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What picture of love does Browning present us with in ‘My Last Duchess’ and ‘Porphyria’s Lover’?

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What picture of love does Browning present us with in 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover'? Robert Browning was one of the great poets of the Victorian age in two of his poems, 'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover' he gives us an insight into the minds of two abnormally possessive lovers. In these dramatic monologues, both personas seek control over the women they love and both gain it by murder. In a perverse way they believe themselves not to have done anything wrong. The intense jealousy that each lover feels overcomes the passion of their relationship and leads them to the only way they can achieve ultimate control - murder. The Lover in 'My last Duchess' is a Duke who subconsciously gives himself away to the reader whilst showing a messenger from a nearby count a picture of his last wife. In the first line by saying 'my' the Duke shows us that he is possessive, he goes on to say that the picture makes her look as though she is alive. Because of the reality of the picture, he thinks of her as alive and therefore is satisfied with the amount of control that he has over her now that she is only present as a painting. 'That piece a wonder, now...' the Duke ambiguously describes the painting as a 'wonder', meaning that not only is it a marvellous looking picture but also wonderful because it finally gives him that sense of control over her. ...read more.


The contrasts within the poem are supplied by some short, sharp sentences, which suggest perhaps the need to show off, or to off load his guilt, but why to a nobody, maybe it is easier for him to tell someone of little importance, or maybe he feels safer talking to someone with no authority and whose not likely to repeat his admission to anyone. As a reader you sense his increasing emotions and his need to suppress them as the poem develops, this is evident in lines thirty to thirty-five where the Duke begins to 'fire' himself up about her 'betrayal' and then persists in an attempt to reassure himself by claiming: 'Who'd stoop to blame this sort of trifling?' In comparison, the poem 'Porphyria's Lover', Browning once again tells the story of a possessive lover, not unlike the Duke in 'My Last Duchess', there is the continual thirst for lust and control in both men. Unlike 'My Last Duchess', in 'Porphyria's Lover' Browning sets the scene by describing the weather outside. The 'storm' reflects the feelings that the lover has inside. The sulleness of the weather reflects his sulleness. Although the similarities between the two poems are numerous in 'Porphyria's Lover', the man is not out to impress anyone or conceal the fact that he murdered his love, unlike the Duke who subconsciously reveals the fact. 'I listened with a heart fit to break', this is an ambiguously written sentence similar to that in 'My Last Duchess', it leaves the reader in a state of emotional suspense whilst also revealing the unavoidable truth that she will break his heart. ...read more.


The lover compares to a bee as though he thinks that she is still alive, like she has felt no pain. She is only alive in his head because it gives him the power to control her, by kissing her and lying her head on his shoulder he has reversed the role he played at the beginning: 'I propped her head up as before, /Only, this time my shoulder bore/ Her head, which droops upon it still.' He imagines her to be content, happy, as though he has done her favour: 'That all it scorned at once is fled, / And I, its love, am gained instead!' 'And yet God has not said a word!' Porphyria's lover imagines that he is God because he hasn't been condemned, and hence carries on thinking he is. He seems to be admitting his guilt; it is as though he wants to be punished. The Duke on the other hand although admits to his wife's murder, he does not believe that he deserves to be punished. Both the Duke in 'My Last Duchess' and the lover in 'Porphyria's Lover' have disposed of their women, who become captured in a freeze-frame, the Duchess as a picture and the eternal moment of Porphyria's love captured in her death. The picture of love that Browning presents you with is warped, centred around the 'dominant male' having ultimate control and power over his lover. ?? ?? ?? ?? Kirsten Furley - English 1 03/05/07 ...read more.

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