Question : What is a dramatic monologue? Which of the two, in your opinion, is the stronger dramatic monologue in Tennyson’s “Ulysses” or Browning's “My Last Duchess”?
Answer : Traditionally dramatic monologue is a lyrical poem in the form of speech spoken by a single man. It is dramatic because it begins abruptly and in the development of its thought it takes several sudden turns which impart dramatic dimension to the poem. In a dramatic monologue the single speaker reveals his thoughts in the presence of a single silent listener or some silent listeners. The speaker is not necessarily the poet himself though the speaker often gives out the poet's belief and philosophy. The speaker's revelation, in fact, leads the readers to probe deep into the psycho-analytical or soul-dissecting. Therefore, a dramatic monologue is a kind of poem which comprises of lyrical strains, abrupt beginning, single speaker, silent listener or listeners, psychological analysis, clues to suggest the presence of the silent listeners and what they say or do. Robert Browning's “My Last Duchess” and “Andrea del Sarto”, Tennyson's “Ulysses” and “Tithonus” are famous dramatic monologues. A dramatic monologue usually begins abruptly somewhere at the middle of the event. He beginning of Ulysses is not so sudden and surprising. The opening lines seem to have a tone of introduction :
“It little profits that an idle king...”
It does not produce a surprising dramatic effect which is traditional for dramatic monologues. On the contrary, “My Last Duchess” begins with dramatic suddenness :
“That's my last Duchess painted on the wall.”
The readers understand that the event has begun earlier. But the poem begins somewhere in the middle of the speech giving a dramatic twist. A single person, Ulysses, speaks throughout the poem. It is understood that some of his old comrades are present around him. Ulysses encourages them in undertaking a new adventure. First, he tells them why he does not want...
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