Compare And Contrast ‘My Last Duchess’ And ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ On the Issue of Love ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ are poems which were written by Robert Browning during the Victorian period. The poems expose the failure of a relationship and the complex nature of love between a man and a woman. The aspects of jealousy, vanity, pride, obsessive desire, beauty, and flirtatious behaviour are depicted in both poems. The poems were written in the form of a dramatic monologue; this gives the reader an insight into the narrator’s inner thoughts and motives when involved in a particular situation. Using this literary technique, Browning allows the reader to explore the abnormal psychology of the two speakers and also to get closely involved with two acts of murder.
n this essay we will try to point out the use of irony that Browning does by looking at how it works in his poems, particularly to “My Last Duchess”. “My Last Duchess”, by Robert Browning is written in the form of a dramatic monologue. You are being spoken to by the Duke. Browning has captured an authentic speaking voice. The syntax is manipulated by the author in order to create a conversatinal tone.This is a poem telling a story, the title of this poem reveals that the speaker, a duke, is referring to his last wife.
In ‘My Last Duchess’ 1842 and ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ 1836, Browning uses a range of narrative methods to convey the story. This includes the use of enjambment, rhyme schemes and alternation between the past and present; all of which contribute in building tension within the poems. In both of the dramatic monologues there is a single stanza and speaker to narrate the story. However, in ‘My Last Duchess’ Browning uses the rhyme scheme AABB with iambic pentameter whereas in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ the rhyme scheme used is ABABB. This reflects the speaker’s personalities as the Duke seems to have a compulsive character in which he continually discusses the objects he owns, ranging from the Duchess to other notable artworks.
“My Last Duchess” serves two functions, to verbally depict the portrayal of a painted lady and the self-disclosure of the Duke. In "My Last Duchess," a portrait of the egocentric Duke of Ferrara is painted for readers. Although the Duke's monologue appears on the surface to be about his late wife, a close reading will show that the mention of the last duchess is merely a side note of a self-important speech. Browning uses the dramatic monologue form very skillfully to show readers the controlling, jealous, and egotistic traits the duke possessed without ever mentioning them explicitly (line5-10). The main theme in this monologue is related to a painting of the deceased Duchess to whom the title refers.
Compare the ways controlling characters are used in Les Grands Seigneurs and My Last Duchess Dorothy Molloy and Robert Browning, the poets of Les Grands Seigneurs and My Last Duchess respectively, both create a significant and controlling character in their poems; using similar techniques and themes to illustrate the power and dominance to portray a specific message. Firstly, both Malloy and Browning frequently embed the personal pronoun ‘my’ into their controlling characters narrative. For example, the controlling character in Les Grands Seigneurs quotes ‘men were my buttresses’ in the opening line, whilst similarly, in the opening line of My Last Duchess, ‘that’s my last duchess painted on the wall’. This use of ‘my’ enables both characters to develop a sense of possession over their loved ones to the readers immediately; thus allowing their retelling of love to their audiences to be easier. This sense of control is only further strengthened by another technique used by both poets, the regular inclusion of caesuras.
The Duke name drops the painter's name "Fra Pandolf" to see if it impresses the listener. The Duke even admits deliberately mentioning the name - "I said / Fra Pandolf by design". Wanting to impress the person to whom he is speaking becomes a regular feature in the poem and is obviously another negative characteristic of the Duke. The Duke also reveals his misgivings about his late wife's character: ...Sir, 'twas notHer husband's presence only, called that spotOf joy into the Duchess' cheek... she liked whate'erShe looked on, and her looks went everywhere. If we remember that he is speaking to a relative stranger, this is quite inappropriate conversation.
The dramatic irony of the story is held in tension by the fact that the Duke reveals more to us as readers than he knows to be telling his listener. Though he is able to suspend the disbelief of his listener, as he directs the emissary’s eyes to the painting of the Duchess and asks him “please” to “sit and look at her”, he is ultimately unable to suspend our own; the self-reflexive nature of the poem, which is sustained in Browning’s heroic couplets, forces us to interpret the Duke’s story as a self-conscious performance rather than a truthful account of his late wife. The Duke’s preface to the story behind the portrait of the Duchess is an attempt to hide the fact that he has murdered his late wife, and to seduce the emissary into his authoritative interpretation of her character as revealed in the painting. Though he flatters his inferior by speaking to him as a familiar “you” and “Sir”, his polite condescension does not “stoop” to the emissary’s level, but rather establishes who is in charge. While he paints over his command to sit – “Will’t please you sit and look at her” – with flattery, he does not hesitate to remind his listener of the privilege he has to be shown the painting in the first place: “since none puts by/The curtain I have drawn for you, but I”.
Some poems are shown from a male perspective, and some aren’t. “Anne Hathaway” is not shown from the male perspective but it in fact shown from the perspective of how she felt as a person when she was with William Shakespeare, this differs this poem from the rest of the poems as most are either a mockery of the love shared between a couple, and the others are about how the husbands didn’t compromise well enough – leading to change and unrequited love. An example of a poem not being the key/highlight of the collection is “Mrs Darwin”. This poem can be interpreted in however way possible – with the most obvious interpretation being a poem about the mockery of Darwin by Mrs Darwin. It doesn’t sum up the love Anne Hathaway showed in the poem that is reflected in all other poems, but just the humour of the relation Darwin had with his wife.
PORPHYRIA’S LOVER AS A DRAMATIC MONOLOGUE Robert Browning (1812-1889) was a major English poet of the Victorian age. He is noted for his mastery of dramatic monologue and psychological portraiture. Robert Browning was a romantic poet in every sense of the word. As a poet he inherited the mantle of Wordsworth, Keats and Shelley. He sought to show, in the Romantic tradition, man’s struggle with his own nature and the will of God.
This contrasts to “Salome” where the narrator despises men. “Salome” is a dramatic monologue about a promiscuous murderer who preys upon men. It is loosely based upon the story of Salome who was alleged to have been the cause of John the Baptist’s death. “Song of the Old Mother” has a structure which uses rhyming couplets: “I rise at dawn, and kneel and blow, till the seed of the fire flicker and glow,”. I believe that it uses rhyming couplets because the poem is called Song of the Old mother as it has the same structure as most songs do.