Robert Browning: Poems

The Implicit Limitations on Femininity in "Andrea del Sarto" College

When looking at various historical periods, it is always interesting to consider the social position of women at the time and reflect on how that position affects their actions. In “Andrea del Sarto,” Robert Browning blends aspects of masculinity and femininity in his two characters to emphasize the kind of restrictions traditionally placed on women. By playing with contrasts, Browning makes the claim that society has crafted femininity into a physical and emotional trap that hinders artistic creativity and happiness in order to stay within societal expectation and indirectly benefit masculinity.

Andrea del Sarto’s feminization in this poem is integral to Browning’s argument. One of the primary examples of his feminization is his “palpable craving for the security of physical and even artistic enclosure,” which places him in the domestic sphere (Loose 135). Because the domestic sphere is a hugely feminine space, his being content to permanently reside there indicates a kind of complacency with his feminization. This idea of the domestic sphere being female is widely prevalent at the time, because women had so few options outside the home and one of the nicest lives they could live is that of a housewife. Respectable women have...

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