Compare/Contrast of My Last Duchess and Porphyria's Lover

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My Last Duchess and Porphyria’s Lover
Robert Browning wrote the two poems, Porphyria’s Lover and My Last Duchess. In each poem, the speakers seem mentally disturbed. Also, both speakers had relationships with "strong" women who, despite apparently loving them, they each ended up killing. Strangely enough, both men seem to be much happier after they have committed these murders. The murders in these poems deal with power based on gender. The females have the power and the men do not. The men feel threatened by this, so in order to feel better about themselves they kill their lover. The power switches from the women to the men, and murder is the tool used to do this. At the beginning of each poem, the men originally do not have power. One way that this is demonstrated is the author’s choice to make the men insane. In Porphyria’s Lover, the man is paranoid. He describes the storm that is going on around him in the same manner that someone would describe a person, “The sullen wind was soon awake/It tore the elm-tops down for spite/And did its worst to vex the lake” (Porphyria 2-4), which makes him seem suspicious. The reader also realizes that while there is this storm going on, the man is sitting alone in his cottage in the dark without any heat. This is clearly abnormal behavior. The murder of his lover is also quite abnormal. Finally, the way that the man plays with the corpse of his lover is strange and disturbing, which adds to his already psychotic character. The man in Porphyria’s Lover also lacks power because he is of a lower social status than the woman. It is stated that the woman attended a feast, and the reader can conclude that the man was not invited to this feast. Also the man lives in a small cottage. The men are not powerful in the beginning, so it is the women who hold this role. In Porphyria’s Lover, when Porphyria enters the house, she immediately takes control: “She shut the cold out and the storm/And kneel’d and made the cheerless grate/Blaze up, and all the cottage warm” (Porphyria 7-9). Before she even speaks, she restores order and puts everything in its place. After she does this, she lets down her hair, another symbol of power. In fact, this representation of power is what the man uses to kill her. He takes her power and uses it to destroy her. After she lets down her hair, she sits down, puts her arm around the man, and places his cheek on her shoulder. She is performing all the actions here, while the man is being completely still. She is moving the man around, manipulating him. The woman’s power is also seen in her decision to attend the feast rather than be with her lover. This asserts a sort of dominance in the relationship. The power switches when the man decided to kill the woman. After Porphyria’s lover strangles Porphyria, he instantly becomes in control. He is now the one who is manipulating her body. He also believes that his actions are completely justified, since he says that God has not objected to his crime: “And all night long we have not stirred/And yet God has not said a word!” (Porphyria 59-60). Not only does he have power, but he also has God’s approval. Contrarily, in My Last Duchess, the craziness of the main character is a bit subtler. Although the Duke also is very suspicious and commits murder, his tone and the way that he describes it is the most interesting. The way that he reveals himself to both the reader and to the servant of the count, his use of modesty, and the way that he contradicts himself is very strange. It is as if the Duke is not able to control what he says and does. He also seems to have a problem with the way that his wife acted, even though her actions seem normal to the reader. What seems to be naivety, playfulness, and joy are interpreted by the Duke as promiscuity, inappropriateness, and rudeness. In My Last Duchess, the Duke, on the other hand, is of a high social class, but the way that he keeps emphasizing his power makes him seem, ironically,...
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