The dramatic monologue was one of the most favourite forms of poetry for the Victorian poets . In this type of poetry the entire poem is spoken out at a critical moment of the speaker’s life and the presence of a silent listener offers great insight into the feelings, temperament and character of the speaker .It is indeed ‘a comprehensive soliloquy’ , and Browning’s dramatic monologues are regarded as the best master of this type. Margaret Willy claims this form to be the greatest and most original contribution of Browning to English poetry .
Browning had initially attempted dramas , but his interest in psychology and the human mind led to too little action, which is the sine qua non of the stage Hence, the dramatic monologue, with its scope for dramatic detachment as well as for probing the motives of character, proved the adequate instrument of Browning. His poems like “Fra Lippo Lippi ”, “Andrea del Sarto“, “Rabbi Ben Ezra“, “The Last Ride Together“etc reveal him to be almost Shakespearean in his understanding of the weak and erring and self- received. His theatre is the soul’s development.
As C. Hugh Holman points out , in Browning’s, dramatic monologues, the circumstances surrounding the conversation of the one side which we “hear “, the dramatic monologues are revelation of an insight into the character of the speaker who speaks in and on his life’s crisis. ‘The Last Ride Together’ is based on the theme of unrequited love . The opportunity of the last ride with his desired lady makes the young lover to lay bare his heart and occasions the poem. On the other hand , the fact that Porphyria’s lover is meditating upon Something sinister id implied from his remaining silent even at the lady ‘ s attempts at physical intimacy with him . The opening of ‘Fra Lippo Lippi‘ also shows how Lippo is Caught by the guards after Visiting the nocturnal brothel.
Waigner – Lawlor finds the presence of a silent listen dramatic monologues . In ‘The Last Ride Together‘ , the role is performed by the beloved lady whose reactions are only hinted at Lippo Lippi is , on the other hand, is havinga conversation with the guards who have caught him. In ‘Porphyria’s Lover’, however, the lover seems to be talking with himself rather than with the lady.
Hudson says that the ideal aim of a dramatic monologue is the faithful self portrayal of the personality of the supposed speaker . As Browning himself confessed his monologues are soul studies : ” The soul is the stage / moods and thoughts are characters”. Browning Spares no opportunity to depict the psychology of his speakers. In ‘‘The Last Ride Together‘ the complex feelings in the lover- his disillusionment in love, his fatalism begining from “since now at length my fate i know”, his Vigorous optimism which makes him pluck the sting of failure (“Still one must lead some life beyond / Have a bliss to die with , dim descried”), Spiritual exaltation and vivid imagination (“Now, heaven and she are beyond this ride”) – find fullest expression .The dark and abnormal psychology of the Porphyria ‘ s lover is expressed in Porphyria’s Lover , Fra Lippo Lippi is an exposition of the cheerful , pleasure – loving nature of the Fra .
Browning’s dramatic monologues are predominantly argumentative and analytical. The rejected lover arranges arguments against his mourning his failure in the field of love . He asks , “fail I alone in words and deeds ? ” and consoles himself by comparing his fate with those of the poets , soldiers , Sculptors or musicians ( My riding is better , by their leave ) . Porphyria ‘ s lover gropes for excuses for the killing of her , although they appear quite lame . Contrary to conventional ascetic Views of art and artist , Lippi argues why art should aspire to capture the beauty God has invested in the common objects of life .
To conclude , Glenn Everett has found out some distinctive qualities in Browning ‘ s dramatic monologues :
First , the poet ‘ s subject is the psychology of the speaker , and the author explores the speaker ‘ s point of view by means of imaginative sympathy ‘ Einfuhlung ‘ . Thus Browning fully sympathizes with the rejected lover and Lippo Lippi.
Secondly , the presence of the auditor is not very important in Browning’s dramatic monologues. The case- making argumentative tone as found in the rejected lover , Porphyria ‘ s lover or the Fra , is actually aimed at the speaker ‘ s ” Second self”
Thirdly , the dramatic monologues Of Browning never offer definite endings. Therefore , whether the ride lasted for ever , or what Porphyria’s lover did after daybreak , or whether the guards let Lippo Lippi go , remains obscure . The form requires that we complete the dramatic Scene from within , by means of inference and imagination from the clues provided .