This thesis examines Pompilia's monologue in The Ring and the Book.
William Walker's article " 'Pompilia' and Pompilia" notes that criticism is unified in its assessment of Pompilia's monologue despite being divergent on other issues concerning the poem. He suggests that Pompilia can be read in the same terms as the other speakers, acknowledging however, that this produces a reading which contradicts the traditional evaluation of Pompilia. Walker calls for a reading which will accommodate the discontinuities in 'Pompilia'. The discussion which follows suggests that a reading based on the premises of Romantic irony is one reading which allows for these discontinuities.
Chapter One of the discussion examines criticism to date, providing a background against which my own reading of Pompilia's monologue can be placed and also being a means of evaluating Walker's
claim that criticism is unified in its assessment of Pompilia. The discussion is broken into five areas:
early criticism, the
Pompilia/Caponsacchi relationship, Pompilia's sainthood, her motives and her use of language.
Chapter Two outlines the theory of Romantic irony which originated with German theorist Friedrich Schlegel. The discussion considers the historical development of Romantic irony noting the political, philosophical and literary movements of the time.
Chapter Three consists of a detailed consideration of Pompilia's monologue. In order to address the balance which the title of this thesis suggests, this chapter concentrates on those more sophisticated aspects of Pompilia' s monologue which are not considered by most criticism surveyed in Chapter One. Section I considers the first 179 lines of Pompilia's monologue in order to provide a background and to illustrate how the monologue works as a continuous piece of narrative. Section II then considers the rest of the monologue thematically,
these themes being: Pompilia's use of metaphor, her relationship with her audience, her use of irony, and her relationship with Guido and Caponsacchi. The final section of this chapter restores the balance by considering Pompilia's multiplicity and the charm which pervades her monologue.
The final chapter considers Pompilia as Romantic ironist. Pompilia's fulfilment of the principles of Romantic irony is limited by her attachment to the Virgin image as is revealed in the closing lines of her monologue. The poet is seen to be embodying the tenets of Romantic irony to a greater extent than Pompilia and this is shown by a brief discussion of Books I and XII of the poem. The poet as Romantic ironist shows us that Pompilia's monologue should not be taken as the centre for truth in the poem, but rather acknowledged as part of the linguistic processes which constitute The Ring and the Book.