Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Essay on "My Last Duchess" and "Ulysses"

Essay on "My Last Duchess" and "Ulysses"

Many people believe that critically analyzing a poem takes away the enjoyment that comes from its reading. They say that analyzing just breaks down the structure of the poem into little pieces that are analyzed separately and become pointless and dry. However, I would like to defend the opposite view. I strongly consider that analyzing a poem makes the enjoyment bigger. When analyzing one learns to understand every aspect of the poem, and only when every aspect is understood the poem can be really enjoyed. For this paper I decided to analyze two remarkable poems “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning and “Ulysses” by the prominent Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.

“My Last Duchess" is a vivid and striking monologue written in 1842. This poem represents the first part of the joint pieces called "Italy and France". The poem consists of twenty eight rhyming couplets that are, in my mind, dominated by iambic pentameter. Robert Browning main tool to use in the poem is breaking the lines for regular and irregular pauses. This tool makes the poem very easy and enjoyable to read, and creates easy conversational flow.

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The poem begins with the line "Ferrara". When reading the first line one already imagines old conservative Italy. The reader finds himself in a house of a very wealthy duke with a lengthy title and immense power. At the beginning of the poem we are shown that the duke represents the amazing specially made collection of art he possesses. We hear the voice of the main character when he and his guest stop next to the painting with the duke’s last wife. The narrator starts to describe the painting, though rapidly moving to the describing of the duchess herself. From his monolog it becomes obvious that the narrator considered his late wife to be also one of his possessions that were commissioned for him according to his will.

From the very beginning of the poem the narrator is clear to be portrayed as a person depleted of morality and honesty. The poem shows corruption and wickedness of the speaker's character with this presenting similar traits of the society of that time. The people then wanted to possess everything can be naturally possessed or not.

In his poem “Ulysses” Tennyson transports us to the Victorian times. The poem structure is also a dramatic monologue. Throughout the poem Tennyson uses enjambment in order to reproduce the meaning and content of the poem which is that of sailing beyond death. Tennyson’s poem is deep and resonant, he uses high-sounding verse, particularly by setting different vowel sounds closely against each other.

In the poem “Ulysses” the main character is a hero, a warrior and a famous Ancient Greek traveler. He refuses to sit behind and unwind. His whole life is concerned with traveling, taking on adventures, competing and battling, he simply rejects that a man can be an “idle king” (Davis).

Both of the poems, ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning and ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson, are examples of dramatic monologues. As it was already mentioned above they both exclusively consist of the monologs of the protagonists. In both poems there are powerful noble men ruminating about past, though they are very different. What is also different are the poetic devices used in the poems to present these two main characters.

The first difference between the main characters is the way they came into power and how they exercise it. The rich Italian duke has acquired all his riches from the “nine-hundred-years-old-name”. He was born with lengthy titles, in the family with already established name. In his life he never had to do anything to achieve some position. His whole life he went with the flow, expecting others to admire him and his name and follow his orders. On the contrary, Ulysses has earned his status of a hero after battling in Troy, where he showed his nobility and courage. He is respected by people not because his name tells enough for him and leads to common obedient admiring. They respect him because he is a warrior fighting for Greece.

At it can be seen from the previous paragraph the characters of the duke and Ulysses are very different. Even though they both get killed at the end of the poems, the reads see that the ways they took death also says a lot about who they are. Wee see that Ulysses is killed as a hero, while the Duke of Ferrara’s killing is very far from being heroic. What is interesting is that the way the duke was killed was not even personal. Even for his death he gave out orders and expected the job to be done for him.

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