Robert Browning: Poems
God as the Quiet in “Caliban upon Setebos” College
The nature of God has been a controversial subject for writers throughout the centuries. In the poem “Caliban upon Setebos,” Robert Browning explores the relationship between deities and their subjects through the voice of Caliban, a brutish monster-servant adopted from Shakespeare’s Tempest. Though the cruel and capricious Setebos is the main subject of Caliban’s musings, a higher deity named the Quiet is briefly addressed. The importance, or even necessity, of the Quiet in this poem is not immediately evident. Caliban projects his own experiences and character onto his conceptions of deities, which leads him to falsely construct a theological hierarchy in which power is inversely related to compassion. This view is embodied in Caliban’s descriptions of the Quiet, which also reveal the tension between Caliban’s beliefs and Browning’s implied assertion that these beliefs are mistaken. Thus, the already complex subject of God is further complicated by the radical nature of Caliban’s views, and the way in which Browning shapes Caliban to be an unreliable theologian.
As the introductory biblical passage to this poem “Though thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself” denotes, Caliban imagines other beings, from...
Join Now to View Premium Content
GradeSaver provides access to 909 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7183 literature essays, 2016 sample college application essays, 296 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.
Already a member? Log in