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Is it possible to sympathise in any way with the villains in the two dramatic monologues by Browning that you have read?

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Introduction

Amelia Horgan Poetry English Coursework Is it possible to sympathise in any way with the villains in the two dramatic monologues by Browning that you have read? In both "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess" Browning criticises the position of women in Victorian society by showing the relationship between men and women through two dramatic monologues. In both of the poems the men appear to be the villains, in "Porphyria's Lover" Porphyria is killed by the man who she has run through the rain to seen. In "My Last Duchess" although it is unclear if the Duke had the Duchess killed or just sent to a convent, there is quite clearly something going on with the Duke saying "I gave commands/Then all smiles stopped together". The Duke and Porphyria's certainly do not appear to be anything but villains but perhaps there is a little more to both characters. Although the characters may not be as simple as being just villains, it is very hard to feel much sympathy for them. They are both jealous and controlling, especially the Duke who even has to have control of the picture of the Duchess - "None puts by/ the curtain I have drawn for, but I". Porphyria's Lover is even more jealous and kills Porphyria so that she could belong only to him "That moment she was mine, mine", with the repetition of mine emphasising the jealousy and selfishness of the character. ...read more.

Middle

Although the Duke seems less frightening than Porphyria's lover he still comes across as controlling, possessive ("My last Duchess") and selfish, and almost impossible to feel sympathy for. The same is true of Porphyria's Lover, he is a character who is it virtually impossible to feel sorry for. Perhaps this is because both of these poems are a criticism of women's position in Victorian society, women could not vote or hold political office and although attitudes were slowly beginning to change, women were still very much seen as objects, much like the Duke sees the Duchess as an object to be admired like his many paintings, and seen by many as being incapable of serious thought about anything. Robert Browning was married to successful woman poet Emily Elizabeth Barret Browning, who was more successful than Robert Browning during their lifetimes, indicating that Browning clearly thought women to be capable of more than just housework, unlike many other Victorian poets, most notably Coventry Patmore, who wrote 'The Angel in the House' which described the perfect Victorian wife whose job it was to please her husband - "but him to please/Is woman's pleasure". Both of the men in the poems might be so villainous you are not supposed to feel sorry for them, because they represent a larger problem in society rather than just individual stories. ...read more.

Conclusion

His convoluted syntax, which is empathised by the frequent use of enjambment, and attempts to be subtle show very effectively how hollow his life is, which is most clearly shown when he is addressing the envoy about a possible marriage between himself and the daughter of another noble towards the end of the poem The Count your master's know munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretence Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowed At starting, is my object and perhaps this is the main reason that some sympathy is felt towards him. Overall, although both characters commit terrible deeds however some sympathy remains towards them, although this might be partly because the stories are told from the men's point of view and we have to guess at the true events of each of the stories. Overall I feel that although both men are quite clearly villains, with Porphyria's love strangling Porphyria and appearing to feel no remorse at all, and the Duke sinisterly hinting at his was able to get rid of his last wife, it is impossible to feel no sympathy at all for them because they both have such hollow lives, in the case of the Duke, and would never have been able to achieve what they actually wanted - especially Porphyria's lover who, because of his lower social status would never be able to marry Porphyria perhaps leading to his all consuming jealousy that led him to commit the murder. ...read more.

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