Define if Robert Browning is a poet of optimism.Define if Robert Browning is a poet of optimism.

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The meaning of the word optimism (according to means:

a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
Therefore, to write poetry with an optimistic perspective, the poetry must prove that good always overcomes evil. In regards to determining this, a reader will offer a completely subjective interpretation of the poem. This means that not all readers come to understand a poem in the same way- one may read the poem in a completely different way than another. This being said, one would simply need to see if they agree that the poetry of Robert Browning speaks to them in an optimistic fashion. If one does, then they would see Browning as an optimistic poet. If they do not, they would not regard Browning as an optimistic poet. For example, in a critical reading of "A Woman's Last Word", one could justify the poem as optimistic or not optimistic. In an optimistic reading, one would justify the poem as such by stating that the speaker of the poem does not want to fight with her lover. Instead, she wants him to go to sleep so as to find peace in sleep. If one justifies the speaker as wanting peace for the lover, through sleep, then they could consider the poem as optimistic (good (sleep) overcoming bad (no sleep). Another way to look at the poem would be that the speaker does not want to deal with the problems that night. Instead, she would rather put them off for another day. If a reader does not agree with this action, they would not consider that the outcome of the sleep would result in good. Therefore, the reader could justify the poem as not being optimistic. Basically, the speaker wishes to ignore the problems and simply bury them.
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting qustion, as #2 makes clear. I must admit, I tend to think of the dramatic monologues of Robert Browning focusing more on a pessimistic view of human nature than looking at its positives. Consider poems such as "Porphyria's Lover" or " My Last Duchess," both of which involve arrogance, possession, and murder. I can't see how such poems could be described as "positive." Part of the genius of Browning is the way in which he is able to present the subtle nuances of various characters through his dramatic monologues.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Precisely Number 4: Optimism does not flow from Browning's dramatic monologues. He may have been optimistic in his pursuit of Elizabeth Barret's love, but such optimism surely did not flow into his dramatic monologues--unless optimism is seen in a job neatly done:

In one long yellow string l wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her. .... ("Porphyria's Lover")



mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There can be no reduction of Robert Browning to optimism or pessimism.  His renowned dramatic monologues are intense psychological studies often mad and horrific minds. In Fra Lippo Lippi, for instance, Browning takes a very unsavory  character and challenges readers to discover the goodness, or life-affirming qualities. In addition, there is a satiric tone to this as it mocks the speaker's contemporaneous judges.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't define optimism in terms of good and evil.  I think poetry can be optimistic if it looks at everyday life in a positive way.  If you expect something good, that's optimism in my book.  When you see something good, or plan on something good, that's optimistic poetry.  Most poems about nature are optimistic.  Poems about love, less so.

sapna29 | Student
Browning optimism is not based on any discount of the suffering of life, nor on any attempt to overlook such gross realities as sin and pain. he face the unpleasant reality of the world, but he is confident that these are temporary phases which must be overcome. thus we have his poem such as a "Grammarian's Funeral", dealing with frustrated love or unfulfilled aims.