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Compare the presentation and treatment of women in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress"

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Introduction

H/W-Gareth Jenkins Compare the presentation and treatment of women in Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" and Andrew Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress" Sex, lies and intrigue are just a few of the themes explored in "My Last Duchess" and "To His Coy Mistress". The control men have over women and the control women have over men are also closely observed in these 16th century poems. The two poems also give us an insight to the treatment and presentation of women in that era. The poets, Robert Browning and Andrew Marvell, have used a narrative style to write their poems, however the eye of the poem appears not to be speaking directly to the audience in either case. We shall have to study and compare the content of both poems in order to come to a conclusion in which we can decide which of the two poems is more effective. Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess". This is a narrative poem told by a duke, supposedly Alfonso II the Duke of Ferrera, to a representative of the Count of Tyrol, who is arranging for the duke to marry the Count's niece. The duke tells the agent about how his last duchess treated him throughout the poem, which includes the sex, lies and intrigue in their marriage. The title of the poem, "My Last Duchess", is significant as it instantly hints that the poem may be about having a women in your possession when the word 'my' is used. ...read more.

Middle

The duke showing his guest this Neptune figure is significant as he possibly uses it show that he will always get control over his women. The way that this poem is narrative is effective as it turns it into the duke telling his story of how he won control over his last wife. There is an absence of any obvious figures of speech in the poem as it makes the duke's description to the agent more realistic. A young man is the narrator of the poem "to His Coy Mistress", in which the man is trying to get a coy woman to sleep with him by using various figures of speech to create images, which are sometimes pleasant or horrific, in order to persuade her. The first four lines show us an image of time which are saying that if there was time, then the 'playing hard to get' would be no problem. The lines which create this image of time are: "Had we but world enough, and time, this coyness, Lady, were no crime. We would sit down and think which way to walk and pass our long love's day." The poet refers to the lack of time available throughout the poem to try and speed things up. Another instance of this time reference is in lines 7-10. The poet is saying that he would love the woman if he had the time and that she could refuse until the conversion of the Jews. ...read more.

Conclusion

Neither have control over the women in either poem as the duke must have his wife dead before he can control her and the young woman has the power to say no in Andrew Marvell's poem. "My Last Duchess" has a sinister element as there is the possibility that the duke may have physically harmed or murdered his wife, where as on the other hand, "To His Coy Mistress" presents a more light hearted, humorous tone with the use of the sexual metaphors and grotesque imagery. The control and treatment of women in Robert Browning's poem is as if they are possessions, items in a collection as shown by the painting of the duke's wife and the Neptune figure. Andrew Marvell's poem suggests that although women are not to be physically controlled, they are still manipulable and to be persuaded into doing what men want. Both poems show men as being active, but only "To His Coy Mistress" shows women as being passive as the woman involved is showing her power to say no, but the duke's wife is sleeping around. In showing the presentation and treatment of women, "My Last Duchess" is more effective as the absence of figures of speech make the duke's thoughts and feelings towards women appear more realistic and there is proof of the way he treats women as objects to be controlled and added to the collection throughout the poem. The woman in this poem also does better in terms of having control as the only way her husband can control her is by killing her and putting a curtain over a painting of her. ...read more.

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