Study Guide

Fra Lippo Lippi Lust

By Robert Browning

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As a monk, Lippo has been forced to take a vow of chastity, swearing that he'll remain celibate for the rest of his life. Is it fair that he was forced to take such a vow at the age of eight, primarily to avoid starving to death? Well, no—it really isn't. In "Fra Lippo Lippi," Lippo demonstrates both implicitly and explicitly how it's unnatural to take such vows, and that the flesh will out no matter what. This is clear in how he sneaks out of his cloister to meet with "sportive women." And lest we think it's just the lower monks like Lippo who get up to this type of thing, he lets us know by sly hints that the Prior is not above the sins of the flesh himself. His so-called niece is really his mistress, and this becomes part of Lippo's fantasy fodder and the subject of his artwork.

Questions About Lust

  1. Do you buy Lippo's excuse for engaging in the kinds of non-monk-like behaviors he engages in?
  2. Is Lippo being a hypocrite for slyly calling out the Prior on his sexual indiscretions with his "niece," while basically justifying his own dalliances with the ladies of the town?
  3. In what ways does Lippo emphasize the unnaturalness of vows of chastity?

Chew on This

Lippo isn't really hurting anyone by appeasing his "beastly" side; after all, he was forced to become a monk by circumstances beyond his control.

Browning presents a rather scathing critique of the Church and its hypocrisies by unmasking the hidden desires of the Prior and Brother Lippo.

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