Browning gave life to the dramatic monologue and made it a distinctive and memorable poetic form. Browning was fascinated with human behaviour, particularly the darker side of humanity and he believed that the dramatic monologue enabled him to create very powerful masks and ‘tell the truth obliquely’. As we become aware that the characters are wearing masks, the layers of artifice or self-deception is where the real persona exits.
Browning’s poems open the minds of his readers, allowing for exploration and the discovery of the dark side of human nature: in the context of his dramatic monologue, character revelations are discovered.
In Robert Browning’s, My Last Duchess we are introduced to a rich, arrogant and authoritarian Duke of Ferara. Browning immediately establishes the technique apostrophe as the Duke begins to speak to an unseen character about his late wife. The Duke displays feelings of nervousness towards the death of his wife but also speaks in a revengeful and controlling tone. In comparison to the Duke is a young man who is tormented by an elderly man’s light blue eye in the short story ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ by Edger Allan Poe. Both main characters share personality flaws of the need for control over others and the lust for power and authority. Edger Allan Poe and Robert Browning demonstrate the use of an emerging theme in the Victorian era, ‘Goth’.
This theme creates an externalisation of the composer’s characters, revealing their deepest passions and fears and the hunger for triumph of evil over good. Browning and Poe share the same love for the dark side of human nature and use the gothic theme to inject personality traits of insanity and madness into their characters. In the first sentence of ‘Tell Tale Heart’, the young man admits to being dreadfully nervous and asks us ‘but why would you think I’m mad?’ This immediately plants ideas of insanity and irrationalism in Poe’s character. Poe uses pathetic fallacy as a metonym as he speaks of the ‘night time darkness’ and with the quote “my secret deeds or thought”, this creates ideas of ‘the madness within’. Browning also taps into the thoughts of a madman in the characterisation of the Duke.
The Duke speaks in favouritism of himself with high order and authority in his tone of voice. The Duke is blinded by his faults of vicious pride and revengeful jealousy over the lack of control in his Last Duchess and this allows the audience to unravel the Dukes flaws and discover the villain that lay beneath. In the quote “This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together”, gives off the idea that the Duke enforced high power and control over his Duchess and uses double entendre to imply two possible meanings to his ideas of ‘then all smiles stopped’.
Browning combines the contrasts of love and passion with violence and power to enable the depiction of a lovers mind. He reveals the macabre and grotesque side of a human’s urgency for companionship which in turn leads to insanity and madness in the eyes of a lover.
“You’re the brother I never had. I’m the brother you never had. I would do anything for you, Dickie”, is a quote from the film ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’; the story of a man named Tom Ripley who befriends a man names Dickie Greenleaf, becoming deeply infatuated by him and as Tom’s obsession grew it led to the grotesque murder and assumed identity of Dickie. This macabre murder performed by a jealous, love-crazed man can be presented in comparison with Robert Browning’s, ‘Porphyria’s Lover’; the first person recount of an anonymous narrator who kills his lover with her own hair.
Both texts explore the urgency for everlasting human companionship that is driven by a lover’s madness. Porphyria’s lover uses powerful imagery, ‘shoulder bare’ and alliteration in ‘perfectly pure’ when he speaks of her beauty. Symbolism is also displayed in the name Porphyria which means rich and red in colour. This can symbolise either the grotesque murder of the Lover or the delicate but deep love expressed through Browning’s character. There is also the question of Tom Ripley’s sexuality.
He is self-hating and ashamed as he stumbles about his desire for Dickie and tries to repress his sexual impulses. Empty and absent to himself, Ripley doesn’t merely want to poses the object of his affection, he wants to be him. In the quote, “I always thought it’d be better to be a fake somebody than a real nobody”, shows Tom’s yearning to become a person of significance, someone to be sort after and loved. He shows personality traits of a psychotic man who would do anything to have a sense of belonging and purpose in life even if it meant assuming the identity of another to compensate for the loss of self- love within him. Browning invites his audience to uncover the real sense of truth in his character’s situations that they do not discover themselves. He creates disequilibrium between what the speaker reveals about himself and thinks is the truth.
The Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister and Doug Liman’s,’ The Bourne Identity’ are excellent examples of two strikingly vague men who are deceived by their own faults and follies and are unable to justify their real character traits. In the poem, “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” Robert Browning creates a nameless Spanish monk full of hypocrisy and jealousy. Throughout the poem, this monk expresses opinions of both himself and a fellow monk. Yet these opinions are not what the monk really thinks of himself as can be deciphered by a closer examination of the text. The monk, who is the speaker of the poem, attempts to convince the reader that he is a just, moral man. However it becomes apparent to the audience that this monk carries many hidden flaws that he reveals to us throughout his ranting. An example is shown in stanza 4 as our deceitful monk describes a scene of two nuns, washing their hair outside. The monk accuses Brother Lawrence of lusting after them.
However in the quote “That is, if he’d let it show” suggests there is no actual evidence of such thoughts of Brother Lawrence, revealing that the speaker, alone, noticed a need for such lust. In contrast the fictional character and protagonist Jason Bourne is a very quick-thinking, linear type of person who moves quickly and brutally towards his goal. He gives the impression of someone who has been severely traumatized. Jason Bourne was on a search for his own identity and discovered the worst. Bourne reveals about himself that he is a grotesque assassin and he begins to run from the horrible truth but we as the audience are able to see what he is truly like and that as he runs away from the truth, Bourne is bringing the audience closer to the real truth of his identity. He tries to convince himself of who he isn’t, ‘I don’t wanna know who I am any more, everything I found out, I want to forget’.
Courtney from Study Moose
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