“Fra Lippo Lippi” is a long poem in blank verse. It is one of Robert Browning’s numerous dramatic monologues, written in phrases and segments, which assume periodic unwritten questions and responses from the listener. The speaker in this poem is a historical character, Fra Lippo Lippi, who was a monk and a painter in fifteenth century Florence. Taking his point of departure from an incident described by the Italian painter and biographer Giorgio Vasari in The Lives of the Most Excellent Italian Architects, Painters and Sculptors (1550, 1568), Browning imagines how Fra Lippo Lippi might have seen his own life and his art.
The setting of “Fra Lippo Lippi” is an alley in Florence. The time is midnight. The watchmen on their rounds have just stopped a suspicious character slipping through the shadows. As the poem begins, the monk identifies himself and then explains that he is staying with a member of the powerful Medici family. Giving the men some money with which to drink to his health, the monk then settles down with their leader, who obviously wants to hear the full story.
The poem is divided into three sections. In the first, Fra Lippo Lippi explains that his patron has had him shut up for three weeks, so that the monk would paint instead of drinking or carousing. On this spring night, however, the temptation was too much, and Fra Lippo Lippi sneaked out a window to have some fun. When the watch caught him, he was trying to...
(The entire section is 494 words.)