How are fictive and a historical persons combined in Browning's dramatic monologues?
Browning often uses fictive narrators or characters to provide viewpoints through which to illuminate real characters of the past. The Bishop who is ordering a tomb, for example, although fictive, represents a type of corrupt prelate who reveals for us the inner workings of a Roman Catholic church in which outward piety conceals lust and avarice. At the other end of the moral spectrum, the innocence of Pippa reveals the corruption of the town through which she passes.
In “An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician”, the physician Karshish is a fictional character, who hears reports of a miracle worker who he presumes is, like himself, a wise physician who the ignorant populace mistakenly think to be a wizard. As the letter progresses, the readers become aware that the miracle worker is Jesus. The viewpoint, though, makes us rethink the Christian story from the point of view of one interested in medicine, and also let’s us imagine how the reception of early Christianity was framed when it was still new.