Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Nineteenth century English poet Robert Browning is best known as a master of the dramatic monologue, a poetic form that includes a specific speaker and an identifiable audience. Browning’s monologues frequently use dramatic irony, a situation in which a reader of a poem understands something about the speaker, through his own words, that the speaker does not know himself.
“An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician,” written in blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), is in the form of a letter written by Karshish, an Arab physician traveling in the area of Jerusalem and gathering medical knowledge sometime between 67 and 69 c.e., a generation after the death of Jesus Christ. The intended recipient of this letter is Abib, also a physician, a mentor to Karshish. The letter tells the story of Karshish’s encounter with Lazarus, the man whom Jesus raised from death, a miracle related in John 11:1-44. Karshish’s epistle contains elements common to travel letters: a greeting, random bits of news of his travels, allusions to current events and geography, and observations relevant to the his medical interests. Most of the letter recounts Karshish’s meeting with Lazarus and speculates on the veracity of Lazarus’s story.
The poem contains seven stanzas. In the first stanza (lines 1-20), Karshish greets his mentor Abib respectfully as “his Sage” and refers to...
(The entire section is 895 words.)
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