Robert Browning: Poems

The Theme of Control in the Works of Robert Browning 12th Grade

In the Victorian era, women were deprived of rights and stripped of their sexuality. Submission defined women, while dominance defined men. This contrast is portrayed in the two most famous dramatic monologues of Robert Browning, “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria’s Lover.” Robert Browning uses dramatic monologue to exploit the obsessive, fanatical characteristics of two male speakers and to underline unspoken female sexuality in their partners. Desperate for dominance, the speakers of Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” and “Porphyria's Lover” take insane measures to control and “fix” their lovers.

The speaker in “My Last Duchess” is the Duke of Ferrara, who meets with an agent to arrange a new marriage. During the meeting, the Duke draws the curtain in front of a portrait of his former duchess. He confesses that she was “too soon made glad” and “too easily impressed” by insignificant occurrences, such as a gift of cherries from a servant or the setting of the sun. He claims she appreciated those gifts as much as his gift of “a nine-hundred year old name.” Envious and obsessive, the Duke feels out of control of his wife because he is not the sole provider of her happiness; additionally, she thinks, feels, and acts without his...

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