His Tomb At Saint Praxed's Church Analysis

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And the Afterlife Goes On: Examining Tension in Robert Browning’s “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church”
This paper attempts a critical study of Robert Browning’s “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church” focusing on the tension in the poem and on the Bishop’s notion of the afterlife. This poem was first published in Hood’s Magazine as “The Tomb at St Praxed’s (Rome, 15—)” and later in Dramatic Romances and Lyrics in 1845.
The poem, a dramatic monologue, is written in blank verse in a manner befitting the rambling speech of the dying Bishop who is instructing his heirs on the construction of his tomb as well as contemplating on his past life and his enmity with Gandolf. Here, Browning’s choice of meter and style is determined by the
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. . (57-62)
In other words, the Bishop is a true representative of the Renaissance spirit.
St. Praxed (also known as Praxedes or Praxedis) lived during the second century. It is said that she, along with her sister, provided burials to many Christians who were persecuted and martyred; they also distributed their possessions to the poor. It is ironic that a bishop affiliated to the church of such a saint should crave for a lavish instead of a modest tomb and concentrate on acquiring rather than giving. In addition, even though the church of St. Praxed has been described as “the church for peace,” (14, 122) the Bishop seems to be anything but at peace.
In the Bishop’s insistence on using the hidden lump of lapis lazuli to adorn his sepulcher, one makes an ironic observation. To the Bishop, a lump of lapis, however costly, is comparable to God’s globe. In other words, for him, material wealth is equal to spiritual wealth:
So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
Like God the Father’s globe on both his hands
Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay . . .
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