As the Abate and Cardinal try to obtain his confession in his frantic second monologue, Guido veers wildly between playing at the dutiful Christian at one point, citing injunctions of the Bible as his inspiration, and practically declaring paganism at another. In one particularly maddened tangent, he plays his ideal wife, describing what she ought to be. He sees Pompilia’s superior as not only rejecting the attachment of the young priest’s stand-in, but playing Delilah to the priest’s Samson and going so far as to assist with murder for the sake of her husband.

O those Olimpias bold, those Biancas brave,
That brought a husband power worth Ormuz' wealth!
Cried "Thou being mine, why, what but thine am I?...

"And who is this young florid foolishness
"That holds thy ortune in his pigmy clutch,
" — Being a prince and potency, forsooth! —
"He hesitates to let the trifle go?
"Let me but seal up eye, sing ear to sleep
"Sounder than Samson, — pounce thou on the prize
"Shall slip from off my breast, and down couchside,
"And on to floor, and far as my lord's feet —
"Where he stands in the shadow with the knife,
"Waiting to see what Delilah dares do!

"Is the youth fair? What is a man to me
"Who am thy call-bird? Twist his neck — my dupe's, —

Guido’s wish for a wife like this is damning; it prioritizes loyalty and obedience to the husband’s murderous wishes at a very slight provocation over God’s laws and men’s. The metaphor of Delilah also places Guido squarely in the Philistines’ camp, against God.

Questions

1. At this point, is Guido aligning himself with the side of Delilah and the Philistines with deliberate impiety, or did he not think his metaphor through?

2. Having the implied murder of the young man ratchets up the stakes from the betrayal of Samson, who was merely captured. Does this change as opposed to the Biblical reference affect the reader’s view of Guido?

3. Seeing as Guido cites the dangerous Lucrezia Borgia (whose family tried to kill some of her husbands) and Circe soon after as examples of his ideal, does Browning use this passage to make us question his sanity, as other parts of the rant certainly do?

4. Ormuz, a city known for its wealth, is in Milton’s Paradise Lost. What implications does the reference give Guido’s intended message when he wants power “worth Ormuz’s wealth”?

High on a throne of royal state, which far
outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Show'rs on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
Satan exalted sat, — Paradise Lost, Bk. II, lines 1-5


Victorian Overview E. B. Browning Leading Questions

Last modified 4 March 2011