In this essay task I am going to compare and contrast “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning and “Salome” by Carol Ann Duffy. One Main point of similarity with the two poems is that both of them are Dramatic Monologues. Both poems are also based on a strong point of view, “My Last Duchess” being from a man’s point of view, and “Salome”, a woman’s point of view. In both poems the narrators are very much in control of the situation that is taking place.
The authors have given us this feeling by using many powerful and strong quotations throughout the poems.
This first poem “My Last Duchess” opens up as if the Duke is talking to someone. “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall” which immediately gives us the impression he is talking about a painting of her. Throughout the poem the Duke is expressing thoughts and feelings about his previous wife, a lot of emotion is given to us, most of it being of jealousy and anger towards her.
He is very proud of the painting though, he calls it ” That piece of wonder”, and only shows it to certain people, and keeps it behind a drawn curtain which only he draws.
There are many clues about his previous wife and about her personality, which show us why the Duke shows the amount of anger and disgust towards her. “Sir, ’twas not her husbands presence only, called that spot of joy into the Duchess’ cheek”, this quote tells us that she always had a smile for everyone, not just the Duke.
He felt this was out of order and that she should only smile for him and that only he would be able to make her smile. She was always full of joy and easily pleased.
The amount of anger he felt for her is expressed throughout the poem. ” Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,’Or there exceed the mark’. He feels that she is too easily made happy and is very much against that. He hates the way that she thinks everyone is the same as him. However jealous he got, he was never able to tell her what he thought of her behavior as he quotes, “My gift, of a nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody’s gift”. He felt too much of a Duke to stoop low to tell her how he feels “E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose never to stoop”. She was also only allowed to ride around in the grounds of the house on her white mule.
From reading the first lines we assume that the Duchess is no longer his wife, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”. As we read on we find more clues that suggest that she has died “Looking as if she were alive now”, but it doesn’t exactly state how she died. But reading on the Duke quotes “I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together” This immediately gives me the impression that possibly the Duke had her murdered, because of his jealousy.
We get a great impression from this character and the way the author has used words in which to describe him. He puts himself out as a very powerful man especially in the quote “I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together”. He is also very proud and extremely confident about himself, I get that impression of him being confident as we find out at the end of the poem that the Duke is marrying again, straight after the Duchess’s death.
At the end of the poem we realize that the Duke had been talking to the Count’s employee as he had come to negotiate a payment being given to the Duke from the daughters family who he was marrying.
I think that Browning used enjambment in the poem to take away the effect of the rhyming, as there are many rhyming couplets throughout the poem. “Wall”, “Call” and “Hands”, “Stands”, both examples of the rhyming couplets in the first few lines. It also emphasizes it to become more like a story then a poem with the effect of carrying on into the next sentence but still having the rhyming at the end of each line. The poem has also been written in a dramatic monologue.
The first poem also links in a little bit with the second poem “Salome” being also written in a dramatic monologue. Also the poems are written showing the narrators having a very strong point of view of their sexes, and very much in control of the situations.
The poem “Salome” has been taking from a book called “The World’s Wife”, which is based on poems from women’s point of views, which backs up my point in saying that it is very much based strongly on her point of view, mainly about men in this poem. It has been taking from the biblical story of John the Baptist and has had a lot of black humor added to it. The first verse is written in a free verse with lots of long lines, which shows us a person coming to consciousness from a deep sleep, having no idea about the events of the night before.
The poem starts of in a “male” styled term of that someone boasting about waking up in the morning after the night before finding a head lying on the pillow next to her. A quotation that suggests this could be “I’d done it before (and doubtless I’ll do it again)”, this suggests the scenario that it is not a one of occurrence and that it has happened before. This is a rather modern scene of a one nightstand. Also the quote “sooner or later” this as well suggests that it is not an important event to her and that she could go to bed with whoever she wanted. She is very much in control of this poem.
In the first stanza the description of the head is very defined, “deep lines around the eyes”, “a beautiful crimson mouth that obviously knew how to flatter”. All of this description leaves us not realizing that his head is not attached to the body. The narrator has completely forgotten about what has happened as she slowly awakes. His lips, she describes them as “cold as pewter”, completely unaware. It is only towards the end of the poem that Salome realizes what has happened, as in the first stanza she has completely no idea. This description is good for leading us on to the end where we find out that it is not attached to the body and then we realize why his lips were “colder than pewter”.
I think Duffy has written the poem in a good way as it does not mention the head at all times especially in the second stanza as it is trying to draw our attention away from it, and then leading us onto it at the end. Up until the third stanza we think everything is normal. If Duffy had mentioned more about the head it would have made us realize that something was not right and would have lead us off the track.
In the second verse the rhythm is much more up-tempo and there are shorter lines, which show us that she is coming awake. As in the first verse the structure of the lines left us puzzled leaving bits out with the use of ellipsis. Duffy has used half rhymes in the second verse of butter/batter and clatter/clutter, which gradually change to clatter/platter/batter mirroring her growing wakefulness and then the final line of the stanza is where she realizes how badly hungover she is leading into the third verse. “Hungover and wrecked as I was from a night on the batter”. Which then leads on to the third verse “Never Again!”
In the third stanza Salome quotes “the blighter the beater or biter” which suggests that she feels an unworthy trust towards men, and treats them like scum.
My thoughts and feelings when I read the third verse are mainly towards her attitude as she completely realizes what has happened. ‘It was time to turf out’ tells us that they will not be meeting again. “I flung back the sticky red sheets”, the last verse being full of description. And then at the end there is no emotion shown, only as if she is gossiping to her friends, she reveals the gruesome truth, “and there, like I said-ain’t life a bitch-was his head on a platter’.
My feelings about the two poems in general are that they are both very much in control in both poems. In “Salome” the point of view comes from a woman and in the poem “My Last Duchess” from a man’s point of view. Two poems both have a sense of black humor towards them, in “My last Duchess” the Duke quotes ” I gave commands, then all smiles stopped together”. This suggests that the Duke has murdered his wife and in “Salome” she has had his head cut off. In “Salome” the poem uses ellipse in the first stanza, which leaves us wondering what is happening. “My last Duchess” uses more enjambment in the structure of the poem and are also rhyming couplets. These two poems have many similarities, as well as the use of powerful quotes between the two of them. I think “Salome” is more of a cleverer poem as it has used a biblical story and turned it into a modern up-tempo poem, which catches your imagination and leaves you puzzled towards the end. I much prefer this poem to “My Last Duchess” because of its modern terms and mainly of the control and how powerful she is throughout the poem.
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