Robert Browning, continued

One thirty 🕜. Well church is done. I was just reading 📖 The Ring and the Book. Very difficult going, but it looks like the poem just fleshes out the story suggested by the legal documents concerning the murder of Pompilia. Now it is said that she was a foundling, not of noble birth at all. For this reason, there would be no dowry for Guido. I’m confused though, because I think Pompilia bore a daughter of her own, whose father was the young priest (not Guido). This was partly why Guido and his thugs murdered her. She was guilty of adultery. But the truth Browning wants to get at is whether or not Pompilia deserved death, and additionally did Guido?

What amazes me about the long poem is how it prefigures certain kinds of murder mysteries and their preoccupation with the nature of truth. There was a Dream Theater CD all about such a plot and theme. I doubt if the band ever read Browning, yet the idea was airborne from 1868 till contemporary times. Longer than that, for the square yellow book he found in a book stall was published in the late 1600s. Robert Browning set himself the task of illuminating the truth of the murder case and maybe the truth of truth itself. He made an issue of the nature of truth in The Ring and the Book, perhaps setting a precedent for poets and all writers. Book II is related by the voice of the man in the street. His language is very thorny in places, not reader friendly at all, but the obscurity might be for a point. It seems that Browning’s exploration indicates how complex the truth really is. Reality is never simple, and it is always relative, always different from viewpoint to viewpoint. I won’t say plural until I’ve finished the book. But he is saying that the truth depends on stories, on yarn spinning from person to person. William Faulkner picked up the same technique of having different characters tell the story along the way. As I Lay Dying is a good example of that… It may be a long time before I’m done reading this monster. Still I might come away enlightened.


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