The Frame Story in Robert Browning’s Balaustion’s Adventure
This essay examines the way in which narrative diegesis and dramatic mimesis interact in Browning’s Balaustion’s Adventure, Including a Transcript from Euripides, a long poem in blank verse made of 2705 lines. The complex structure of this poem may be divided into four main sections: 1) an opening narrative frame, where Balaustion tells her four friends how she saved herself by reciting Euripides’ Alcestis at Syracuse; 2) the full version of Alcestis, which is not only recited by Balaustion but also commented upon; 3) a personal version accompanied by a new interpretation of the play; 4) a closing narrative frame, where Balaustion affirms Alcestis’ extraordinary value. In particular, the essay focuses on the frame with the aim of exploring the structural originality of the poem and its hybrid texture: with regard to the literary genre, the frame blends drama, historical narratives and epics; as for the mode, mimesis and diegesis alternate in almost every section. What lends continuity to the text is Balaustion, narrator and main character, spectator and performer: with her performative speech-acts, it is she who directs the succession of diegesis and mimesis. Finally, the poem has also a metapoetic function, that consists in the glorification of the extraordinary power of poetry.
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