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Comparing and Contrasting My Last Duchess and Porphyrias Lover

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Introduction

Comparing and Contrasting 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover' Robert Browning's fame rests today with his dramatic monologues, such as "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover". Unlike soliloquies, the point of a dramatic monologue, are not the words that are directly spoken, it is what the speaker subtly gives away. Both "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover" are dramatic monologues, that are therefore centred around a single male character, telling the reader about events which have already taken place, although, once one has read the poems, one does get the sense that while the events in "My Last Duchess" took place some time ago, those in "Porphyria's Lover" have only just happened. Due to the story of the poem being told from the point of view of an individual, the account is completely biased. Written in the Victorian, there is a major difference in the perception of women in polite society than there is today. This key issue is highlighted up in "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover". While there was a huge difference between the upper and lower tiers of society, their ambitions of both were remarkably the same: to do better for one's self and one's family. However, the ability to do so was what separated the classes. While the divide between classes was a very clear one, there was another main divide in the classes themselves, that of sex. ...read more.

Middle

In both poems, the women are killed, if not directly, for acting in such a way that was not seen as acceptable for their social class, or more importantly, their gender. In My Last Duchess, the Duke gave orders and had the Duchess killed. Through out the poem, there is a great deal of control on the part of the Duke. Browning demonstrates this through the use of rhyming couplets. He demands control of the situation. However, when he was with the Duchess, he lacked this control. He cannot stop the Duchess from doing what she wants to do. It is clear that he disapproves of her riding "the white mule she rode with round the terrace", and yet he does not stop her, for, for him to do so, would force him to "stoop" to her level. While the idea of control throughout My Last Duchess appears to be with the Duke, the Duchess does have some control over has her own life, despite the wishes of her husband, she does what she wants to do. The point at which the Duke is most in control of the Duchess is when she is dead and he has a painting of her. Then he can fully control her. Only he can look at her portrait "Since none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I". ...read more.

Conclusion

However, due to the nature of these themes, there is a great deal of differences in the poems. Class and the strict boundaries that it imposed on society during the Victorian era is the key to the understanding of these poems. Both poems are told from a male, first person, point of view. It is possible that Browning used these points of view to highlight certain issues that he found within the makeup of society. In both poems, the women in them are at some stage, in control. This could be to highlight the fact that during the era men were always in control and that maybe this was something that needed rectifying, that women were a necessary part of society. On the other hand, the message of the poems could be that woman in society must learn to be sub-servant to a male culture. Both of the men in the poems have completely different reason for the murder of the women that they kill. However while the reason for the killings are different, the meanings of them are very much the same. Both men feel like they should be the ones that are in control of the women. In contrast to the similarities they share for the murder of the women, the two male characters could not be more different. To sum up, the poems, while written for an audience more than a hundred years ago, still have a meaning that is applicable to modern society. It questions our attitude towards society and to women. ...read more.

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