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Immoral Hypocrisy, Jealousy and Pride

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Brewer asserts that Robert Browning employs a number of poetic techniques to develop the theme of the poem. For instance, he dominantly employs irony to bring out the theme of immoral hypocrisy. Being a monk, it is expected that speaker acts Godly but, this is the image he tries to show the reader, in line 33 through to 41 he attempts to explain how he remembers Christ’s death by, “"When he finishes reflection,/ Knife and fork he never lays, /Cross-wise, to my recollection.” However he is not any close to righteous because of all the negative accusations he put on Brother Lawrence.

Irony runs through the whole poem from stanza to stanza. The speaker plans to do something that will cause Brother Lawrence head to hell, yet we clearly understand that he is the one who deserves hell. This is evident in line 53, which shows the way he wants to make the Brother’s soul stumble, even though he claims to be good.

"If I trip him just a-dying,
Sure of heaven as sure can be,
Spin him round and send him flying
Off to hell, a Manichee?" (Browning)

All along the speaker tries to portray Brother Lawrence as bad man while attempting to tell the reader that he is good. From the poem is however evident that the Brother is a very good man and the speaker jealous of him, and actually the bad one (Brewer, 3).  All the speaker’s petty jealousies and built-up frustrations from years of confinement in the hated Brother Lawrence’s company boil into view in righteous indignation. Irony comes out here very clearly as numerous arguments of the speaker serve only to convict himself of the wrongs he lays at Brother Lawrence’s doorstep.  

Another poetic style used in this poem is rhyme. There is vivid use of an ABABCDCD scheme not only bring out the jealousy nature but most importantly the hypocrisy of the speaker (a monk), attempting to berate another, Brother Lawrence. It is very evident beginning even from stanza 1, lines 2-2, “If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence/ God's blood, would not mine kill you!” Hence the motives of the monk are recognized early on, basically to ruin this apparently immoral wrongdoer of a monk.  The speaker persists to comment on the obvious differences between him and the Brother in daily routine, trying to convince the reader of his patent moral superiority (Brewer, 2).

To sum up the whole discussion, Robert Browning in his poem “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” brings out hatred, clearly articulated through the themes of moral hypocrisy, jealousy and pride and various poetic styles. The speaker evidently considers himself a good man, very proud of himself. However he does not demonstrate the traits that would make the reader have similar judgment. Similarly, the speaker would make the reader believe that Brother Lawrence is an immoral hypocrite”.  Finally though from the conclusion drawn it is evident that Brother Lawrence is a very good man, who respects God. It would appear that the speaker is jealous of Brother Lawrence’s way of life. Consequently, he tries to rip Brother Lawrence down as he tries to raise his image up due to his pride.

There is also an effective use of poetic styles/techniques to clearly bring out the themes in the poem. Browning uses techniques such as irony and rhyme to demonstrate the immoral hypocrisy, jealousy and pride as observed in the speaker’s efforts to stumble Brother Lawrence.

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