’s Men and Women and The Ring and The Book.” LandLit, vol.2, no.2, 2015, pp.612- 621.
Sinfield, Alan. Dramatic Monologue (Routledge Revivals). Routledge, 2014.
Stott, Rebecca, and Simon Avery. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Routledge, 2014.
Woolford, John, and Daniel Karlin. Robert Browning. Routledge, 2014.