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In My Last Duchess and Porphyrias Lover, how does Browning condemn the male personas view that the control they deem essential in a relationship can be attained only through violence?

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Introduction

In "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover", how does Browning condemn the male personas' view that the control they deem essential in a relationship can be attained only through violence? In "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess", Browning explores the male psyche by portraying two men so obsessed by domination and control that they are finally driven to kill their lovers. Written in the 19th century, these poems are set in a patriarchal society in which female subservience was expected and male supremacy absolute. In "Advice to a Husband" Cobbett states that "A husband under command of his wife is the most contemptible of god's creatures." And it is this proclamation, viewed by many of the time that drives the protagonists of the two poems to the extremes. Despite the fact that the poems are written in dramatic monologues, the text contains certain clues which voice Browning's judgment and condemnation of the drastic actions taken by the male figures and thus society's role of trapping women under the rule of men. Neither the Duke nor the lover meet the expectations that the reader has of a protagonist of a Romantic poem. ...read more.

Middle

In "My Last Duchess" the Duke's reasoning for his wife's death shows irrational jealousy. He not only feels threatened by other men but of things, animals and even of the sunset which he describes as "The dropping of the daylight in the West." As in "Porphyria's Lover" the reader does not believe the Duchess deserves her fate despite the fact that it is told from the Duke's point of view. His broken sentences show elements of self-doubt and he cannot clearly convey his argument for his partner's death. "Somehow - I know not how..." It also appears that he senses his irrationality because he first states "Who'd stoop to blame / This sort of trifling?" yet he continues to do just that. The Duke kills his wife in order to stop her looking as "her looks went everywhere." This is because her role as wife is to be looked at, not to look at others. In death she is immortalised by means of a portrait in which she is trapped "looking as if alive" purely showing her husband's success through her beauty. ...read more.

Conclusion

which reveals the personality underneath the face. In this patriarchal environment in which "My Last Duchess" was set women and paintings were often considered to be the same as they are both commodities which show the wealth and success of a husband. Beautiful paintings showed that the husband could afford a talented artist and beautiful women came with smaller dowries thus showing that the male figure could meet the expense of his wife. The persona's justifications for the murder of their partners are so weak that it is clear that Browning clearly deemed the male view that the best wife is a dead woman to be immoral. The characters' personalities and the radical action taken provoke anger and shock within the reader and cause pity for the deceased women as Browning allows the reader to draw the conclusion that they were undeserving of their death. Not only does the murder seem unjust, but the way the male personas treat their dead lovers after their death stimulates bitterness. The Lover's manipulating of Porphyria's body presents a grotesque image whereas the Duke's use of his wife's portrait as a means of showing his power and success shows his character to be egotistical. ...read more.

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