One of the salient features in Robert Browning‘s poetry is the dramatic monologue which is a rare poetical combination of drama and lyric. Although, as a dramatist, Browning failed absolutely, his dramatic poetry, as manifested in his dramatic monologue, remains quite impressive.
In a dramatic monologue, an imaginary narrator (a man or a woman) is made to speak out his or her feeling in a highly dramatic setting. This is no drama, has no external action, and the entire effect is implied in the revelation of the inner soul of the person concerned. Browning’s dramatic monologue is the poetry of the situation rather than the dramatic situation. The imaginary man or woman is placed in a situation that is dramatic and has a terrible impact on his or her mind, thereby driving him or her to an unconscious expression of his or her own inner thoughts, desires, or passions.
The Last Ride Together is a significant work of Browning not because it is merely rich in philosophic notes or idealism, but also for its dramatic character. It is, indeed, a finished specimen of Browning’s dramatic monologue. It well bears out the unique features with which Browning’s dramatic monologue is presented and made impressive.
The theme of The Last Ride Together is the rejection of a lover by his lady-love, and his vigorous optimistic interpretation of his failure to win her. This theme of rejected love is well treated by the poet in a dramatic setting and the effect produced is quite commendable.
The Last Ride Together, like other dramatic monologues of Browning, is essentially a poem of situation. The poet does not treat here the entire story of courtship but seizes upon a particular occasion from the chronicle of love which is of a vital dramatic significance in the lover’s life. This is the moment of his rejection by the lady.
Browning exploits this situation to build up his high philosophy of life and love through the monologue of his rejected lover.
The dramatic monologue, as asserted already, is no drama of external action. In The Last Ride Together, there is no external action, but there are internal conflicts and reflections. The rejected lover’s monologue bears out the drama of his inner world-his inner conflict, contradiction, and justification. In the course of the last ride with the lady, the rejected lover, within his mind, analyses, defends, justifies and even moralizes on his failure, although this is not a true dramatic representation.
The dramatic monologue deals with only one character, the imaginary narrator, and the whole affair is viewed and presented through him or her. In The Last Ride Together, the entire philosophization is made by the rejected lover. There is but one voice, there is but one assertion and all these belong to the rejected lover.
The dramatic monologue has no beginning, middle, or end, like a regular drama. It is only a mental drama of the situation, and attempts to bring out the working of the mind in its deep core. In The Last Ride Together, the drama is enacted on the stage of the mind of the lover who consoles himself in his rejection by justifying his failure through reflections on the failure of the world and the spiritual success to come after earthly failure.