Different Forms Of Power Presented In My Last Duchess, A Woman To Her Lover And La Belle Dame Sans Merci

2705 words - 11 pages

Different Forms of Power Presented in My Last Duchess, A Woman to Her Lover and La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Amongst the three love poems examined in this essay, the theme of male
or female power in relationships pervades throughout. The views of the
speakers are expressed and defined through literary and poetic
techniques. This gives the reader an insight into the speaker's
problems and dissatisfaction with a relationship, due to an imbalance
of power. However there are dissimilarities between the poems - for
example where in "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" the female displays
supernatural power and dominance over a knight, the Duke in "My Last
Duchess" desires psychological power over his Duchess.

The poem "My Last Duchess" is a dramatic monologue written by Robert
Browning and spoken by the Duke of Ferrara. In the poem he displays
his megalomaniac tendencies towards his late wife and his belief that
his title symbolises his power over her. We also learn that he doesn't
want his wife for love, but to be able to exhibit her and 'show her
off' and enforce psychological power over, which is shown when he says
"if she let / Herself be lessoned". This shows that he wants to mould
her into the wife that he wants.

The Duke calls her "My Last Duchess"; here the use of the possessive
pronoun indicates to the reader that he feels his wife belongs to him.
This implies that the Duke has an authoritative and almost overbearing
character as he thinks of his wife more as an object, which he owns,
rather than a person. The Duke proves his power even further by saying
"Notice Neptune, though, / Taming a sea horse". This could suggest
that the Duke is trying to relate himself to Neptune, the god of the
seas showing how he believes himself to be god-like. Also the Duke
believes himself to be above the level of common people saying he
would never "stoop" down to their level. From this we can presume the
Duke is afraid of losing his power, and would rather hold his head up
high and suffer for it rather than "stoop". The use of this word
indicates that the Duke is in a state of mind where he sees himself as
superior compared to others.

However as we read on we learn that the Duke had limited control over
his wife. He states that "She had a heart…to soon made glad", showing
that he felt she was amused easily and distracted away from him -
perhaps by other men. This is amplified further when he says "She
liked whate'er she looked on", showing he believes she undermined his
control over her and paid attention to other men . We can infer from
this that the Duke was disturbed about his deficit of restrain over
his wife and is deeply angered at how "she thanked men" other than

The Duke is outraged at the lack of affection he receives from his
Duchess, and provides the reader with reasons as to...

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