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A comparison between "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover" by Robert Browning.

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Introduction

By George Cadogan A comparison between "My Last Duchess" and "Porphyria's Lover" by Robert Browning. "My Last Duchess" is a poem about an arrogant and extremely powerful Duke who is describing his deceased Duchess. From the word "last" in the title it is implied that the duke has had more than one duchess. In this poem, the Duke is extremely egotistic. He says, "I choose never to stoop." The duchess would look at everyone in the world as being equal no matter what class they are. The duke however cannot do this. He is too worried about his appearance. "Porphyria's Lover" is a poem in which a man describes an evening in which his lover, Porphyria, visits him and he unexpectedly murders her. In this it is unlike "My Last Duchess" because Porphyria 'worships' her lover unlike the Duke From the title "My Last Duchess", we immediately learn that this is a personal poem to the duke. It is a love and murder poem. It is a dramatic monologue and is written as a single stanza. Both poems also have a silent listener. ...read more.

Middle

More so in "Porphyria's Lover". The lines do not employ end-stops; sentences and other grammatical units do not necessarily conclude at the end of lines. This happens more so in "Porphyria's Lover". The lover describes Porphyria removing her wet hat, "untied/ Her hat and let the damp hair fall". The use of enjambment here gives the image of her long blonde hair falling from beneath her hat. This is effective because it gives the reader the image of her hair moving out of position. Browning uses language very effectively in these poems. In "My Last Duchess" Browning use diminutive language to describe the way the Duke behaves. He says " Even had you skill/ In speech- (which I have not)". He uses this rhetorical question to deliberately lower himself when talking to the Count's ambassador to impress him. He is willing to change his personality completely from arrogant and self-obsessive to courteous. The Duchess does not care about stooping to different levels. In a similar way to the duke, Porphyria is able to lower herself so that her lover will love her, " She put my arm around her waist,/ and made her smooth white shoulder bare". ...read more.

Conclusion

He refers to the Duchess as "my lady". This symbolises complete power and possesviness over her. In a similar way the lover in "Porphyria's Lover" is an abnormally possessive lover, passionate and obsessive. From the knowledge of the characters you are given through the poems you see that they are both possessive and this is the reason why both of the characters kill their lovers. "She was mine, mine, fair,/ Perfectly pure and good". This is what the lover said before he killed Porphyria. He kills her because at that precise moment in time he has complete power and control over Porphyria and wants to preserve this. Browning uses a simile extremely effectively in "Porphyria's Lover" to describe the body of Porphyria. He says "As a shut bud that holds a bee". This gives the reader the image that her soul is still alive but her body is dead. The bud is shut and the bee is still alive inside of it. Overall, I found these poems both quite enjoyable to read. I enjoyed "My Last Duchess" less than I enjoyed "Porphyria's Lover". This is because the murder in "Porphyria's Lover" was so unexpected and a shock whereas in "My Last Duchess", it was written more subtly giving it less excitement. ...read more.

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