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Assigned: Robert Browning. "The Bishop Orders His Tomb" (1259-62).

Of Interest: Author Image | Literary History | DMOZ Links | Victorian Web | Basilica di Santa Prassede in Rome, Images

"The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's" (1259-62)

1. Browning's verse is distinctive for its "psychological realism" rather than its euphonic qualities (i.e. smoothness, beauty of expression). What patterns and turns of phrase demonstrate this distinctive quality in the present poem?

2. Describe the progression of the Bishop's dying requests -- how well does he understand his situation? What awareness, for example, does he show regarding the motives of the sons who surround his bed?

3. John Ruskin, as indicated in the Norton note, mentions several "late Renaissance" qualities brought out by Browning's poem: find some instances of those qualities and discuss their significance for an understanding of the Bishop.

4. Characterize the Bishop's understanding of the relationship between spirit and matter, the things of this world and the demands of faith. For example, how should we take his quotations from the Bible at several points in the poem? How has he lived his life, and what does he apparently think of his life's course now that he is near the end?

Edition: Greenblatt, Stephen et al, eds. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed. Vol. E. New York: Norton, 2006. ISBN Package 2 (Vols. DEF) 0-393-92834-9.