Write about the ways Browning tells the story in lines 191-269 of ‘Fra Lippo Lippi’.
Browning tells the story by using rhetorical questions that do not prompt an answer eg line 198, ‘Is this sense I ask?’ He already knows the answer and is very sure of himself. Another point is the repetitive use of enjambment and there are no stanzas as he is drunk and therefore rambling on and on. This gives the impression he has wanted to express his feelings for a very long time and now he is voicing everything at once. Dramatic punctuation is used such as ellipses and abrupt stops. This conveys his fluctuation in emotion, his state and level of inebriation and desperation to release everything he has bottled up. The tone of the poem is belligerent as he continuously addresses people as ‘you’ – telling people how they feel for example lines 261-264, ‘You tell too many lies and hurt yourself;/ You don’t like what you only like too much/ You do like what, if given you at your word/ You find abundantly detestable.’
He uses many discourse markers which makes the poem much more realistic, imitating real speech, e.g., line 196, ‘She’s just my niece… Herodias, I would say-/ Who went and danced and got men’s heads cut off!’ This is effective as his pauses insinuate contemplation and thought amidst his drunken state. Also, the metre is very unobvious however is iambic pentameter. He has used this because it is upbeat and is suitable for the poem, accentuating his intoxication and instability in emotion but still shows how he finds the situation humorous. He uses many personal pronouns to refer to himself and the Church, showing how close to home and important this is to him and his degree of irritation toward the Church – you may consider the entire poem to be a direct dig. Browning uses italics to show when Fra Lippo Lippi is singing, for example line 238 – ‘Flower o’ the pine, /You keep your mistr… manners, and I’ll stick to mine!’ which again reinforces his being under the influence, and may even suggest deeper emotion through song or how it is easier to lyrically explain his feelings.
The poem is in linear chronology, which shows how Fra Lippo Lippi is telling a story, his story, and all that brought him to where he is now. This is effective as we should expect a happy ending out of a story but actually the end is Fra bringing us up to date and we should never know the ending of his story.
In conclusion, Browning is wise in his use of linear chronology, iambic pentameter, punctuation, perspective and tone to convey the story of Fra Lippo Lippi and what he felt at that particular time. Through the use of such narrative devices we can understand the personality of this man and his deeper emotion toward the Church itself.