Robert Browning is one of the most celebrated poets of the Victorian
age. His two poems I am working from, "My Last Duchess" and
"Porphyria's Lover", are just samples of his eminent work. Browning
wrote a range of monologues when living in Italy with his wife,
Elizabeth Barret. Dramatic monologues are the basis of the essay. I
will discuss whether (or not) each poem "creates a character who
reveals himself in what he has to say".
My Last Duchess is a monologue spoken by the Duke. He talks about his
relationship with his recently deceased wife. Through the words of the
poem, he reveals the true demise of the Duchess and the reader is
shown the Duke's feelings and opinions of this woman. Porphyria's
Lover is also about the death of a woman. It involves a possessive
lover who wishes to enshrine a moment of love. Though his method is
everything but normal. Both poems are filled with rhyming couplets,
however with the technique of enjambment, they are almost
undetectable. This is a clever and subtle insinuation to the murderous
deed in hand.
I would first like to comment on the titles of both poems. My Last
Duchess can give many hints to what the poem regards. The word 'My'
can symbolise the Duke's wish to own the Duchess and using "My"
creates this image. "Last" may make the reader think that she is the
latest in a long line of wives, or that she is the last wife once and
for all. Porphyria's Lover is left unnamed. Using 'Duchess' the reader
can imagine that the male character is a Duke and therefore he has a
title and a label. The 'Lover' is anonymous; he has no name, but uses
'Porphyria' to describe himself. This makes him very powerful, without
a name or label; the 'Lover' has the power to be anything the writer
wishes him to be. It can also give him leeway to committing abnormal
Both poems share many similar qualities. In the case of themes of a
poem, they both have connotations of power, control, love, society,
possessiveness, and jealousy. As the poems are monologues, these
themes will come from the thoughts and feelings of the male character.
If we look at the two males of the poems, it is clear both yearn for a
branch of power and feeling of superiority over the lover.
The Duke wanted to obtain the supremacy he expected over his wife. The
Duke had expectations, from his position in society, that the Duchess
should obey him and show only love and gratitude towards him. Now she
is fossilised in a painting, he holds all the power and the Duchess is
completely reliant upon him. For example, when the Duke talks about
the curtain surrounding the painting, he says:
"(Since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)"
It is clear that the Duke is aware of the control he holds now. He is
the only person that can open the curtain. The veil...