Write a critical note on Browing's dramatic monologues.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Browning clearly distinguishes himself as a poet through his use of the dramatic monologue to portray characterisation and theme. What he manages to achieve through his use of this poetic form is the separation of poet from the speaker, which results in the reader having to almost decipher the words of the speaker in order to discover the meaning implicit in those words put there by the poet. A famous example of Browning's use of the dramatic monologue is "My Last Duchess," where the skill of the poem lies in the way that the reader is able to discern a completely different history of the speaker's last wife and also comes to a very different opinon of the duke himself. Note the following lines from this poem:

Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.

The chilling truth, as the perceptive reader comes to realise, is that these "commands" actually involved the duke having his wife killed off because she "smiled" too much, in his opinion. Browning harnesses the form of the dramatic monologue in order to distance himself as the poet from his creations and to create a kind of puzzle for the reader as the reader is forced into the role of detective, having to work out what really is being talked about and what the opinion of the poet is about what is said. This is why Browning is justifiably so famous for his use of the dramatic monologue.