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Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

  

by Robert Browning

Analysis: Sound Check

One of the strange and delightful things about this poem is how realistic it sounds. The occasional growls ("G-r-r-r!") and the parenthetical asides make the poem sound the way you'd imagine an angry, repressed, jealous monk would. The speaker practically spits out certain lines, with lots of hard "d" and "k" sounds, instead of more melodious "s" and "l" sounds.

Another fun thing about the sound of this poem is the variety of ways it can be read. Some readers like to imagine that the speaker is actually carrying on a dialogue with Brother Lawrence, although the reader only gets to hear what the speaker says and thinks. The speaker's tone of voice changes dramatically between his very pious descriptions of how he lays down his knife and fork in the shape of a cross (33-36), his syrupy-sweet, sarcastic "so nice!" (42), and the growling and name calling ("G-r-r-r – you swine!"). The sound of the poem changes drastically at these different points, depending on who the speaker imagines his audience to be. The dramatic shifts serve to underline his insincerity and hypocrisy.

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