By Warwick E. Slinn
This e-book goals to provide an explanation for what Browning intended by means of 'action in character.' Slinn sees Browning as a mental dramatist utilizing the poetic style. His hindrance is with dramatic monologue, which nearly continuously makes a speciality of conflicts of identification. Browning's characters, in response to Slinn, needs to stroll a tightrope among the distracting lives of others which threaten to fragment the individual's event at the one hand, and regulated solipsism at the different.
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Extra resources for Browning and the Fictions of Identity
The speaker in this poem, the unknown painter, is caught in the act of defending his adherence to conventional styles of art. He could paint, if he wished, in the new manner which is so praised, he claims, and he has indeed been tempted by fame, but he chose to reject popular acclaim and instead devoted himself to religious work. The torment lies in his awareness of the implications of that choice. He admits that his heart sinks with the monotony of painting 'the same series, Virgin, Babe and Saint', but comforts himself with the thought that he at least avoids the fickleness of 'vain tongues' and the trafficking of merchants.
What he has to face is not so much a God ofjudgement as his disillusionment, his own knowledge that he is not after all a lover but a cut-throat. His final speech, with its images of a disintegrating consciousness, follows naturally this awareness that his personality has not conformed with his ideal view of it, and the obliteration of consciousness is the more important conclusion than physical death. However, his punishment, reinforced with the idea of a cosmic judge, God in his heaven, becomes also a means of regaining selfrespect, and the excessive quality of his emotional impulses throughout indicates the strength of his appetite for self-definition.
The specific question about the glance is therefore the Duke's own supposition and part of his presumption that people think what he imposes on them. Thus he recovers his social persona through an act of self-dramatising which absorbs other people's actions into his own explanatory narrative. Since they dare not intrude upon it, the fiction is preserved. What his visitors say afterwards is irrelevant, as long as it does not enter his consciousness and as long as they continue to play the supporting role which sustains his authority.
Browning and the Fictions of Identity by Warwick E. Slinn