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A study of "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning

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Introduction

A study of "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess" by Robert Browning "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess" are both dramatic monologues which describe relationships that conclude with a murder. They each have themes of power, obsession, and control, and are narrated from a male perspective. The setting, style of writing, and visual details differ in each poem. The poem "Porphyria's Lover" allows the reader an insight into the mind of an abnormally possessive lover. It describes the murder of Porphyria that occurs after a particularly intense moment of love that the narrator wants to sustain. Browning begins the poem negatively, using the weather to describe the forthcoming events. By using words such as 'sullen' to describe weather, Browning personifies and adds power to the wind. Further anxiety and tension is then added from, "I listened with heart fit to break", which suggests that the narrator is particularly eager to see Porphyria. On her arrival, the power and control is fully with Porphyria. She glides into the room and taunts her lover by seductively shaking her hair and removing her outer garments; all whilst deliberately ignoring him. ...read more.

Middle

The Duke concocts situations that have not actually occurred that involves both the artist and the Duchess with sentences such as, "Perhaps Fra Pandolf chanced to say, 'her mantle laps over my lady's wrist too much" describing this. The Duke's critical and malicious side is revealed when he comments, "as she looked on, and her looks went everywhere" about his Duchess. This comment suggests that he believed she was unable to commit to just one person and describes her as being too easily pleased and na�ve. The Duke is unable to cope with anything that gives her happiness, other than himself. Again, he creates more situations in his mind and imagines everything that could make her happy with, "The dropping of the daylight in the west" and "The white mule she rode with", as examples of this. The mood rapidly changes in the poem from being emotionally detached to angry and tense from the sentence "As if she ranked my gift if a nine-hundred-year-old name with anybody's gift". This sentence emphasises the egotistical nature of the Duke, and the use of dashes breaks up the sentence structure to represent anger. ...read more.

Conclusion

The power and control is manifested in different ways in each poem. In Porphyria's Lover before the murder, the power and control is clearly with Porphyria as displayed in sentences such as "and stooping made my cheek lie there". Whereas in My Last Duchess it is clear that the Duchess never was, and never had been in control of her lover, due to the egotistical nature of the Duke who claims that he "choose never to stoop". In Porphyria's Lover, the readers are involved directly because of the speech gives the impression they are a witness to this murder. In My Last Duchess, the narrator is not communicating directly with the reader, so they are not as involved in the murder. The setting differs in each of the poems, with the use of colour and visual detail being used in Porphyria's Lover. By adding colour and descriptions if the weather to the poem, it helps the reader to imagine the setting. In My Last Duchess, there is little colour of details given, creating the detached mood in the poem. In conclusion, both "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess" contain themes of power, obsession, and control, and are narrated from a male perspective. The differences in the poems are the setting, style of writing and visual details. ...read more.

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