"Fra Lippo Lippi" is all about the conflict between art and religion. And Browning uses our good friend Bro Lippo as his mouthpiece. Lucky for us, Lippo is a pretty outspoken mouthpiece whose gift for gab has been lubricated somewhat by the wine that he's been partaking. At its center, the poem seems to suggest (again through Lippo) that the Church uses art as a propaganda tool that teaches orthodox doctrine.
Lippo has some different ideas, though. He thinks that the artwork that's acceptable to the Church is, well, boring. But even more problematic is that the Church-sanctioned artwork does nothing for inspiring the individual to grow spiritually or intellectually. So, there's also some push-and-pull between the individual and the communal values of the Church.
Questions About Religion
Does Fra Lippo behave in the way you would expect a monk to behave? What are some examples of his behavior that is unexpected?
Where do we see him either professing or demonstrating true Christian spirit?
In what ways does Fra Lippo disagree with the Church's views on art? How do they differ in their ideas on what art should do for the masses?
Chew on This
F+, Bro. Fra Lippo Lippi certainly falls short of our expectations of what a monk should be.
Because it wasn't his choice to take vows and enter the monastery, Fra Lippo is doing the best he can to uphold his vows while still being true to himself.