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Pre 1914 Poetry - "My Last Duchess" and "The Laboratory"

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Introduction

Compare and Contrast how Browning uses the Dramatic Monologue form to reveal character and situation in "The Laboratory" and "My Last Duchess" The poems "The Laboratory" and "My Last Duchess" written by Robert Browning in 1845 are both set in different periods and places in history and of even different cultures, yet both tell a story of the destructive effect harmful emotions can have. These emotions of jealousy and greed, mixed with power and wealth make suspicion and a fascination with murder, inevitable. "My Last Duchess" is set in Ferrara in 16th century Italy at the time of the Renaissance; the poem reflects the popularity at the time of the love of art and the duke reflects this perfectly : "That's My Last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder now: Fra Pandolf's hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands". The Duke of Ferrara expresses his love of art by name dropping a famous artist of the time, and boasting of how it was done quickly, it also serves as a preview of his nature which we learn more about as the Dramatic Monologue progresses. ...read more.

Middle

showing a count's messenger around his private art gallery, which in itself seems rich and glamorous, while the painting he is presenting of his former wife isn't, because although the painting seems great and the duke is impressed with it, the fact that he prefers the painting to the person makes it all the more sinister. Robert Browning uses the Duke's arrogant persona to convey why he prefers the painting to the memory of her. The Duke comes across as arrogant from the start of the poem, even before the poem starts in fact, the title containing the possessive pronoun 'My' suggesting he thinks of the Duchess as his possession. In contrast to this in 'The Laboratory' the Courtier seems to have a victim complex as she states that "she's not little, no minion like me!", again "like me" is on its own line, emphasising the point. She also uses many personal pronouns early in the poem, the second stanza: "my tears flow......laugh at me, at me fled....I am here" The Duke's egotistical behaviour in 'My Last Duchess' is ...read more.

Conclusion

Courtier, however in a more subtle way that also reflect the duke's arrogant, unimaginative and businesslike attitude by the lack of imagery used which would make the Duke seem more approachable. The Courtier seems cold in the blatant way that she is plotting to poison someone and makes the reader aware of it from the very start, whereas the Duke tries to make himself seem more approachable by the use of hesitations and parenthesis, making his speech seem more natural: "Even had you skill In speech - (which I have not)" However this seems false, also the use of false modesty in this quote. The Duke tells the listener he had killed his former Duchess in a subtle way "I gave commands and all smiles stopped". Browning successfully uses the form, vocabulary and imagery of both poems to suit the characters involved in it. Both dramatic monologues are about murder however in the Lab oratory the woman thinks she is killing for a reason and in "My Last Duchess" he kills because he doesn't think he needs a reason. ...read more.

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