Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Men and Women is Robert Browning’s only significant publication during the period of his marriage to poet Elizabeth Barrett. These were the years when Browning made Italy his home and when his output of poetry was markedly curtailed by a number of other interests: his family, his dabbling in painting and sculpture, and his study of Italian Renaissance art. The quality of his poetry, however, had never been higher than in the poems produced during this period. It was in the original 1855 edition of Men and Women, above all, that he brought the dramatic monologue to perfection. Indeed, his reputation is largely due to his mastery of the dramatic monologue.
The title Men and Women first was appended to two volumes of poems containing fifty-one of Browning’s most celebrated works. Beginning with the collected edition of 1863, the number of poems appearing under this title is thirteen, only eight of which had been in the 1855 edition of Men and Women. Of the other forty-three poems, thirty are grouped by Browning as dramatic lyrics (the most famous of these being “Love Among the Ruins,” “A Toccata of Galuppi’s,” “Saul,” “’De Gustibus—,’” and “Two in the Campagna”). Twelve poems are grouped as dramatic romances (including “’Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,’” “The Statue and the Bust,” “The Last Ride Together,” and “A Grammarian’s Funeral”). The poem “In a Balcony”...
(The entire section is 2535 words.)
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