‘Will’t please you sit and look at her?’ Dramatic monologue is a poem that has a fictional narrator; character and setting that represents the main characters point of view. The objective of the monologue is to reveal not the poet’s own thoughts but the mind of the lead character of the poem, the speaker. Dramatic Monologue was used frequently by Robert Browning in all his poems. Two of these are My Last Duchess and The Bishop orders his tomb at Saint Praxed's Church where both the central protagonists are portrayed in direct contrast to how society perceives them.
The use of dramatic monologue in both these poems subtly reveals the personality of the persona to the reader and the language used by both the speakers evokes strong emotions on the reader.
A strong characteristic of the speaker that Browning creates in The Bishop Orders is the hypocrisy of the Bishop in his inability to behave and live as a Bishop would. Structurally Browning uses Iambic Pentameter, unrhymed lines as opposed to the rhyming schemes found in poems of his such as My Last Duchess. By using blank verse he is not only emphasising the honest and natural beliefs of the Bishop but also in his last moments of living Browning is also creating a sense of informality between the readers and a character in a noble place in society. This style of The Bishop Orders are more personal and in keeping with the common first person narrative which a dramatic monologue is. However, despite their use of first-person narrative Browning successfully conveys the more objectionable sides to their protagonists: the Bishop’s greed and the Duke’s Jealousy.
In The Bishop Orders these thoughts come hand in hand with the dramatic monologue and expose the central protagonist’s subconscious but honest feelings as Browning is displaying the hypocrisy of the church as an institution. Contextually we know in 1845 when the Bishop Orders was written there was the debate on the Bible being an interpretation over fact and Browning in this poem is criticising the church over the way it was exercised. It was also written in the early renaissance period when the church was cementing its place as a political organisation and a surplus for new wealth. This gives the reader the impressions that the people who present the religion do not respect the faith therefore do believe in Jesus and God but not in the religion itself. We know from the poem that the Bishop was Catholic so we assume his rival Gandolf was protestant due to the rivalry between then after the renaissance. This may explain the common rivalry and why the Bishop wanted the ‘blue lump poise between his knees’ to make Gandolf jealous. However this supports Browning’s point of the hypocrisy of the church as the ‘blue lump’ shows the Bishop believes he is worthy of great remembrance even while his requests reveal him to be a petty and misguided man with sentiments which do not make him worthy of being a leader. It also shows that the Bishop was only aware of the materialistic side of his vocation as a bishop, whilst being totally oblivious to the humanity and deference that is so integral to a Christian doctrine. We can infer that the Bishop is only in this vocation for all the possessions because in the poem he only mentions his achievements from wealth not on achievements as a bishop. Furthermore Browning may have to done this so the readers can explicitly see that heaven is meant to be the Bishops Tomb and Christian’s are not meant to take anything with them to the afterlife posing the question, why the Bishop want all these valuables that will become pointless in the afterlife?
The theme of corruption of men in noble positions in society through dramatic monologue is made apparent in My Last Duchess when the Duke is talking to the Count and there are no objections towards the Duke’s actions even though the Count was…