Compare and contrast, My Last Duchess and Porphyria’s Lover

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. By continuing we’ll assume you’re on board with our cookie policy

Robert Browning was one of the greatest poets of the Nineteenth Century. He was an English poet who was especially noted for his dramatic monologues. During the Nineteenth Century, Robert Browning wrote a series of poems. Two of which were popular, “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover”. These two monologues have similar themes; how men treated women, possession, control, jealousy and other ideas.

I will compare and contrast the two poems in my essay, “Porphyria’s Lover” where Browning gives you an insight into the mind of Porphyria’s possessive lover and “My Last Duchess” where the Duke reveals to the reader a painting of his Last Duchess together with the hidden cruelty that comes with it. Robert Browning specifically chose the form of dramatic monologue in both poems, as his goal was to illustrate a scene told by one character. The monologues he wrote have been made more interesting with the speaker’s words unintentionally providing a revelation of the character or themselves.

In “My Last Duchess”, obviously it is the fact that Duke Ferrara had killed the Duchess deliberately. The main theme amongst the poems is how men treated women. Robert Browning lived in the time of the Victorian Period where men had a lot of power and control over women so that could be where he had the inspiration to write these poems. Women then were looked down at and their life achievements were limited to having a family and looking after it. The Duke and Porphyria’s Lover both show jealousy as they want total control over their wives and want to be sure they can’t fall for another man.

Sir ’twas not her husband’s presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess’ cheek. ” This is suggesting the Duchess was having a love affair because she is looking happier than usual and it also shows the Duke’s extreme paranoia and jealousy. The form in these two poems enable the poet to show the character’s personalities in depth and it also enables the poet to tell a story without going into great detail as with a dramatic monologue, it’s easy to get views and points across with a direct narrative. The narrator’s point of view is very similar in the way the men don’t feel any guilt to the murders they’ve committed.

Although, at the time the Duke kills the Duchess, he feels anger and would rather protect his pride than let the Duchess bring shame upon him. As for Porphyria’s lover, he kills Porphyria in an act of obsession so she could be his forever. He doesn’t feel guilt because he believes God approved of what he did. “And all night long we have not stirr’d And yet God has not said a word. ” Uses of irony are shown in both poems though they aren’t obvious.

In “Porphyria’s Lover”, the ironic thing is that he is madly in love with Porphyria and so he is going to kill the one thing he would be willing to die for! In one long yellow string I wound Three times her little throat around. ” The time in which these poems were set is reflected in the narrator’s attitude to women. The Nineteenth Century was a time when men were the strong dominating sex who believed they should have all the control. Women were expected to stay at home and care for the family. In “My Last Duchess”, you can clearly see the arrogance the Duke has and how highly important he thinks he is and the Duke wouldn’t accept that the Duchess thought differently. “as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundreds-year-old name with anybody’s gift”

The Duke thinks that his title should be enough to impress the Duchess but its value is the same as anybody’s gift. Robert Browning uses many different linguistic devices to create different effects and can also help us understand the narrator more. “Porphyria’s Lover” shows uses of repetition. “That moment she was mine, mine fair perfectly pure and good” Repetition is used here to show the narrator’s relief after killing Porphyria and his achievement of finally having her to himself. “My Last Duchess” also uses repetition. Words like “taming” and “lessoned” are used often, which give us an insight into what he expected of her.

Another device used to help us understand the poems better is the conversational tone – typical of dramatic monologue – this language directs, commands and guides the listener. In “My Last Duchess”, the narrator gives the reader commands. “Will’t please you look at her? ” and “Will’t please you rise? ” The death of the Duchess and Porphyria are a bit different. In the Duchess’s case, she brings it upon herself as she has multiple affairs with other men making the Duke build up with rage but in Porphyria’s case, she hasn’t done anything to make her lover angry but he loves her intensely; so much that he thinks he needs to kill her.

I warily oped her lids: again Laugh’d the blue eyes without a stain” Her lover was so madly in love with her that he could not see the change the death had brought upon her. My impression of Porphyria is that she was a graceful beautiful woman who truly loved her husband. Although, quite the opposite impression for the Duchess who blatantly went away with other men who flattered her very easily and also gave herself a bad reputation which brought shame for the Duke. How the Duke describes the painting of the Duchess shows the Duke’s lack of interest in art. As he wants to marry the Count’s daughter, he needed to impress his servant.

He tries to do this by mentioning a famous man, Fra Pandolf, who specifically painted it for him. He thinks highly of himself and wants the Count to know he is important. “I call that piece a wonder: now Fra Pandolf’s hands worked busily a day” I don’t believe the men feel any regret for killing their wives. Porphyria’s Lover believes God approved of what he did and the Duke is too arrogant to care about the woman. Techniques are used in these poems to capture the mood and the narrator’s feelings. In the beginning of “Porphyria’s Lover”, pathetic fallacy is used to relate the weather outside with the man’s mood.

It tore elm tops down for spite and did its worst to vex the lake”. Negative words such as “spite” and “cheerless” are added to description to make sure the reader understands the events coming are going to be bad. Personification is also added here to add depth to the poem. “The sullen wind was soon awake”. The mix of the fast rhythm and enjambment in “My Last Duchess” shows quite urgent movement from point to point. The narrator doesn’t dwell on anything. This shows how the Duke has a build up of emotions and wants to get all his thoughts out at once.

Men and women were treated in very different ways in the Renaissance period and Robert Browning tries to capture the thoughts men had then of women. In “Porphyria’s Lover”, the murder was more an act of love and madness. In contrast to this, in “My Last Duchess”, the Duke kills the Duchess to prevent anymore shame being brought to him. I believe the most effective poem between the two I have compared is “My Last Duchess” because it truly shows how most men thought of women. Men treated them as possessions to keep and use for whatever they needed them for.

Tagged In :

Get help with your homework

Haven't found the Essay You Want? Get your custom essay sample For Only $13.90/page

Sarah from CollectifbdpHi there, would you like to get such a paper? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out