Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister
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This website is a useful resource for anyone studying the Victorian period. This particular link takes you straight to the page on Robert Browning.
Robert Browning's wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, was also a poet, and they influenced each other's work profoundly. Any student of Robert Browning should try to familiarize him or herself with Elizabeth Barrett's life and work, too. This is a link to a biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, with additional links to some of her poems.
This website has links to two different readings (on the right-hand side), so you can compare different ways you can read the poem. These are great readings – very dramatic!
This link takes you to an mp3 of the poem read aloud by Professor Steve Arata of the University of Virginia. It's a good reading, but he's not so great growling convincingly.
This isn't a recording of "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister"; it's of a different poem – "How They Brought the Good News From Ghent to Aix." But it's read by Robert Browning himself, on an early Edison phonograph, a precursor to the analog tape recorder. Neat! And he forgets the words of his own poem partway through, which is pretty hilarious.
Having trouble visualizing what a cloister in a monastery actually looks like? Check out this aerial photograph of a real cloister.
Here's another image of a cloister. This one is of the covered walkway around the cloister, with a view of the garden to one side and the refectory, or dining hall, on the other.
This image shows you the typical layout of a medieval monastery, with the cloister at the center, surrounded by four buildings: the church, the refectory (dining hall), the dormitory, and the library/writing room. That's all a person needs, right?
Here's a portrait of Robert Browning as a young man. Those Victorians sure knew how to do the dramatic facial hair.
This is a short essay on the speaker's religious hypocrisy, with some useful analysis of the different kinds of heresies referenced and the mysterious Line 70 ("Hy, Zy, Hine"). You will need a subscription to JSTOR through your school or library to access the full article – or else ask a librarian for help getting a copy.
Here's a short essay about the metaphor of the rose-acacia in the final stanza. You will need a subscription to JSTOR through your school or library to access the full article – or else ask a librarian for help getting a copy.
Here's an essay on the function of rage in "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister" and "Locksley Hall," a poem by Browning's contemporary, the Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.