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Sydney Vaughn
Dr. Butler
ENG 234
5 February 2013
Power of Men
Robert Browning was an English poet during the Victorian era known for poems that are dramatic and dark monologues. Victorian poetry is classified poetry written in England during the time of Queen Victoria. It followed the Romantic movement, and is marked by darker qualities and subjects. Victorian Poetry, however, is much harsher and realistic. “Victorian poetry marks society's progression from the carefree notions of Romanticism to a state of social awareness and reform” (What is Victorian Poetry). Dramatic monologues were very popular in the Victorian era. “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover” are two of Browning’s dramatic monologues and they both focus on the passion a man has for a women, and they both end in the murder of this woman. Both men appear to have madness in their passion for their lovers but the reasoning behind the passion and for reason for the murder is what sets these two apart. The speaker in “My Last Duchess” uses a cold and dismissive tone. “Porphyria’s Lover” uses a matter of fact tone but it combines it with an erotic and bizarre tone (A comparison).

In “My Last Duchess” Browning suggested the Duke’s passion may not stem from love but more from the jealousy and a sense of ownership. The Duchess was astonishingly beautiful and wasn’t very faithful as in line, “Sir, 'twas not Her husband's presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess' cheek”. The reader can tell the Duke didn’t like that he wasn’t special to her when Browning said, “Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, whene’er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile?” He is jealous of these other men and can’t understand why his name and money isn’t enough. Browning doesn’t come out and say it be he insinuates that the Duke had it arranged for her to be killed in the line “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together.” The speaker of the poem exhibits an arrogance rooted in an audacious sense of male superiority. In simpler terms: he is stuck on himself. But to understand the deadliness of the Duke's powerhouse combo of narcissism and misogyny, the reader must delve deeply into this dramatic monologue, paying close attention to both what is said as well as unsaid.

“Porphyria’s Lover” also focuses on passion and murder. The way that Robert Browning wrote this it has an opposite tone from his poem “My Last Duchess”. The man lived in a cottage and seemed to be separate from the world. The man seems like he has already had a heart-break from the line “I listened with heart fit to break”. The mood is very dark at first from his description of the night and then comes this beautiful and flawless woman into his house. He is astonished by how someone so perfect could love someone like him. The woman sat down beside the man and left her shoulder bare for him to lay on. The man realized how much the woman loved him and worshiped him. Thinking of how perfect things were at that moment, Robert said, “That moment she was mine, mine, fair, Perfectly pure and good”. The man didn’t want to lose how perfect she was in that moment. He gently wrapped the woman’s hair around her neck three times and strangled her. Asymmetrical rhyming pattern suggest a complex madness concealed beneath the speaker’s outwardly calm manner and reasonable tone.

The difference in the tones of these two poems is that “My Last Duchess” was written more as the Duke killed his wife because of his jealousy and of her being unfaithful towards him and he doesn’t appear worried when he tells his listener of having her killed. The Duke must not have loved the Duchess enough considering he is already having another marriage arranged. While “Porphyria’s Lover” is written as the man didn’t want something to occur and ruin the love she had for him. He knew his actions were wrong and he was waiting to be punished by God when Browning writes, “And yet God has not said a word!”...
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