Browning and the Fictions of Identity by Warwick E. Slinn

By Warwick E. Slinn

This booklet goals to give an explanation for what Browning intended through 'action in character.' Slinn sees Browning as a mental dramatist utilizing the poetic style. His difficulty is with dramatic monologue, which nearly consistently makes a speciality of conflicts of identification. Browning's characters, based on Slinn, needs to stroll a tightrope among the distracting lives of others which threaten to fragment the individual's adventure at the one hand, and regulated solipsism at the different.

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If the choice was his own, so were the consequences, and so too was the cause, in the 'voice' which changed his dreams. The voice is his reaction to the dream of fame, largely a fear of public judgement, and the interruptions and broken statements in the passage (ll. 419) imply the spontaneity of an honest moment. 3 But the degree of awareness which the painter has of his fear is unclear and his similes suggest that dramatisation occurs even here in obviously emotional responses. ' Two lines later, he asks, Who summoned those cold faces that begun To press on me and judge me?

Browning focuses attention on the moment of response, and therefore on the psychology of each incident, and in doing so he portrays the way people act according to self-conceived illusions about themselves. In attempts to make the illusion real, they manifest what they dimly perceive, consciously or unconsciously, to be their true self. Pippa's songs may expedite choice, but that decision is predetermined in each case by the listener's idealism about himself. Far from introducing them to a new dimension, Pippa reminds them of their selfhood.

What they failed to anticipate was the strength of the impulse and his ability to transfer his idealising from art into life. His opening speech to Phene displays some facile raptures over spiritual union with his beloved. 22-4), and he is attracted by the images she provides ('This length of hair and lustrous front; they tum/Like an entire flower upward'), not by any regard for her personality. 8-10). At this point he believes her to be a realisation of his aesthetic ideal; therefore to become absorbed in her form is to define himself through being linked with the illusion.

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