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Love and Seduction
When comparing Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” and Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess” these poems are on different ends of the spectrum. The speakers in both poems are talking about love and seduction, but even though they are about two different ways of loving they are one in the same. Love is the strongest topic of these poems. In Marvell and Browning’s poems the speakers so love in such unique ways.
In Andrew Marvell’s, “To Coy His Mistress”, the speaker of the poem is infatuated with a woman who won’t give him the time of day. The speaker chases the woman and he proposes that time is flying by and they should grab it and run as fast as they can. “Had we but world enough and time, This coyness, lady, were no crime. (1-2)
“There is general agreement that Andrew Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress” is a carpe diem, invitation-to-love, seduction poem couched in a syllogistic, or seemingly- syllogistic, argument: if we lived forever, your virginity would be appropriate; but we do not live forever, and therefore we should engage in sexual activity.”( Halli Jr.)
The Speaker in Browning’s “My Last Duchess” was an arrogant man. His wife was his possession and nothing should bring her happiness besides him. When the Duke who was the speaker in the poem decided that his wife was enjoying life he bragged to a servant that he had her killed.” Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands as if alive.” (45-47) Before he had her killed he had her pose for a painting. So now the Duchess is on his wall. “Too easily impressed; she like whate’er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (22-23)
In contrast to Browning’s “My Last Duchess”, the speaker talks about the Duke as a real pompous ass. The Duke struts around with a fancy title but no real money or class to back it up. The Duke talks of his wife as a trophy and basically that is what her portrait is on his wall a trophy. He talks about his wife as a flirt or faithless wife, but she received innocent joy from life’s many gifts. The Duke’s ego gets the best of him.
“As he believes is only his right, the Duke attempts to acquire another Duchess who will respond solely to him, and to that end he tells his last duchess’s story. In so do he reveals a colossal ego. But through his very skill in speech he betrays that ego for his subtle and unconscious slander of his last victim exposes at bottom an instinctive self- justifier, or at least a man insecure behind a tyrants swagger. All in all the Duke’s account of the presence of the spot of joy in the portrait does not condemn his Duchess to a moral position tending to excuse his actions toward her, but instead reinforces the poem’s greatest achievement: the declination of an ego sustained by use of language both subtle and audacious.”(Miller 33)
In “To His Coy Mistress”, the speaker illustrates a man chasing a woman. In “The Last Duchess”, the speaker shows that the Duke does have everlasting control over the Duchess. He had her killed and now she is mounted on the wall for everyone to see.
In both poems love connects the speaker’s to the poems. In Browning’s poem, the speaker presents love in a psychotic way. He obliviously loves himself and treats his women as property, and when the property doesn’t find happiness with him, he kills her.
The love illustrated in “To Coy His Mistress” was presented as a young man with needs to be filled and he was trying very hard to court this woman. “ An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze, two hundred to adore each breast, but thirty thousand to the rest.” (13-16) The speaker in this poem becomes assertive and somewhat aggressive with trying to fulfill these needs. The speaker gets shot down many times by this woman and he becomes agitated. “Then worms shall try That longed preserved virginity” (27-28)
The feeling used by both authors is passion. The speaker in the poem “My Last Duchess” shows that the Duke was passionate about his dead wife by the way he gazed at her portrait upon the wall. The speaker in the poem “To Coy His Mistress” showed his passion for procreation, which would also be considered lust.
In conclusion, passion and lust drove both authors to write about the same subject but in different context. The speaker in Browning’s poem related love to a material possession, and the thought of if I can’t have you no one else will. The speaker in Marvell’s poem spoke like he was in “puppy love” until he got tired of the chase. Both authors showed love in very different lights.
Browning, Robert. “My Last Duchess.” 1842. Introduction to Liturature Part 2 Poetry. Comp. X J Kennedy and Dana Gioia. Tenth ed. Vol. 2. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 668. Print. Introduction to Poetry.
Halli, Robert W, Jr. “The Persuasion of the Coy Mistress.” Rev. of To His Coy Mistress. Philological Quarterly 80.1: 57-70. Proquest. Web. 16 Nov. 2009.
Marvell, Andrew. “To His Coy Mistress.” Introduction to Literature Part 2 Poetry. Comp. Dana Gioia and X J Kennedy. Tenth ed. Vol. 2. N.p., 1681. 1139. Print. Poetry 2.
Miller, Michael G. “Browning’s My Last Duchess.” Rev. of My Last Duchess. Explicator 47.4: 32. SIRS Renaissance. Web. 16 Nov. 2009.
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