Comparing My Last Duchess and Porphyria's Lover by Robert Browning
These poems by Robert Browning were written in the Victorian era. The
Victorians from the outlook seemed to live on high standards and
rules, but underneath they craved for scandal and gossip. Robert
Browning gave this to them through his poems. They were filled with
adultery, passion, sexual tension and murder.
'Porphyria's Lover' starts off with pathetic falacy which reflects the
narrators mood, he does this by using personification which also sets
the scene. "Sullen wind was soon awake," "Did it's worst to vex the
lake" Although outside the weather is described as being harsh and
fierce, Porphyria brings a comforting warmth to the house. "Made the
cheerless grate blaze up, and all the cottage warm."
The start of 'My Last Duchess' doesn't initially set the scene like in
'Porphyria's lover' but it introduces the main theme of the poem, the
Dukes last Duchess. "That's my last Duchess on the wall, looking as if
she were alive." This makes us feel for the Duke for the loss of his
wife. But as you read on you begin to see the true side of the Duke.
"Fra Pandolfs hands worked busily a day." This makes you feel that he
sees her as just another piece of artwork, a prize, a trophy, not as a
lover or a companion.
The man in 'Porphyria's lover' sees her as in control, "She put my arm
about her waist." He feels that she is just using him and that this
affair can not go on. But as you read on he realizes that this is not
just an affair, he has realized that Porphyria loves him. "Porphyria
worshiped me, surprise made my heart swell." He now becomes very
possessive over her, once he knows that she loves him in return "That
moment she was mine, mine, fair." We now begin to see the darker side
of him; he doesn't want to share her with anyone or any thing else. In
a moment of desperation he kills her. "In one long yellow string I
wound three times her little throat around and strangled her". Now no
one else can have her. He positions her as she was before only now he
is in control of her. " I propped her head up as before, only, this
time my shoulder bore her head. "He sits with her for the rest of the
night and has come to the conclusion that he has done the right thing.
"And all night long we have not stirred, and yet God has not said a
We learn about the Duke in 'My Last Duchess' by what he says and how
he says it. Through him, we also learn about his wife, the last
Duchess. We work out something of how their relationship stood, what