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Porphyria’s Lover And My Last Duchess

1813 words - 7 pages

The two poems that I am comparing are Porphyria’s Lover and My Last Duchess,
both early nineteenth century dramatic monologues by Robert Browning.

Compare the three dramatic monologues you have studied on the way in
which the characters reveal their true nature through what they say.

The two poems that I am comparing are Porphyria’s Lover and My Last
Duchess, both early nineteenth century dramatic monologues by Robert
Browning. A dramatic monologue is a poem in which only one person
speaks, but the presence of another person is usually felt. The
narrator reveals a great deal about himself without any apparent
intention of doing so. In both of these dramatic monologues, it
appears that the speaker has murdered their mistress and is reflecting
upon their actions while contemplating the image of their lover’s
beautiful face. Both are selfish men who were jealous of their
victims. The two speakers came from very different backgrounds, one a
rich and powerful Duke, the other a low-born worker living in rural
simplicity.

Porphyria’s Lover is a love story told in the words of a simple man
obsessed by his love for a woman of noble birth. The first five lines
describe the weather on a miserable, wet evening. This is Browning’s
use of pathetic fallacy, giving the works of nature human feelings –
the feelings of the speaker.
======================================================================

“The sullen wind was soon awake,

It tore the elm tops down for spite,

And its worse to vex the lake:”

The speaker is longing for his lover and feeling miserable but then
she arrives. The whole mood changes from darkness and cold, to warmth
and light. His mood change is shown by “she shut the cold out”, both
in the cottage and his mind. The class difference between Porphyria
and her lover is indicated by the description of her wet clothing,
“soiled gloves” show she was a fine lady. He does not speak to her
and she seems to make the first moves,

“She put my arm about her waist,

And made her smooth, white shoulder bare,”

Her actions are provocative and overtly sexual; she is dominant,
controlling the action, while he passively allows her to position his
head and body. She tells him how much she loves him and how she has
left the “gay feast” at her home, and come to him “through wind and
rain” – a symbol for the difficulty in moving from one social class to
another, because she could feel his need for her:

“A sudden thought of one so pale

For Love of her, and all in vain:”

Suddenly the speaker realises that Porphyria really does love him, he
is ecstatic, full of pride and joy. However he realises that she is
only his for that short time, she will have to return to her own class
and he will be without her again. He cannot bear this thought.
Earlier in the monologue he has referred to Porphyria’s weakness,

“Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,

To set its struggling passion free

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