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Scholarly Article

Sampuja Ganguly

“Placid and Perfect”: Reading “Fra Lippo Lippi”, “Andrea Del Sarto” and “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church” as Browning’s Celebration of Imperfection


Fra Lippo Lippi, Andrea Del Sarto, The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed
Church, Imperfection, Flaw, Renaissance free will, Victorian Morality.


The theme of imperfection is a recurrent motif in literature more particularly in the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare. The genre was perfected by Robert Browning to achieve an immense degree of success. This is Browning’s usual technique of fashioning his imperfect characters into the lofty figure of striving and attaining the soul. Psychological insight, analytical subtlety and the power of dramatic interpretation are the main features which help to construct this imperfection quite perfectly. “Fra Lippo Lippi” makes a psychological analysis of Lippo’s character as a man and artist who is suffering from the conflict between “Renaissance free will” and “Victorian morality”- The poet seizes upon the imperfectness of his character, the clash between his sensuality his amorousness and the requirement of conforming to the aesthetics of religiosity. In “Andrea Del Sarto” Andrea was a painter who worked in the court of French king Francis. The fact that is revealed here is that despite being a flawless painter Andrea fails to conform to the greatness of his contemporaries Leonard or Michael Angelo, primarily because he lacks the elevation of soul and the perfectness which is essential to galvanize art – and to convert the ephemeral into the eternal. “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed Church” is another poem by Browning which also celebrates the imperfection of the central character of the poem, the Bishop. He is also a victim of illusion. Despite holding the position of the Bishop, he is able to defy the reality of death by affirming on its threshold the fleeting beauty of life and remains a flawed character. Therefore my aim in this paper is to probe into the psychological depth of Browning’s character to present the poet’s celebration of imperfection in a quiet natural and perfect manner.

About the Author

Sampuja Ganguly has completed her Masters in English Literature from Calcutta University. Presently she is working as a Lecturer in English at Banipur Mahila Mahavidyalaya affiliated with West Bengal State University. She has published her research articles in journals like “Literary Herald” (ISSN: 2454-3365) and "International Journal of Creative and Innovative Research in All Studies" (ISSN: 2581-5334). Two of her book chapters have also been published in the books entitled “Gender, Sexuality and Literature” (ISBN: 978-81-946799-0-5) and “Women Empowerment in India: Ancient and Modern Perspectives” (ISBN: 978-81-949251-1-8.) by Delhi based publishing house “Upanayan Publication”.

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