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These two poems are both about love and a relationship; however they
are not the type that ends happily ever after. They both represent a
man's love for a woman and reveal faults they have in their
relationships. As in all dramatic monologues the personality of the
narrator is revealed through what he says, the words he uses and his
point of view about events. For instance, in 'My Last Duchess' we see
an example of a man with too much pride from his line 'I choose to
never stoop'. We then see possesiveness and insecurity in 'Porphyria's
Lover' when the protagonist strangles his love because he wanted her
to 'give herself' to him 'for ever'.
In both poems setting is very important in revealing character. The
scene is set in Porphyria's Lover at the beginning with
personification, saying that the wind 'did its worst to vex the lake'.
It also states 'the sullen wind was soon awake' to give a feel of
mystery. These features also seem to represent the character's
feelings towards his love as he is moody, stubborn and unenthusiastic
when she comes in as well as deep in thought. He is 'sullen' as when
she 'called' him 'no voice replied'.
The other poem shows character even in the title 'My Last Duchess'
with its possessive pronoun 'my'. From the repeated use of possessive
pronouns 'my' and 'mine' the reader soon realizes how controlling the
Duke is 'That's my last duchess painted on the wall'. Even though both
the women in the poems loved and cared for both men, they still wound
In 'Porphyria's Lover' we find the character is also possessive and
anxious about his lover when he states that she has 'vainer ties'.
Indicating possibly she is already married or committed in another
The way the men decide to solve the problems within the relationships
seems to lead to the murder of the women with either 'I strangled her'
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We see immediately what sort of a character Duke is from his
intriguing attitude towards the picture while he explains about his
'Last Duchess'. He seems to present her as 'just another object in the
room' as we have already seen with his possessive pronouns however he
describes her in great detail and depth. 'Her mantle laps' and the
'Half-flush' that dies along her throat' shows his surprising
attention to her, of course it seems to be her physical beauty he has
observed rather than her inner person.
Porphyria's Lover's main character seems to unravel more steadily,
beginning with the weather characteristics which have already been
stated and moving on to describing Porphyria earlier rather than
revealing details about her lover. There are many sensual and rich
descriptions about her including ''Her smooth white shoulder' and 'her
yellow hair displaced' which shows how attractive Porphyria is and
helping the reader to see how the lover is jealous of her life when
away from him.
Through the words in 'My last Duchess' we can tell that the female is
a warm and passionate character with his affectionate vocabulary to
explain her features before his absent minded murder. 'The white mule
she rode with round the terrace' really increases the effect of her
joyous status though the Duke does not seem to be thoroughly aware of
her magnificent character.
In 'Porphyria's Lover' we know that Porphyria is almost presented as a
goddess who lights up the cottage with her presence from the words
such as 'glided' and 'blaze up' and phrases like 'She shut out the
cold and storm'. It made me realize that the storm was not in the main
character's mind which was what I thought at first, and that it was
actually metaphorically speaking of the great problems with his
relationship. In 'My Last Duchess' the female's qualities are mostly
observed and appreciated but the death this time is due to the main
character's paranoia, mistrust and obsession.
To conclude my thoughts on these dramatic monologues I had a think to
myself what my opinions were on both of the main characters. At first
I thought 'Porphyria's Lover' had some interesting and truthful points
about his desire but then the abrupt change in the poem once he had
strangled her put doubt in my mind as to whether he knew what he was
doing or if he had done the right thing. His obsession was so great
that he could not take the fact Porphyria may have had 'vainer ties'
when perhaps she did not have any at all. He did not want to face
losing her in any way and was deep in thought until he found what he
thought was the only solution.
I thought 'My Last Duchess's' main character was far more critical of
the woman and had found an irritating factor about her which he used
as an excuse to kill the poor Duchess. He had had more wives before
that as obviously stated in the title and I began to wonder whether he
was just using them to create a better appearance for himself and
wondered what had happened to the others. I also found it a shame he
had wasted a life he seemed to know so little about. It was as if he
just thought about her as a beautiful possession like the other works
of art in his home.