Robert Browning

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Discuss Robert Browning's belief in "life, love, and immortality" through his poetry.

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Many critics argue that Browning presents the reader with a very different kind of tone compared to other Victorian poets, such as Arnold and Tennyson, whose works are clearly impacted greatly by questions of doubt and the poets' own struggles with their faith. However, Browning apparently was able to adopt a theological view of earth and the world that allowed him to neatly sidestep such doubts, as he believed in the imperfection of this earth, of which scientific discoveries were an important part, and the perfection in the world to come. As the world is necessarily imperfect, it only follows that evil and doubt will exist in this world. The perfection of heaven, however, was something that Browning believed in so strongly and allowed him to ignore the doubts that other writers in his era faced.

However, many critics have debated whether Browning's overt optimism is actually supported by his poetic works. For example, many of his dramatic monologues focus on the evil of various characters, and show perverted forms of love that result in the death of many characters. A classic example is "Porphyria's Lover," in which Browning presents the reader with the thoughts of a man who is mad to a certain extent, because he has killed Porphyria to possess her utterly:

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,
Perfectly pure and good: I found
A thing to do, and all her hair
In one long yellow string l wound
Three times her little throat around,
And strangled her.

The chilling way in which the speaker justifies his act as allowing him to be united with Porphyria for all eternity shows the perversity of his love for her. Some critics have justly argued therefore that there is another, darker side to Browning's poetry that presents a travesty of love and focuses on a world where people unfortunately die through the evil acts of others. Browning's poetry does therefore focus on life, but the extent to which it focuses on love and immortality is to be debated.

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