Book cover - The Ring and the Book - Author Robert Browning & Philip Dossick

The Ring and the Book

Author Robert Browning & Philip Dossick

  • Release Date: 2016-10-13
  • Genre: Poetry

The Ring and the Book Summary

The Ring and the Book - The Ring and the Book is generally conceded to be Robert Browning’s masterwork.  Based on a real-life murder trial in 17th century Rome, the story is told from multiple perspectives, changing with every new section of the book; we hear from the "Man on the Street", the murderer, the victim on her deathbed, and even the Pope. 

It was inspired by what became known as The Old Yellow Book. Its depositions, written testimony for a murder trial in 1698 Rome, were covered in soiled, yellowing vellum. 

Browning discovered the collection of written testimony while browsing in the Piazza di San Lorenzo on a June day in 1860. 

His eye caught the volume, crowded among its insignificant neighbors. 

“One glance at the lettered back,” declares the poet, “and… a lira made it mine.” 

All the way home and all day long, he pored over the pages, until by nightfall he had mastered the facts of the case and the whole tragedy lay plain before his mind’s eye. 

To this day, no one knows how the once official Roman documents came to be remaindered in a stall in Florence two hundred-plus years after the trial ended.

ROBERT BROWNING (1812-1889) was a towering poetic presence of the Victorian era who changed the literary universe. His poetry was highly distinctive, adopting a multitude of rhythms, images, forms, and personae. The sheer immediacy and colloquial energy of his poetry ensured enduring appeal. His poems remain among the most profound, and beautiful in the English language.