Annotated Bibliography of Criticism


Clarke, George Herbert. “Browning’s ‘A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon’: A Defence.” The Sewanee Review 28 (1920), 213–27. JSTOR, JSTOR,

In his critical analysis, Clarke addresses the criticism of the play from those who found problems with it. He begins his essay on a positive note, citing the better reviews that the play received in its earlier renditions. These include ones from Charles Dickens, Arthur Symons, and Mary Russell Mitford. Through each of their testimonies, Clarke highlights a central reason for the play’s limited success during the middle of the 19th century: the audience loved it. Clarke then moves on to some of the criticism that the play received. The first comes from playwright Henry Jones, generally stating that the character of Mildred is not attached to the play like the rest of the characters (220). He argues that she exists an a different plain of sorts, and that her death, due to those circumstances, is not as emotional. Clarke responds to this criticism stating that Jones watched the play with an Elizabethan lens, meaning he was expecting something more along the lines of Shakespeare, rather than Browning (221-22). Another criticism that he discusses came from W. J. Rolfe and Heloise Hersey. Together, the two point out it is not believable that Mildred is only 14, and being married off by her brother, partly because of the part of England the play is supposedly set in (222). Clarke argues that this is unfair to Browning, since there were many other characters in previous works of literature that were married off at a young age. He also argues that age was not Browning’s primary concern in the character (222-23). Overall, Clarke is coming to the rescue of A Blot In The Scutcheon, something that could have been inferred by the title of the essay.

—Curtis Ashley


Crochunis, Thomas C. “Literary Homosociality and the Political Science of the Actor’s Closet.” Victorian Studies 49 (2007): 258–67.


In his journal article, titled “Literary Homosociality and the Political Science of the Actor’s Closet”, Thomas C. Crochunis writes about Browning’s play, A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon. Crochunis discusses the tense relationship of Browning and William Macready, who reluctantly produced Browning’s play in 1843. Crochunis discusses Browning’s work within the confines of this strained relationship. He goes on to state that Browning’s work is the story about a man who refuses to forego his preconceived notions about what love ought to look like. Crochunis explains that Browning was aware of the inner conflict that the audience would feel in terms of character development. Browning’s intent was to confuse the audience and leave them questioning the character’s morality in regards to their class. Crochunis admires the reality that the characters like Mildred have to face – choosing love and disregarding expectations for women of her class.

Crochunis also comments on the action in the play. He believes that this highlights Browning’s capability of creating an effective drama. He explains that Browning wanted to create a space for his actors to showcase their “dramaturgical strategies” (260).

—Kate Sanchez


Gertrude, Reese. “Robert Browning and A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon.” Modern Language Notes 63 1948): 237–40.

In Gertrude Reese’s journal article “Robert Browning and A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon” Gertrude sought to emphasize and explain the truth that Charles Dickens’s opinion of the play indeed reached the public’s eye earlier than has been believed. Robert Browning wrote the play A Blot in the Scutcheon and sent manuscripts to the actor William Charles Macready in 1840. Macready unmistakably overlooked the play before, persuaded by John Forster, ultimately reading it. Macready ensured no interest to perform in it at that time since he did not find the play to be appealing. Forster sent the manuscripts to Charles Dickens, a renowned novelist, who to the contrary thought the play to be pure genius. Dickens believed the play displayed such love, rightly unparalleled, and deemed the play to be a masterpiece of a passionate tragedy. Forster received the letter in 1842 with the admired review of the play and never informed Robert Browning, the author. According to Browning, he never heard of this prized review till thirty years after and, gravely displeased, believed that the public had no access to Dickens’s rich perspective. However, in reality, the public knew of Dickens’s criticism. Two distinguished magazines of the time, one English and one American, mention Dickens’s criticism. Reviews in 1848 and 1849 shed light on the fact that Forster no longer needs be condemned for withholding the letter till 1873. Gertrude speculates that due to the play’s lack of stage success Browning retained the false notion that the public lacked influence as a defense for the play.

—Madelin DeJesus







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