Compare the works of Robert Browning and Lord Alfred Tennyson

Robert Browning

  • Dramatic monologues
  • – what he gives away when speaking about past actions
  • – his character composes a self-defense which the reader, as “juror,” is challenged to see through.
  • – extreme psychotic characters
  • – irregular rhythm

Browning used dramatic monologues which are effective because the setting, audience of language contribute to their meaning. The monologues enabled him to explore extreme and usually extremely morbid states of mind. He used different characters and a range of different voices which did not allow the reader to identify the speaker with the author- they act as a kind of a mask that allows the author to explore the human soul without being too personal. His poetry is written in a tradition which includes the soliloquies of Shakespeare and the poetry of John Donne. They used colloquial language and contrasting stylistic tones which were often shocking and unpredictable.

Lord Alfred Tennyson

  • – medieval legends, classic myths
  • – influence of Romantic poets (direct continuation of romanticism)
  • – blank verse
  • – reflects the Victorian period

Tennyson viewed Nature as being violent and threatening rather than being the solace and inspiration as it was to Wordsworth. His emotion was recollected in regret, sense of lost, doubt and anxiety- there is a tone of melancholy which contrasts with the Romantic optimism, commitment and wit. He wrote dramatic monologues which illustrate his musicality and his belief that language should recreate the sights, sounds and rhythms of the vision of life. His dramatic monologues were simpler than those of R. Browning and were usually based on classical legend and the classical hero proclaims a view of life which is the reason for the poem: man should pursue knowledge and experience in spite of danger. He was more concerned with sensations than with ideas and was also accused of sentimentality. His emotion was contained although strongly felt. He was capable of bringing together sound and sense, mood and atmosphere and making and appeal to the emotions of the reader. His poetry is emotive rather than intellectual.

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