Comparison Of My Last Duchess And Porphyria's Lover; Browning Chs Essay

967 words - 4 pages

Robert Browning’s poetry enhances the reader’s understanding of human nature through exploring themes which are accessible to almost everyone. Through his poetry, he provides voices to speakers from different perspectives and pushes these ideas to their extreme conclusions, serving to show how even the most natural emotions can become ugly and twisted if magnified to their extremes. His poems My Last Duchess and Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister explore the timeless idea of jealousy while My Last Duchess and Porphyria’s Lover seek to explore the power of men over women.
My Last Duchess uses the speaker’s reflections on his now-deceased wife to show how far jealousy can go. The speaker tells his audience about how “[his] Last Duchess” did not accord him the special behaviour he felt he deserved as a result of being her husband, eventuating her death. It begins with the speaker noting how more than simply “[his] presence” called a “spot of joy” into her cheek. Using “spot”, a word which connotes a stain, to refer to what was most likely a blush, reveals how this displeased him. The speaker goes on to reveal that she was “too soon made glad”. Her joy at something as ordinary as the sunset was equal to her gratitude at the speaker’s grand “gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name”. The speaker sees himself as having an elevated status and chooses not to “stoop” to her level to confront her about her distasteful behaviour, instead letting her behaviour continue – up until he grew so displeased with her behaviour that he commanded for “all smiles [to stop] together” with her death. Browning’s poem thus showcases the twisted nature of possessive jealousy, something still relevant in modern times.
Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister is also an exploration of jealousy, yet different in that the jealousy comes not from possessiveness but from insecurity. The speaker is a monk at a Spanish cloister and the poem is nine stanzas of his loathing for his fellow brother, Brother Lawrence. His resentment is apparent from the first stanza, where he notes that his hate is strong enough to “kill” the other. This hate drives him to say things which should be unthinkable for someone in his position, such as “Hell dry up [Brother Lawrence] up with its flames”. His insecurity is most evident in the fourth stanza when he compares Brother Lawrence to a lustful pirate for his “dead eye [glowing]” in response to “brown Dolores”. This, however, reveals the speaker’s hypocrisy as he would have had to be observing her just as closely to know of this happening. His jealousy leads to spite, when he is unsurprised at Brother Lawrence’s flowers being destroyed due to the speaker being the one to “keep them close-nipped on the sly”. His actions become less and less saintly as the poem progresses, culminating in him mentioning that he would go as far as...

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