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Analysis of Robert Browning Poetry

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  • Pages: 10
  • Word count: 2478
  • Category: Poetry

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“Dramatic Monologue usually presents a psychotic killer. However, despite the shock factor, we often feel sorry for the narrator”

A ‘dramatic monologue’ is a type of poem, favored by many poets in the Victorian period, in which a character in fiction or in history delivers a speech explaining his or her feelings, actions, or motives. A dramatic monologue, also known as a persona poem, is a poem with a speaker who is clearly separate from the poet, who speaks to an implied audience that, while silent, remains clearly present in the scene. A silent audience is implied; there is no dialogue; and the poet speaks through an assumed voice: a character, a fictional identity, or a persona.

Since a dramatic monologue is by definition one person’s speech, placing emphasis on certain qualities that are left to the audience to interpret themselves. The use of this lyrical poem can make the reader feel certain emotions for the narrator such as empathy or even anger. As a result, the reader becomes more closely involved in the poems and can feel very strong emotions for the individuals portrayed; this is because a lot of sentiment has gone into their speech. All the narrators in Browning’s Poems actions are caused by one thing-jealousy. The style of the dramatic monologue may even be an effort to turn poetry into many of the distinctive features of drama. When Browning wrote his monologues such as “My last Duchess”, “The Laboratory” and “Porphyria’s Lover, we had obvious connections to the narrators because the use of the context just suggested to us how much pain they were going through- it felt very personal. All of the poems always resulted in an emotionally stricken audience.

Victorians were quite introverted at that time, so if they suddenly realized people started to reveal their inner emotions, they were just so engrossed. The dramatic monologue was arguably a drug for the Victorians; widely regarded as the most significant poetic innovation of the age. It gained widespread use, after the 1830s, by an overwhelming amount of poets. These poems were like a fantasy that could never happen so it made people more open about it. There were some good outcomes and some bad. Their likely effects were maybe women having total dominancy over men, resulting in divorce or murder, more suspicion between couples and most of all observation over one another. On the other hand, people became more open to one another.

All poems were written in the Victorian Period, but they were all set in different places. In “My Last Duchess,” the poem is set in the late Italian Renaissance period in the 16th century. “The Laboratory” is set in France during “Ancien Regime”; it was the time before the French revolution. The last poem we learnt about is “Porphyria’s Lover”. This poem was set in romantic era. During all these times all three poems were set in, it was a patriarchal society. Patriarchal society was a time where men were inferior and more important for being responsible for the welfare and authority over their family meaning women were less important and more closed-in and had to obey what their husbands or fathers said to them. It was a patriarchal society in the Victorian times as well as when the poems were set in.

The narrators in all three poems have clearly defined characters. They have all been possessed by the fact that they could not/will not have their lovers for eternity, motivating them into murder. Both, in “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover”, have similarities because they are both narrated from a male lover’s point of view. Whereas, in “The Laboratory” the narrator is female, this instantly gives us a totally opposite point of view.

The narrator in “My last Duchess” is very dominant, which brings us back to my point that it was a patriarchal society. This is evident when he says “I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together.” His use of short sentences suggests that even if his commands were simple, they were still complied with. Additionally, the use of enjambment and the use of caesura show how it was a sudden and quick response that the commands were obeyed. This just proves to the reader how spoilt and how demanding the Duke was. Similarly, in “Porphyria’s Lover”, the narrator is dominant. At the beginning of the poem however his lover is very dominant in terms of activeness, while he silently reflects on himself. This is when he says “At last, she sat down by my side and called me.

When no voice replied, she put my arm about her waist” At this moment speaking is something he cannot or is not willing to do because his mind is preoccupied with what he is about to do. The use of sudden punctuation shows how she was trying to grab his attention- although this was not working, she still continued to flirt. This is shown when his lover does this “she made her smooth, white shoulder bare, and her yellow hair displaced, and stooping, made my cheek lie there, and spread o’er her yellow hair” Browning’s use of Anaphora, suggests that her activeness and dominancy began to increase very quickly in the course of the evening. The use of list also shows how monotonous the session is, but he is still not active. Instantly, following this quote the whole situation turns around; he becomes the more dominant one. “I found a thing to do, and all her hair In one long yellow string I wound, three times her little throat around, and strangled her” After this, it is shocking the way he suddenly develops into a murderer; when at the beginning he seems calm and composed. The fact that he just “found” a thing to do attests to the spontaneity of the act, which ended his debate.

The rhyming couplets “wound” and “around” also suggest that he was not strangling her aggressively. The light “ound” sounds just gives a notion that his lover was dying a peaceful death- but that was only through his eyes. The outcome corroborates the fact that the taking of Porphyria’s life was not done with hate, anger or revenge in mind. “No pain felt she; I am quite sure she felt no pain.” The speaker has convinced himself that she felt no pain; it was a rationalization that he so deeply loved the woman he just killed that he could not possibly admit to her having suffered. This paradoxical desire went too far. Although one narrator is deluded, the other is audacious. In “The Laboratory” , the narrator is a woman speaking in a remarkably enthusiastic tone to the apothecary who is in process of making a potion to murder her husband’s other lover.

