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‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning Essay Sample

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‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning Essay Sample

The two poems ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ and ‘My Last Duchess’ are both written by Robert Browning. Love is portrayed in different forms. ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ is about two lovers secretly meeting/having an affair. There are many different emotions being expressed such as; jealousy, obsession, vulnerable, love. Whereas ‘My last Duchess’ is about a married couple who aren’t in love, they are the duke and duchess. The emotions exposed in the poem are; jealousy, doubt, obsession, mistrustfulness. However there are also similarities between the two poems such as, both of the male characters (narrators) kill the female lover for their different yet personal reasons.

‘Porphyria’s lover’ is a narrative poem about an obsessive lover who kills to immortalise their love. ‘give herself to me forever’ this quote shows that porphyria wanted to give herself to him forever. Furthermore the quote is not a speech from her which means he thinks that she wants him to have her.

‘My Last Duchess’ is about a cruel, possessive man who grows jealous of his wife’s behaviour leading him to arrange her murder. ‘Then all smiles stopped together’ this implies on her death. Moreover it tells us that he arranged her death to stop her from smiling at everyone maybe due to jealousy.

Both poems are one sided dramatic monologues as well as a narrative as both poems reveal the inner thoughts of the narrator in different techniques. Both narrators tell the story to justify their situation. They are only poetic fantasies not the authors own belief. Porphyria’s Lover the ‘lover’ is telling the story in a present tense and the reader can also witness the murder of Porphyria. ‘all her hair, in one yellow string I wound three times her little throat around, and strangled her.’ The quote reveals the murder at present and also tells the audience how the ‘lover’ killed/immortalised Porphyria (strangles her with her hair.). However in ‘My Last Duchess’ the Duchess/his wife is already killed before the Duke starts to tell his story to another male guest. ‘That’s my last duchess painted on the wall, looking as she were alive’. This quote implies to the fact that the Duchess is already dead but he doesn’t reveal at start how she died.

We are only given the male characters point of view; neither of the poems gives the female view which shows a lower status for women. Both poems are in first person, shown by the use of ‘I’, as we only learn about the narrators personal feelings. We also learn that both narrators are possessive, powerful, obsessive and jealous at times. However in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ the lover is also psychotic as he kills her to preserve their love and in ‘My Last Duchess’ the duke is misogynist as he has no love for the Duchess only possession.

The use of long stanzas without any pauses builds tension for the reader, ‘porphyria’s lover’ leads to an unexpected ending as porphyria is killed. Whereas the ending in ‘my last duchess’ isn’t as shocking because the duchess is already dead. In ‘Porphyria’s lover’ the rhyme scheme is ABABB which shows that the narrator speaks very well; he is articulate which conveys the reader to believe him the complicated and sophisticated rhyme scheme can also relate to his psychosis. The only use of punctuation other than the use of full stop and comma is an exclamation mark, which is in the last line that expresses the lover hasn’t done the wrong thing by killing porphyria as ‘god has not said a word!’ the use of the exclamation mark indicates strong feelings or high volume. In ‘my last duchess’ the rhyme scheme is AABB which is less complicated in structure the narrator speaks in a more straightforward way causing the reader to sympathize and also covers the truth. There are several different punctuations used in the poem such as full stop, comma, colon, semi colon, exclamation mark, question mark and brackets. The use of brackets in line 36 ‘(which I have not)’is to set apart or interject text within other text maybe the duke says that line quietly.

The settings in both poems are very different as ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ is set in cottage which is unpleasant, cold and very bad weather outside. ‘the sullen wind was soon awake’ this extract from the poem describes the wind using personification(relating the wind to a human).the effect of personification is really good as you can imagine the wind. As soon as Porphyria walks in the weather is more pleasant and warmer. ‘she shut the cold…and made the cottage warm’ on the other hand ‘my last duchess’ is set in a dukes country estate where he kept a statue of Neptune to symbolize his tyranny and ego. ‘notice Neptune, though taming a sea horse’ the duke shows the statue to the male guest he was talking to and also mention ‘taming the horse’ maybe relating to the death of the duchess as he tried to tame her/teach her a lesson.

The relation in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ is that they are just lovers which gradually changes to jealousy and possession which leads him to kill as he didn’t believe that she loved him as much. The fact that he murdered her with her own hair reflects to his madness. Another reason why he killed her is because she belonged to somebody else and he wanted her to be his. ‘That moment she was mine, mine’ the repetition used in the quote is to reassure him that she is his and only his.

The relation in ‘My last Duchess’ is a couple, husband and wife, which was an arranged marriage. They share no love as it was a marriage of convenience. He assassinated her because he thought she was too appreciative ‘too easily impressed…she liked wate’er’ she was happy with life and had no regrets, she appreciated every little thing e.g. when someone gave her a gift ‘she thanked men…as if she ranked my gift of a nine hundred year old name with anybody’s gift’ the quote expresses that the royal name he gave to her, she cherished it the same as any other gift. He also thought that rather than telling her that he doesn’t like it she should learn it herself. ‘Herself be lessoned’ he believes that she should know what he wants and not.

Both of Robert Browning’s poems portray love in different ways. The type of love portrayed in the poems in ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ the emotions being expressed such as; jealousy, obsession, vulnerable, love. Whereas in ‘My Last Duchess’ the emotions exposed in the poem are; jealousy, doubt, obsession. I think that the poet was not successful in his approach as the emotions had to be figured and guessed. I think Robert Browning should’ve made the poem less of a puzzle. However the language used by the writer is effective in both poems as the justifications of the characters are more believable.

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