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Compare Browning's portrayal of the men and their relationships in 'My Last Duchess'and 'Porphyria's Lover'

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Introduction

Compare Browning's portrayal of the men and their relationships in 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover' Robert Browning's poems 'Porphyria's Lover' and 'My Last Duchess' are both written in the form of dramatic monologues. This is when one speaker tells the poem to either a real audience or an implied audience. This means the poem is from one perspective and shows how the men want to mould the women into their own perceptions of how they should behave. 'Porphyria's Lover' is told to an implied audience whereas the duke in 'My Last Duchess' is making his speech to a servant. Browning writes both poems in this form in order to silence the women in the poems, portraying the men as controlling and the women as vulnerable. This silencing of the women portrays how women were treated throughout the Victorian period. Women rarely had a strong voice to air their opinions, especially in marriage. Both poems have a definite rhyme scheme. 'Porphyria's Lover' has an ABABB rhyme scheme. This emphasises the desire of the lover narrating the poem to be with Porphyria. The A rhymes want to be together, however the B rhymes are sending them apart. The lines of the poem with B rhymes are also indented emphasising how they are being driven apart mainly by the difference in the couple's social status but also by how they are not married. ...read more.

Middle

He also says that his wife 'ranked/My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name/ With anybody's gift.' The duke doesn't think that his wife appreciated her title as a duchess. Browning's poems both end with the death of the women, due to the struggle over power between the couples. In 'Porphyria's Lover', the anonymous lover wants Porphyria's attention, however he does not get any: 'And laid her soiled gloves by, untied/Her hat and let the damp hair fall'. The monotonous list of Porphyria's actions, emphasised with the use of enjambment, the lack of end-stops and the repetition of 'and', irritates the lover. The lover sulks when she 'called me'. There is a caesura, which represents the silence when he does not answer her. She does give him attention later on, trying to get him out of his mood. Porphyria is too proud to love her lover because she is from a different social background: 'Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour,/To set its struggling passion free'. He loves her but she does not recognise his love. Porphyria treats her lover like a puppet, by making him do things: 'She put my arm about her waist'. Her lover resents this difference between them. However later there is a switch in power and the rhythm changes to illustrate this: 'at last I knew/ Porphyria worshipped me'. ...read more.

Conclusion

We see the shift in power. 'Only, this time my shoulder bore/ Her head'. This makes Porphyria sound like a doting, subservient woman. However, the two didn't expect to be together in death: 'she guessed not how/ Her darling one wish would be heard.' In death, Porphyria has swapped her scorn for her lover's low position for his love. The lover feels no guilt: 'And yet God has not said a word!' He has not been judged by God and therefore thinks he has done the right thing. Her lover preserves the moment and is fixated on it. He does not think of the consequences. In 'My Last Duchess', the duke is in search of a new wife. The duke is confident he will receive a generous dowry from his new wife. He does not tell the new duchess how to behave but he tells the story of his last duchess to his future wife's servant, so that he can warn her. The repetition of the 'c' sound in 'Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze' creates a trapped feeling for the duke's new wife. There is a sense for the future, however it is not hopeful for the wife. These two poems show how two men deal with similar situations comparably. The poems are not very realistic because Browning has used extreme examples to show how men controlled women in Victorian times, but I think Browning wrote these poems in this way to show that it is ridiculous to try and control everything women do. Jordanne Young ...read more.

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