House "The Less Shakespeare He!"
by Tracy Kidder

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"The Less Shakespeare He!"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

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Context: Browning, apparently reacing against attempts to make public his private life or that of his late wife, wrote this assertion of the right of everyone, even a public figure like a poet, to privacy and a life of his own. The central image in the poem is of a house which has lost its front wall in an earthquake, leaving the rooms exposed to the street. People want him to open his life like the house, but as the public should see only the front of a man's house, with perhaps a glance through the front window, they should be content to see only the public exterior of a man and not want to peer deep into the interior of his private life. These people offer the argument that Shakespeare revealed his private self in his sonnets, an opinion that Browning seems to reject; but he says, mocking them,

"Hoity-toity! A street to explore,Your house the exception! 'With this same keyShakespeare unlocked his heart,' once more!"Did Shakespeare? If so, the less Shakespeare he!