Context of Browning Essay

Submitted By Jamidodger
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Context of Browning’s Poetry
Browning lived and wrote during a time of major societal and intellectual upheaval, and his poems reflect this world. England was becoming increasingly urban, and newspapers daily assaulted the senses with splashy tales of crime and lust in the city. Many people began to lose faith in religion as various new scientific theories rocked society—most notably Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, articulated in his 1859 The Origin of Species, and many questioned the old bases of morality. Just as religion and science were shifting in their roles, so, too, was art: artists and critics were moving toward what would become the “art for art’s sake” movement at the end of the nineteenth century. Browning responded to these cultural upheavals in the 1840s and ’50s with poems in which he explores the relationship of morality to art, and the conflict between aesthetics and didacticism. Mid- 19th-century Britain experienced economic turmoil as well: wealth and consumption were on the rise at the same time that poverty soared, and the need to reconcile these two facts finds an analogue in the struggle to decide between material beauty—often manifested in luxurious furnishings, decorations, ornament, and clothing—and morality—in the form of a concern for the poor. Browning explores all of these issues in his poetry, even though he sets many of them in the Renaissance or other distant historical periods; this is part of his way of achieving relevance while never becoming moralistic or overly strident. But Browning’s genius lay not so much in his choice of subject matter or setting, but in his craftsmanship: the fascination of his poetry owes to his strong portrayal of characters and his wealth of detail.

Context of Browning’s Poetry
Browning lived and wrote during a time of major societal and intellectual upheaval, and his poems reflect this world. England was becoming increasingly urban, and newspapers daily assaulted the senses with splashy tales of crime and lust in the city. Many people began to lose faith in religion as various new scientific theories rocked society—most notably Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, articulated in his 1859 The Origin of Species, and many questioned the old bases of morality.…