Compare and contrast “Porphyria’s lover and “My last Duchess”, refer in detail to themes and characters

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The writer of both of the poems is Robert Browning. They were written in the 19th century and as such there are many differences and similarities within the poems, of which some can be easily seen such as death, love and the idealisation of woman.

The death of the last duchess can be seen as premeditated as her lover, the Duke instructs someone to kill her.

“I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together”

This may have been caused by the duchess childlike and immature manner and although he could have informed her about her attitude he decided not to lower himself to her level due to his arrogant nature.

“E’en then would be stooping: and I choose never to stoop.”

In contrast the death of Porphyria was not premeditated but as a result of emotion, passion and love. Porphyria’s lover looked into Porphyria eyes and saw that she worshipped him and that she was going to leave him, he debated what to do because he could not bare her leaving him. In the heat of the situation and with such high emotions running he ends up killing her in order to preserve her purity.

“In one long yellow string I wound

Three times her little thought around,

And strangled her. No pain felt she;

I am quite sure she felt no pain”

Where as the similarities in death circumstances are that both of the male characters did not regret what they did. In “My last duchess” the male character feels no loss or sorrow for the life he has taken and does not regret his actions. Although Porphyria’s lover doubts his actions for a moment, he reassures himself through the belief that she felt no pain and that god has not said a word.

“No I am quite sure no pain felt she”

He continuously reassures himself that his actions were for the best for both of them, in order to reaffirm his justification of the act and his guilty conscience.

The last difference in the death circumstances that I noticed was that in “My last duchess” Robert Browning does not describes the death scene leaving the reader to assume how the murder took place where as in “Porphyria’s lover” he describes the murder in detail as to present the reader with a picture.

The idealization of woman can be noticed very easily in both poems. In Porphyria’s lover, after hearing that Porphyria will leave him, he decides to kill her. From this I can see that he wants to control Porphyria by judging whether she lives or dies, he sees her as an item to be controlled by him, that he can manipulate to his advantage.

“That movement she was mine, mine, fair”

In “My last duchess” the duke cannot control the duchess’s flirty and childlike nature due to his stubbornness refuses to help her so he decides to kill her. His picture of the duchess’s shows his refusal to except that he has no control over her personality and he, as her husband has only the access to the picture and who can view her thus showing his hold over her.

In “Porphyria’s lover”, Robert Browning uses a imaginary listener to set and build up suspense. The scene where Porphyria’s lover is waiting for Porphyria is set as being freighting and depressing.

This is done by his description of the weather, the strong winds hitting against the trees along with the pouring downfall of rain set the scene for a emotional climax.

“The sun set early in to-night,

The sudden wind soon awake,

It tore the elm-tops down for spite,

And did it worst to vex the lake”

The last duchess and Porphyria’s lover are both single stanza poems. The writing is very emotive and dramatic.

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