Compare & Contrast: “My Ex-Husband” & “My Last Duchess” Amy Baysinger
Both poems are similar in that they revolve around the theme of lost or unrequited love. The speakers, a man and a woman, are different in sexes but similar in their plights. Both are bitter, jealous, and seemingly unbothered by their losses (but their aloofness is also what gives away their feelings). Each speaker is having a conversation with an assumed good friend and explains the demise of their respecting relationships. Both hint at the idea of their partners’ flirting and infidelity as the breaking point. Sprea says “How slobbishly he carried on affairs” almost as if the speaker’s husband was so blatant about his cheating that he didn’t even try to hide it—an absolute insult to the ex-wife. Browning, however, is a little more subtle. “She thanked men,--good! But thanked somehow—I know not how.” Both spouses knew and tolerated it at first, but not in the end. I find it interesting how both speakers have such a nonchalant and, at least on the surface, indifferent view of their relationships. Understandably, the speakers try not to reveal their hurt feelings and egos but the reader can infer the pain in their words. “My Last Duchess” is, in my opinion, much more of a dominating man teaching a woman a lesson versus “My Ex-Husband,” which is a woman scorned. Both relationships ended badly but had a different path based on the speakers’ point of view. I find it interesting both poems start in a very similar way. “That’s my ex-husband pictured on the shelf” and “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall” echo the same sentiment. The respective relationships are going to badly and those left behind will undoubtedly have harsh feelings in the end.
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