Examine at least three pre-1914 peoms from ‘Best words’ and show how they reflect earlier attitudes towards women and relationships.
Robert Browining, a great Victorian poet, wrote two pre-1940 poems, ‘My last Duchess’ and ‘Prophyrias lover’, they are both examples of domineering me or individuals who end up killing their former lovers. The main theme which the poems are centred around is madness. ‘The Ballad’ on the other hand has an unknown poet, this could be as a result of it being passed down from one generation to another. All the three poems deal with the distorted image and status of women, and how this had an impact on their relationships and the in way in which they were treated.
I will now analyse these three poems, to see the way In which they get this message, enabling me to answer the purposed above.
‘My last Duchess’
In this poem the narrator talks to a silent listener about a dramatic event or experience. The dramatic monologue is a way to delve deep into the narrators thoughts, and she the way they change. ‘My last duchess’ commences with the narrator revealing his thoughts while he draws a curtain to produce a portrait of his wife, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”, this indicated that the painting is a Fresco. “I call her a piece of wonder, now”, this suggests that he liked her this way-existing only in the painting- as the portrait only projects her beautiful side and doesn’t include any of her annoying habits. He was up of his wife as she devoted all her time to other matters and men. The duke implies that his wife was flirtatious and had several affairs, “I gave commands/then all of her smiles stopped together”. In the poem we a transition in themes, first the duke introduced the portrait of his wife which symbolizes his possessive and controlling nature as he shows that he is now taken over what remains of the duchess. Then suddenly madness takes over in both of its senses; Anger and paranoia. The reader can feel a raise in tone, where he mentions “She thanked me-good! But thanked somehow-I know not how…” The use of exclamation marks mark exactly where he might of raised his tone out of anger, the he also starts to reveal his jealous, questioning nature- trying to figure out she thanked the men?. Maybe this was the very same question that made him wonder if she was unfaithful to him. After that he goes on to explain how he put an end to all this when he killed her, after the situation was aggravated with her incessant affairs “This grew, I gave commands and all smiles stopped…” After that he confidently mentions how he is going to get married to another women. He also refers to her as an object magnifying his condescending haughty nature, “At starting, i-my object…” The poem ends by him saying “ Notice Neptune though…Taming a seahorse”, showing how he still possess his arrogance because he refers to himself as Neptune- who was the God of the sea in Roman mythology- and his wives as the seahorses, who must be tamed.
Prophyrias lover is a dramatic monologue as well, just like “ My last duchess”, it shares madness as its theme. The narrator is anonymous and the incident he tells us of is in a form of a story that seems to be replayed in his mind. Tension builds up in the poem gradually revealing to the reader what has take place. Much about what we learn about Prophyrais lover doesn’t come from what he say’s but what he doesn’t, as the reader is able to infer it from his words. Both the poems “My last duchess” and “Prophyrias lover” the men expose how they wanted to kill their former loves in order to possess them. Prophyrais lover killed his lover because he wanted her love for him to live on unchanged and remain in the same state forever. It is as is he wanted to end everything there and get a hold of that moment somehow, so that particular scene where she devoted herself eternally to him will be true because she won’t have another chance or opportunity, an...
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