Creating an image of the laboratory the right from the opening two lines the poet gets us intrigued. We can almost picture ourselves there, as the speaker refers to what they are doing as devils work but it does not stop her, it entices her even more “Now that I, tying thy glass mask tightly, May gaze thro’ these faint smokes curling whitely” By referring to the smoke as curling whitely, shows us that she feels very daring and sly, as she is giving the smoke animalistic qualities. Because she is also referring to the smoke as “white”, it could represent her sole purity eating away the sinful lovers. We can tell that she is angry with her husband and his lover in this next line “He is with her, and they know that I know where they are, what they do” She only refers to the other couple as ‘he’ and ‘she’ as they remain nameless, as they have done something that does not deserve to be given a name.

All three narrators commit their murder attempt to take control, but this was not the only reason, the second side was possessiveness. In “My Last duchess”, the narrator is very domineering. This is shown when he repeatedly talks about women beings his so called “possessions”, “his fair daughters self. As I avowed at starting, is my object” The use of the word “object” instantly signifies that he wanted total ownership over women. His perspectives of women are mainly things of pleasure, because he refers to it as “my” which shows us that the Duke believes he owns his duchess and that she has always belonged to him. In addition, the fact that he has objectified her thorough the painting hanging on the wall shows how much he views her as one of his possessions. This is a very deluded point of view, as women were thought of as gifts of beauty not collectibles. He is also very matter of fact as he talks about her being “his” object then moves onto a subject that has nothing to do with love. “Nay, well go together down…” His use of the word “Nay” signifies that he has no remorse over his wife’s death-which brings me back to the point about his possessiveness.

Seeing as he perceives woman as objects, then losing one would be like losing a toy, meaning nothing. It would just mean that women are replaceable. Similarly, in “Porphyria’s Lover”, the narrator sees his lover as something that lasts forever- an object. “From pride, and vainer ties deserver, and give herself to me for ever.” The use of the phrase “give her to me for ever” gives us an idea about the way he perceives women. By objectifying her, saying that she would “give herself” means that he would own her, furthermore, the use of “for ever” shows how much he deeply loves her and wants her for eternity. In Contrast to the speaker in “The Laboratory” , doesn’t appear possessive. She is relatively obsessive with the fact that her she has a rival, and is making a potion for murder. “But to light a pastille, and Elise, with her head, and her breast and her arms and her hands, should drop dead!” By repeating the parts of her body, which were possibly touched by her husband, show that this shows us that the woman in question may have psychological or emotional weakness, which may be the reason why she cannot keep a man.

In “The Laboratory” the speaker appears to traumatised by the fact that her lover and her husband are together, the quote “While they laugh, laugh at me” shows us, the speaker, believes the new couple to be laughing at her misfortune. The use of repetition shows that she is really emotional about it. In contrast to the speaker in “Porphyria’s Lover” , Browning gives the reader dramatic insight into the twisted mind of an abnormally possessive lover, who wishes the moment of love to last forever. In this poem, the narrator strangles his lover then straight after she is dead- he kisses her” Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss” , this is an action of somewhat a madman. The use of repetition in this phrases gives a sense of passion and peacefulness. He is still treating her as if she were alive.

All three poems have motives for committing these crimes but the main one is jealousy. In “The Last Duchess”, the duke ordered the duchess to be killed because he was jealous. She treated every man the way she treated him and that was a sin for him. He was so egotistical; he thought that he was something that needed bowing to. ” I know not how-as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred years old name with anybody’s gift” He is really frustrated that she did not rank him as high as he thought. The use of parenthesis shows that he was stuttering to think that it was not true- but it was. After giving orders, he doesn’t feel repentant and doesn’t give it a thought about what he’s doing.

This also links back to patriarchal society; it shows that women couldn’t back themselves or give any excuses to save themselves. After her death, he’s already found another woman to marry, this shows that it’s not enough for him and wants to control something. : “Though his fair daughter’s self…at, starting, is my object” In “The Laboratory”, the women is also not feeling remorseful, in fact, she is excited and raring to go use this poison quick. This makes her look very psychotic, as she is extremely content that she is murdering someone, which is very mad. This shows that she is jealous because her husband is with another woman and wants to get rid of her. In “Porphyria’s Lover”, he killed Porphyria so that he could be with her forever and ever because he loves her so much.. He believes that he is justified in killing her because God hasn’t said anything. :”And yet God has not said a word!” The last line gives us the speaker’s perception that the propriety of the act of killing Porphyria was such a right thing to do that “God has not said a word! The word “God” has been touted by many as a means to attach some religious significant to the poem, which I suggest is not at all the case. The “God” referred to is that of a rhetorical God to emphasize that what the speaker had to do was so morally correct that a God of any sort from any religious denomination would not be critical.

In conclusion, all 3 poems are all to do with jealousy and envy. They all commit a crime and have no regrets. Browning used dramatic monologues to explore these three characters because it was talking from a killer’s perspective and it helps us understand better as it was in the first person. I believe that it has more emotion and personal touch to it when it is first person ,because the narrators give details about incidents in depth. It was very powerful, especially the way when there was a sudden change in the atmosphere, which was very dramatic. It doesn’t make us like them but it makes us feel sorry for them since they are all jealous. We all feel that all the time and we want to do something about it, but the way these narrators solve was just psychotic. All 3 narrators are jealous of love, jealous of their lovers being with another person and it makes us feel sorry for them because they are isolated or doesn’t want to be isolated. I quite like “The Laboratory”, because it’s coming from a women’s point of view and this women is determined to get revenge and do something about it. It makes me more confident and should do something about something that I am angry about.

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