My Last Duchess and Porphyria’s Lover

Robert Browning was a poet who wrote poems between the Victorian period concerned with attitudes towards men and women and the way they were treated. Robert was an English poet born in London in 1882-1889 noted for his mastery of dramatic monologue. In his best works people from the past reveal their thoughts and lives as if speaking or thinking aloud. Robert Browning wrote about things the people in them days thought to be morally wrong like sex and violence. Robert aimed to question his readers emotionally and also question the readers morality.

The poem ‘My Last Duchess’ was Published 1842 and the poem is based on the life of Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara in the sixteenth century. The Dukes first wife died after three years of marriage. The poem is written in the form of the Duke addressing another Count to negotiate marriage terms and he tells the Count how he wants her to behave. The poem is about a painting of the Dukes previous wife and how she behaves. Both of these poems where written in 1942 and they were about death. The poem ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ is about a man who lives in the countryside and is visited by his lover.

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Porphyria’s Lover’ is about a man in love with a woman and because the women doesn’t want to commit to their relationship he kills her, as he doesn’t want anybody else to have her. In ‘My last Duchess’ the speaker’s relationship to his ‘last duchess’ is that she is his previous wife as the word ‘last’ implies that she is dead. The speaker is looking at discussing the portrait of his wife and the way she behaves. The duke accuses his wife of flirting ‘her mantle laps over my lady’s wrist to much’ saying that she is flirting with Fra Pandolf.

The Dukes main complaint about his wife is that he feels she is showing inappropriate behaviour and that she lake pride in herself lowering herself talking to people in the lower ranks with less status. The Duke feels his wife is too easily made happy by attentions and complements. The writer says she is ‘too easily impressed; she liked whate’er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere’ suggesting that she is impressed with the treatment she is getting from the people in the lower ranks accepting things from people and talking to everyone.

The speaker is especially bitter about his wives conduct and the way in which she is acting. The speaker admits that even if his wife could have been convinced to behave differently he still wouldn’t have been happy so we learn that he is too proud to lower himself to tell her off. The Duke can’t believe the way he is being treated and he wants to be powerful and appreciated. The Duke doesn’t believe he should be treated this way ‘ this sort of trifling’ that shows the poor and careless treatment he thinks she is showing him.

This sinister twist implies that the Duke gave orders, which were acted upon by someone he knew or it could be thought that the Duke killed his own wife as he could no live with a woman like her. Until the end of the monologue it is unclear who and why he is speaking to about this painting on the wall. However we discover at the beginning of the poem that the Duke he is speaking to an envoy of another Counts, whose daughter he wishes to make his second wife, hoping that she is nothing like his first wife.

The Duke points out that he doesn’t want his second wife to behave on his first wife did. The speaker is addressing another count whose daughter he wishes to make his second wife. The Duke is telling the count that he doesn’t want her to be like his first wife ‘though his fair daughter’s self as I avowed at starting, is my object’ suggesting for her not to be like his first wife. The speaker’s character throughout the poem is a one of a powerful man who is proud. The duke knows what he wants and he demands respect.

The Duke also wants his wife to appreciate the high status and he has high expectations. The Duke had great admiration of the painting and is a big lover of art. The Duke likes the sense of power and feels people are scared of him ‘and seemed as they would ask me, if they durst’ implying that people are scared of him. The Duke is very quick on his judgement on his lady’s behaviour accusing her of flirting. The Duke wants his women to be sensible, respectful, have pride in themselves, be aware of her status and naturally no what is expected of them.

The Duke wants his women to be beautiful, have gratitude and appreciate his power and status. The Duke plans to marry a new lady and he wants her to portray all his expectations and not be like his last wife. The speakers personality comes across to be quite power with strong views and beliefs on women stating how he wants them to behave and how not to behave. The speaker lives in a cottage in the middle of nowhere waiting for his lover. The pathetic fallacy at the beginning of the poem gives the impact that something bad is going to happen later on in the poem.

The rain set early in tonight, the sullen wind soon awake. It tore the elm-tops down for spite’ The verb ‘glided’ is used at the beginning of the poem to describe Porphyria’s entrance, which straight the way implying she has beauty an there is graceful nature about her. Her beauty is so strong she has the ability to change the surroundings ‘she shut the cold out and the storm. ‘ When the speaker refuses to reply to her call as she enters the cottage she resorts to seduction ‘she put my arm around her waist, and made her smooth white shoulder bare. ‘

The descriptions of Porphyria’s charm are detailed and graphic, her beauty is spoken about and her seductiveness of her voice implies she is of a nature on its own. As the speaker has spoke of his commitment towards Porphyria’s, she chooses to discard this proposal, even though she is in love deeply live the speaker. The reason for the speaker to strangle Porphyria is for him to attain his Perfection and love for her, he seeks to stop time by her death. It feels as though he is scared of losing her to someone else, due to the pure beauty of her. ‘ Happy and proud; at last I knew Porphyria worshiped me. ‘

Repetition of ‘mine, mine’ is used to show the reader he is delusional in some way to perform such an act, especially to the one he claimed to of loved so dearly. ‘I warily opened her lids; again laughed the blue eyes without strain. ‘ This then makes the speaker feel no remorse for his actions in killing her, he believes he has done right ‘that all it scorned at once is fled, and I, its love, am gained instead. ‘ The delusional speaker believes that Porphyria is not saddened by her death as she is still smiling and looks alive as she ever did. Also he believes that she is happy with the reality that they will always be together now.

From the start of the poem you can tell that the speaker is some what delusional, the sense of grievance in the first half of the poem shows that even though he lovers her intensely, he still lacks trust in himself and therefore feels her love wont last. ‘ And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair, murmuring how she loved me. ‘ This over powering feeling leads him to kill her so the feeling remains forever. I think that the speaker seems to have mental problem as he thinks it was the right thing to do and this signifies there is some kind off mental problem with him an that he maybe mentally ill.

But it may just be saying that it he has never been in love and cant bare to loose her. This character shows a dark side of him and the way the tone changes shows the resemblance of another personality with his mental illness. In both poems Browning’s use of language really shows the characters attitudes in depth. It gives a mysterious feel about them, which then entices you to the monologue. I feel this is to add excitement to the poems. Due to the fact that in the Victorian times, the issues he addresses I both poems were morally wrong and gave you an insight it to something you had never read or experienced before.

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