represent the full truth of the tragedy, that he should tell and retell the story from the various personal standpoints possible until he had turned every phase of it to the reader. His figures of the landscape and the glass ball, book i. II. 1348-1378, illustrate this.

The Franceschini tragedy and the environing life of Rome thus come to live again before the reader in all that essential intricacy which we find in the world outside of books. In fact, the poem gives the impression not of a book, but of throbbing life, confused almost past finding out. We should read the successive monologues not for a chain of incident, nor for the achievement of a final judgment on the merits of the case, but to study the hearts of actors and spectators alike, as they pulsate with passions, noble or ignoble, which surge around that act of murder on January 2, 1698.

What persons then should be chosen as narrators? What personal standpoints were significant and vital to the complete understanding of the tragedy? First and most important were the three principals—the husband, the wife, and the priest Caponsacchi. Then the legal presentation of facts in the Yellow Book suggested the representation of the professional interpreters of law. Was not law the “patent-truth- extracting process” which man had established to ascertain the rights and wrongs of such cases? Hence Browning includes two of the attorneys found in the recorded case, though he cannot suppress his ironic attitude toward them. Above the lawyers stood their ultimate superior, the Pope, through whose final judgment the sentence was executed against the criminals; in him was exhibited judicial deliberation illuminated by an almost prophetic insight into divine truth. Beyond these six monologues, the poet saw the need of other narratives, which would present the story as it appeared to common, outside Rome. None of the actual personages involved, such as Abate Paolo, Canon, Conti, or Violante, could serve this purpose satisfactorily. Hence the poet invented two purely, typical, anonymous personages, “Half- Rome” and “Other Half-Rome,” who represent the two prejudiced camps of opinion which made up “reasonless, unreasoning Rome.” These speakers were doubtless suggested to the poet by the two anonymous Italian narratives of the murder story, which are included in the Yellow Book. Then in a sport of irony and caricature he invented “Tertium Quid”—a third Something—the supercilious, contemptuous opinion of the man who takes pride in his unsympathy, and who plays with judgment trivially, smartly, and sneeringly, even in the face of this violent crime—who found nothing in human life worthy of serious consideration save the etiquette and intrigue of his own polite circle. These three typical personages represent the opinion of Rome at large, but they also afford the poet and opportunity to tell and retell the story until all the details of fact have become familiar to the reader. Consequently when he passes on to the heart of the poem in the monologues of Guido, Caponsacchi, and Pompilia, he need no longer tell a story, but can devote himself entirely to such incidents and passions as bring out most fully and subtly the character of the speakers. The reading of books ii., iii., and iv., is a fundamental preparation of the reader for the complete understanding of the monologues of Guido, Caponsacchi, and Pompilia. When the poet had written these thrice three monologues he evidently felt his poem to be incomplete of final effect if he left the reader in any possible uncertainty as to the true nature of Guido. In book v. the poet had presented the Guido of skilled subterfuge and of supercilious reliance on the privileges of a sham social condition. He would now give us the genuine Guido, fierce, brutal, ignoble, depraved, blasphemous, till we shudder at the abyss of darkness in his heart. These are the ten monologues of the Ring and the Book, not ten repetitions of the same story, but ten glimpses into the human heart as it reacts upon a story which every changes with the personality of the narrator.

To this body of the poem Browning adds his prefatory and concluding books, both of them entirely unconventional in their form, but direct and vitally truthful to the poem as a whole, and to the Old Yellow Book before the poet. The first book is an invaluable preparatory miscellany, including the explanation of the title of the poem, an account of the finding of the Yellow Book, of its contents, of Browning’s immediate interest in it, and of his creative reaction in response to it; then a series of summaries of the monologue situations which follow in the succeeding books of the poem, and finally the invocation and dedication to Mrs.Browning. The concluding book is equally miscellaneous, and its purpose is to complete the story which had been broken by Guido’s shriek in his dungeon, and to lead the reader down from the glaring lights of mid-story into the creeping oblivion which overtook this fact as it overtakes all things human. The device of telling about Guido’s execution through the letters of eye-witnesses was suggested to

  By PanEris using Melati.

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