Study Guide

Fra Lippo Lippi Freedom and Confinement

By Robert Browning

Freedom and Confinement

When you feel the need to rip up all the sheets and curtains in your room and sneak out your window, it's clear you're feeling pretty confined. In "Fra Lippo Lippi," that's the situation we find Bro Lippo in. He's taken the vows of a monk to get himself out of a life of poverty (he's literally starving, which is itself a type of confinement). Confinement works on two levels here. On the literal level, Lippo is confined to the monastery and its rules. On a more figurative level, though, he's confined by the artistic philosophy of the Church and can't really let his painter's flag fly high. And while being patronized by the Medicis (a very rich and powerful Italian family), this too is a type of confinement. He's also bounded by their desires when it comes to art.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. What responsibility does Lippo's aunt bear in her nephew's life of confinement?
  2. What might true freedom look like to Lippo? What if he had not been a starving orphan? What might his artistic career have looked like?
  3. In what ways does the Medici family and other patrons offer an alternative route to freedom for Lippo?

Chew on This

Lippo is basically a corrupt individual himself, since he's taken vows that he doesn't honor but is getting the benefits of being a monk. For shame, sir.

The Church took advantage of a poor, orphaned child (Lippo) in order to boost their membership and promote their agenda.

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