How does Robert Browning tell the story in ‘The Patriot’ - Sample Essay
‘The Patriot’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue about one man’s downfall from being loved to being hated. The title is a definite article which specifically indicates that The Patriot is one person; however the subtitle is an indefinite article ‘An Old Story’ which suggests that this is something that can happen to anyone and does time and time again. The first stanza sets the scene of the poem creating a contrasting setting.
The stanza starts with, ‘it was roses, roses, all the way’ this use of imagery is used to paint a picture of positivity, as roses were often used to symbolise love. This first line also indicates a retrospective narrative which suggests that something significant has happened which has changed the situation. Browning describes how the ‘house-roofs seemed to heave and sway’ which suggests that the poem begins in a busy town which is heaving with people living in poverty which would have been common during the Victorian period, this therefore gives an insight as to when the play was set.
The narrator also mentions how the ‘church-spires flames’ this introduces the religious element whilst using the word ‘flamed’ to suggest it is hot weather; this is Browning’s use of pathetic fallacy. Browning uses dialogue in the second stanza to convey the relationship the narrator had with his community. He uses hyperbolic imagery – ‘give me your sun from yonder skies’ to show the extent of love the crowds felt for him.
From the beginning we are presented with two different sides the narrator and the crowd always presented as ‘I’ and ‘They’ this creates sympathy for the narrator as we feel emotionally connected with the narrator as opposed to ‘They’ the crowd, this is perhaps because he narrator is ambiguous with what he has done worn got make them go against him. The first line of the third stanza portrays the narrator ‘who leaped at the sun’ this line references an old tale of Icarus who stuck feathers onto his arms with wax, however when he got closer to the sun the wax began to melt and he fell to the ground.
Browning uses this intentionally to convey that bad things come with being too ambitious, which the Patriot obviously did. The narrator feels hopeless feeling as though he has done everything that he could do, the third line ‘nought man could do, have I left undone’ suggests that he left something ‘undone’ which he felt was impossible to complete which is perhaps the reason the crowds turned on him. There is also more biblical and religious reference, ‘my harvest, what I reap This very day, now a year is run’ could suggest that due to events in the past he has turned to god since then.
It may also suggest by using the word ‘reap’ that he was in a powerful position and now all he has left are the things that he has done in the past. In the fourth stanza Browning shows a negative contrast in setting, juxtaposing with the previous description of the house-roofs filled with people now ‘there’s nobody on the house –tops. ’ We can gather that the narrator is getting executed with ‘just a palsied few’ there to watch. The poems setting has moved place, now at the ‘Shambles’ Gate’ where people would go to watch public executions.
The fact that it is a gate mirrors the gates of heaven which includes the religious element. The poem has made a transit into present tense. In the fifth stanza Browning uses pathetic fallacy once more however in contrast to the first stanza now the patriot goes ‘in the rain. ’ The rain can also symbolise how the patriot is innocent and the rain is reflecting being washed clean. The narrator appears confused as though everything is happening without him quite understanding why. They have held his hands behind his back and- although this is ambiguous- placed a crown of thorns on his head.
We have gathered this from the line ‘my forehead bleeds’ – this reflects the character of Jesus, it is arguable that the narrator himself could be Jesus. It is quite clear that the crowd has shown a change in nature towards the patriot replacing their love and admiration with desire for him to be killed, some critics believe that this was Browning’s attempt of portraying the fickleness of human nature. The last line of the stanza reveals that he has done a ‘year’s misdeeds’ which they are punishing him for however it is ambiguous as to what those misdeeds are.
We can tell that the patriot is coming close to the end as Browning has increased tension within previous paragraphs using techniques such as pathetic fallacy and juxtaposition. The last stanza reflects the emotional contrast in how he felt before and how he feels now, the first line reads ‘thus I entered and thus I go’ I think that Browning is conveying the message that human temperament is changeable and that you shouldn’t get too use to being top of the ‘heap’.
However the patriot begins to realise that sometimes people die for doing good as well ‘in triumphs, people have dropped down dead’ sometimes things are just meant to be. The religious element is brought back into the poem at the end to create a universal meaning of the poem ‘tis God shall repay: I am safer so’ The patriot feels safe at last because he knows that God will see that he has done nothing morally wrong. This links into Browning’s message for the poem who asks whether it is better to be out of the world of corruption where it will be more peaceful than to be in the world.