A Comparison of My Last Duchess and Ulysses

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Comparing My Last Duchess and Ulysses

Both of the poems, ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning and ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson, are examples of dramatic monologues, in that they solely consist of the speech of the protagonist. As a result, they have few or, in the case of ‘My Last Duchess’, only one stanza. Many enjambed lines and many irregularities in the basic form of iambic pentameter also hide the rhyming couplets in this poem. ‘My Last Duchess’ is set in Renaissance Italy and is the Duke of Ferrara talking to a servant of his prospective father-in-law, about a painting of his former wife. The narrator of ‘Ulysses’ is the man in the title, an Ancient Greek hero, talking about his loathing of his regal position and his wish to travel again before his impending death. Although they are both powerful men talking about their pasts, there are noticeable differences between the two poems, both in the protagonists themselves and the poetic devices used to present them. One of the clearest differences between Ferrara and Ulysses is the source of their power, and the kind of power that they wield. Ferrara’s power comes from his ‘nine-hundred-years-old-name’, that is, his position as the ruler of one of the many city states that make up the present-day nation of Italy. This was a position he was born into-not one which he earned. He obviously puts great value on his inherited status, as he refers to it as a ‘gift’ and objected when his wife did not consider it more precious than the gifts that other people gave to her. He considers himself to have been very generous by making her his Duchess, and he thinks that his wife should have ranked this generosity than that of others. He gives examples of other gifts which she thought of as equal in worth, such as:

‘The white mule

She rode with round the terrace’

‘The dropping of daylight in the west.'

The Duke does not think that such things, which are trivial to him, should bring her the same amount of joy as the presents he bestows on her. He is also mildly jealous of the way that other things can make his wife happy. He thinks that she should love him and him alone. This is particularly shown when he refers to someone else.

‘The bough of cherries some officious fool

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