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Saturday, July 30, 2011

Compare and Contrast Essay on “My Last Duchess” and “In Westminster Abbey”

A dramatic monologue refers to a kind of poem in which a single fictional or historical character other than the poet is made to speak to a silent audience. In dramatic monologues only the main character is allowed to speak. The objective of the monologue is to reveal not the poet’s own thoughts but the mind of the lead character of the poem. (Christopher Baldick 1) In the process, the poet reveals to the audience the main character’s personality. Moreover, in a dramatic monologue the main focus is the personal information not the topic which the speaker happens to be talking about.

My Last Duchess
The two poems to be discussed in this essay are typical examples of a dramatic monologue. The setting of “My Last Duchess”, a poem by Robert Browning, is the palace of Duke of Ferrara during the 16th Century. Ferrara is in the northern Italy. The Duke of Ferrara in “My Last Duchess” resembles a historical character who was Alfonso II, the fifth and last duke. Meanwhile the deceased duchess in his poem refers to Lucrezia de Medici, the daughter of a Duke of Florence and Grand Duke of Tuscany.

As is common in many other dramatic monologues, “My Last Duchess” offers a glimpse of the personality of the Duke of Ferrara. The first line alone reveals that he is an art lover. In the first three lines, “That's my last duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder.” The portrait of the late Duchess of Ferrara is a fresco, which is a type of work painted in watercolors directly on a plaster wall. His statement about calling that piece a wonder emphasizes that he has in his possession many other paintings. It gives the impression that the painting of the Duchess is the one painting that is more valuable than the other.

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The second character trait of the Duke of Ferrara as shown in this poem is that he is a jealous husband. The following lines are relevant, to wit: “She had A heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad, Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (lines 21 to 30) In this line, the Duke of Ferrara shows that he is a jealous husband who demanded no less than the complete attention of his wife. He gets annoyed with his wife every time he sees her pleased with things other than him. He did not want her to be happy with other things but only with him. The Duke wanted his wife to make him happy. He wanted his wife to focus her complete attention on him every time they are together. He hated it when his wife is distracted by other things when they are together.

The Duke of Ferrara’s jealousy was even highlighted when he intimated that the Duchess had an affair with other men. The following lines are relevant, “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile?” By this the Duke of Ferrara implied that the Duchess smiled at men. He meant that the Duchess flirted with other man. He even suggested here that the Duchess did more than flirt with some man. He did not however elaborate how he came to know of this fact or whether he has proof of his allegation.

The third character trait of the Duke of Ferrara as shown in this poem is that he is an autocratic and cruel ruler. The following lines are relevant, “This grew; I gave commands; I gave Then all smiles stopped together.” In this line, the Duke of Ferrara nonchalantly reveals that he may have been responsible for the death of the Duchess. He stated without any hint of remorse or pity that when the flirtation did not stop, the Duke of Ferrara did something to her so that the flirtation will stop. This reveals the cruel side of the Duke of Ferrara that he can cause the immediate execution of any person in his kingdom without showing any kind of emotion. He has the power to give the orders and his orders will be obeyed.

In Westminster Abbey
“In Westminster Abbey” is another dramatic monologue. It is a poem by John Betjeman. The setting for this poem is the beginning of World War II in Britain. The only character in this poem is a woman who enters the Abbey to pray for a short moment before she goes to a lunch date. The woman was not named but she appears to represent the people who belong to the upper class and lived in the classy Chelsea neighborhood of Cadogan Square.

The first character trait of this woman that was revealed is that she is a racist woman. This is apparent in this line, “Gracious Lord, oh bomb the Germans.” The setting for this poem was in Great Britain during the start of the World War II, the time when Germany joined forces with Italy and Japan to wage against the Allied forces of the United States and Great Britain. At this time, Germany had started to launch its attack by dropping bombs against Great Britain. In order to afford protection, the main character entered the church and asked that she be spared and that the Germans should be bombed instead. She asked the Lord to use His power to protect them and instead annihilate the Germans.

The second character trait of this woman that was revealed is that she is a hypocrite woman. Her hypocrisy is evident in the following lines, “I will labour for Thy Kingdom, Help our lads to win the war.” In these lines, the main character showed her hypocrisy by promising that she will obey the Church’s commandments and do something for the Church. She even stated at the start of the poem that she was willing to remover her glove commonly worn by women of her social stature and to clean the Abbey. However, she expected that she will get something in exchange for her promise to work for the Church. She hopes that Britain will win the war against the Germans. She also hopes that the Lord will bomb the Germans but let her survive the war. She also hoped that at the end of the war, the Lord will spare her of the damage and that her business investment will not be affected. This evident in the following lines, “So, Lord, reserve for me a crown. And do not let my shares go down.”

The third character trait of this woman that was revealed was that she is a selfish and self-centered woman who only cared about herself during the time of war. She went to church not to pray for the people in Britain who have been attacked by the Germans. In fact, she went to church only to ask that her prayers be granted which is for her to be able to survive the war and for her business investment not to be affected when the war is over. I think the poem sought to show that at this time in history there were many women saw the church as a place where they could benefit from. God was seen as someone who can grant their wishes like a genie in a lamp. For them, God was someone who existed for their benefit whom they can command as their servant.

Based on the discussion, both the poems are examples of dramatic monologue. They both reveal so much detail about the main character’s personality without saying it directly. They also use powerful and colorful words to hide the darkest and grimmest personality of the main character.

This is a free Compare and Contrast Essay on “My Last Duchess” and “In Westminster Abbey”. We are the leading provider of essay writing services. If you need help we will prepare a well-written Compare and Contrast Essay on  “My Last Duchess” and “In Westminster Abbey” at very affordable rates starting at $7.50/page.

Related Post:

1. Essay on My Last Duchess

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