Porphyria's Lover And My Last Duchess

2394 words - 10 pages

Porphyria's Lover and My Last DuchessCompare the two poems 'Porphyria's Lover' and 'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning. What do they reveal about attitudes to women and relationships in the nineteenth century?Robert Browning was one of the greatest poets of the nineteenth century. In 1842, he published 'Dramatic Lyrics' which included the two poems 'Porphyria's Lover' and 'My Last Duchess'. In 'Porphyria's Lover' Browning gives the reader a dramatic insight into the twisted mind of an abnormally possessive lover, who wishes the moment of love to last forever. In this essay, 'Porphyria's Lover' will be compared to Robert Browning's other dramatic monologue, 'My Last Duchess', where ...view middle of the document...

On the surface, the narrators in each poem show completely different characteristics. In 'Porphyria's Lover', the narrator shows powerful emotions towards Porphyria, which demonstrate his strong romantic feelings. The reader acknowledges that the narrator is passionately in love, as the following extract demonstrates."Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour, To set its struggling passion free From pride, and vainer ties dissever And give herself to me forever."By contrast, the Duke in 'My Last Duchess' is shown as a formal, cold-hearted man who despised his late wife's lust for life. He wanted her respect, though all he could see was her pleasure from all around her, as the following quote shows."She had A heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere"In both poems, there are similarities in the narrator's attitudes towards their women. Both narrators show an unnatural possessiveness towards them, presenting an unattractive, all-encompassing jealousy that wanted to eclipse all other interests that their women may have. It means that in each poem, the narrators end up killing their wives. In 'Porphyria's Lover', the narrator justifies his actions by saying he wanted to preserve the perfect moment in time."That moment she was mine, mine, fair Perfectly pure and good:"At that point of pure passion, the narrator's lover belonged to him totally - the repeated words "mine, mine" emphasise this. To stop the struggles and conflicts that would prevent them from seeing each other, he decided to kill her. His act of strangulation was a crime of passion - it was not pre-meditated.By contrast, the death of the Duchess was a cold, calculated move by the Duke to remove the source of his jealousy. She gave her favours to others too willingly, and did not value his nobility and all that it stood for."She thanked men, - good! But thanked Somehow - I know not how - as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody's gift."The Duke justifies his actions by thinking his wife did not deserve her position as Duchess, or live up to the responsibilities that her noble stance required.In "My Last Duchess" the Duke does not seem to show any compassion or understanding for his late wife. Indeed, he seems to be more of a 'woman collector' in the way that he collects art, as he sets his sights on the daughter of the Count. "Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed At starting, is my object" This word 'object', whilst it means 'aim', also shows that the Duke wants to add this woman to his collection - almost like a piece of art. In the same breath, he draws his guest's attention to his latest acquisition - a new bronze in the shape of Neptune, the mythical Roman god of the sea. I think by doing this the Duke is making a sly reference to his own aims in capturing his next wife. I believe he thinks of himself as Neptune, being all powerful and ruling, and he compa...


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