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Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister


by Robert Browning

Analysis: Speaker

The speaker of "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister" is the kind of guy who smiles at you through gritted teeth when he'd rather spit in your face. He manages to refrain from actually saying all the terrible, venomous things he'd like to say to his fellow monk, Brother Lawrence, and lets his hatred seethe under a holier-than-thou surface. But the speaker's mask slips occasionally. His rage even causes him to lose his capacity to speak: the poem opens and ends with a growl: "G-r-r-r!" and there are several parenthetical breaks in the soliloquy.

These breaks tell us more about the speaker's character than he seems to realize. For example, when he says "That is, if he'd let it show" at line 32, we realize that Brother Lawrence isn't openly ogling the women down by the river as the speaker has suggested – in fact, given the level of detail with which the speaker has described the women, it sounds like he's the one checking them out! The speaker of this poem is not what he wishes to appear: he's a religious hypocrite.

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