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How does human cruelty darken Browning’s poetry? Essay

On the one hand, some people agree that the recurring theme of human acts of cruelty, such as murder and deceit, throughout his poetry instils a sense of darkness. An example that supports this is the joy and delight that the female narrator feels in ‘The Laboratory’- “invisible pleasures”, which gives an impression of uncontainable excitement as she helps concoct her deadly poison for which she has high admiration, as it finally allows her to get her revenge, emphasising a sinister tone in the poem as the woman revels in the pain she is about to cause, holding no remorse. This can be compared to the similar way in which the persona of the duke in ‘My Last Duchess’ also shows no remorse or guilt for the presumed murder of his duchess, darkening the air of the poem as, combined with the warning implications of further intentions to keep his next duchess exactly where he believed she was supposed to be within society, he seemingly has no fear of being caught and if so, punished, showing the danger in the immense amount of power he holds.

On the other hand, I partly disagree with this statement as Browning also incorporates social realism and satirical comedy into his work, to portray the hypocritical yet casual nature of cruelty within society, such as in ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. The brutality of humans within this poem is represented by the contrast between the theoretical behaviour of a jester-like figure and a well-dressed mayor, and the actual way in which they behave showing that a person cannot be judged by appearances, in a comedic manner.

This is similar to ‘The Patriot’ as Browning used a consistent rhyming scheme to represent the way in which society has and never will change over time, and people will always look for someone to blame life’s problems on. Another reason for my opposition to this statement, based on Browning’s ‘Pied Piper of Hamelin’ is that the cruelty portrayed within the poem is not necessarily a result of human behaviour, but rather an otherworldly being; “no guessing his kith or kin”, which suggests that nobody could distinguish where he had come from as he was so different to everybody else.

On the contrary to this, many would agree with the statement that human acts of cruelty darken Browning’s poetry because the pied piper abducts the innocent children of Hamelin for a crime they themselves had not committed, emphasising how truly evil his actions were. By taking the children, the piper literally took the fresh, new life out of the town, which has connotations of light and happiness, therefore meaning the piper managed to take the light out of the town and poem. Furthermore, darkness descends upon Browning’s work as a result of the introduction of human cruelty, especially in ‘The Patriot’ in the way that society so easily turned against their leader after he had failed to give them what they wanted, despite his best intentions in trying to give them everything that was best for them, and punished him by seeing him die up close from the best possible view in a humiliating and demeaning public execution.

On other hand, some disagree:
Laboratory- sympathy felt for the poisoner, so some justification felt/admiration of her strength as only female narrative MLD- charismatic duke/ justification of his actions.

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