Jealousy in Three Dramatic Monologues by Browning
The poems 'My Last Duchess', 'Porphyria's Lover' and 'The Laboratory'
are three dramatic monologues, theatrical tales of bitter jealousy
told by anonymous, murderous lovers.
'My Last Duchess' and 'Porphyria's Lover' use the simple idea of cruel
male domination to portray the narrator's jealousy, as these two men
do not know any other way of controlling their seemingly flirtatious
lovers' behaviour. They try to completely possess their women as
objects, and such a need for power seems to be a pure statement of
The following quotations show this idea clearly and, although the
later is not direct to the murder of his lover, it is plain that the
narrator is cruel, objective possessiveness.
"I propped her head up as before."
This quotation clearly shows that Porphyria's lover did not seem to
understand the full consequence of murdering this woman, an idea which
is also quite apparent in my last duchess, as the Duke certainly
appears to brag about his wife's flirtatious behaviour, and it
stopping. Returning to the idea of cruel male domination, though, this
is obviously apparent in 'My Last Duchess' when the Duke suddenly
proclaims the following;
"Notice Neptune, though, taming a sea-horse."
I would argue that Neptune is representative of the Duke, 'taming'
though I would suggest imprisoning, brutally dominating a beauty of
nature, which is representative of the Duchess, whom the Duke
violently 'tamed' also.
This idea is not so apparent in 'The Laboratory' because the narrator
is female. We do, however, see her plotting the murder of her
adulterous husband, so in a way is trying to 'tame' him too. Cruel,
male domination is therefore replaced by a vindictive female, plotting
murder. This is clearly portrayed through the following quotation;
"Which is the poison to poison her, prithee?"
I would also suggest, due to this quotation, that 'The Laboratory' is
quite different from the other two poems for one main reason. Of
course, we have a woman murderer instead of male, but the point I
think is important is that the murder is, in this case, plotted. In
the other two poems, I could suggest that the murders were more like a
'crime of passion', on the spot, caused by jealousy making the men
irrational. However, in this poem, we see the woman bitterly plotting
murder, and she is clearly enjoying the idea of the woman dying before
her husbands' eyes. In my opinion, this gives off some very strong
ideas on how Browning felt towards women and men in that all of the
women in each of these poems were wicked in one way or another, either
being too flirtatious, adulterous, or indeed, murderous.
I believe, however, that each of the three narrators are extremely
arrogant, trusting that their control and domination will actually
change the behaviour of their lovers, and this idea is clearly
portrayed in all three of the poems.