In a panic to disown the reason consuming the Enlightenment period, people shifted to completely opposite values. Appreciation of nature, choosing emotion over reason and senses over intellect, love for oneself, and a fascination with genius, hero, and exceptional characters characterized the attitudes of this new era called Romanticism. Within the works we have studied, I believe My Last Duchess by Robert Browning and The World Is Too Much with Us by William Wordsworth exemplify the attitudes of choosing emotion over reason and senses over intellect most accurately in this era.
The first piece of literature, My Last Duchess, shows several instances where emotion reigned over reason. This story is about an important man in society who let his emotions influence some awful decisions. Just like the people in this era, he shows favor upon himself. As he is looking upon his painting of his most recent wife he shares many characteristics about himself through speech. His most detrimental feat is his jealousy problem. The woman he speaks of in the photo seems to be a loving, kind, and a beautiful lady. In most cases these attributes are favored in a companion. In line twenty-one he says, "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. Sir, 'twas all one" (846). This jealously of his made it impossible for him to think logically. Most men would love for their wife to be happy, and if she was kind to others wouldn't that just be a great aspect of her character? But no, not to this man! He assumed that because she smiled at another man she was favoring him. His jealousy helped him overlook the character of kindness. He goes on in the story claiming that she thanks the men who brought her things, but he knows not how she thanks them. He envied a simple thank you enough to accuse her of cheating. This is only one instance of this man letting his emotions triumph pure reason. He went about watching her thank men for aiding her in whatever she needed, and smiling all too much until it went too far for him. Out of jealousy he made the single most irrational mistake he could have. In line forty-three he states, "Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, whene'er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together" (846). This horrible emotion of jealousy led him to have her killed! If he would have reasoned, a divorce would have sufficed. Or he could have thought about killing the men who continued to flirt with his wife. Instead, his most rational idea was to kill his wife who was just simply happy. Robert Browning captured the essence of the new profound attitude of emotion over reason in My Last Duchess.
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The second attribute accepted in this era was the choice of senses over intellect. This entire era was focused on capturing the essence of nature. The writers of this time embellished all their works in order to create the most exhilarating natural experience for the reader. Their goal was to target the six major senses in the body. In the shift from Enlightenment to Romanticism many people still lacked the extreme love for nature that was eventually embraced. In William Wordsworth, The World Is Too Much with Us, the text lacks some of the vivid imagery of many romantic works, but Wordsworth does provide a very plausible argument to encourage sensual choices. In this work the shift of eras is really touched upon. Wordsworth standpoint is to give away many of the materialistic objects of the world and turn back to nature. In line one William says, "The world is too much with us; late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: little we see in nature that is ours; we have given our hearts away, a sordid boon" (704). Not only is this first sentence captivating, it sets up the major argument to choose senses over intellect. The Romanticists saw so much potential in nature. As opposed to the enlightened reformers, Wordsworth believed that we had given up the most important part of our existence. The demonstration of incorporating senses into the reading experience occurs in line five. It reads, "This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon, the winds that will be howling at all hours, and are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers" (704). Although this line shows the minimum amount of personification and imagery exemplified in most works of this time, it does show an example of the new writing style of this period. Within that sentence I used the senses of hearing, seeing, and touching. Another aspect that Wordsworth promotes in this piece is the relationship with God. In former days God was thought to be a maker of the universe with little influence in personal relationships. As the Romanticists embraced all of nature, the rise of a God that resides in all of us and guides us every day was preferred. Wordsworth shows this as he cries out to God in his work of literature claiming that he would rather be a Pagan than be a human so untouched by nature. William Wordsworth not only shows examples of heightening senses, but also makes the argument to promote this attitude in The World Is Too Much with Us.
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I could have demonstrated all of the attitudes from the Romantic era in every piece of literature we read for this time period. Most of them came hand in hand. All in all, I consider both My Last Duchess and The World Is Too Much with Us to be the most exciting pieces that exemplified the most promising attitudes of the Romanticist movement. Without the promotion of emotion over reason and senses over intellect most of these stories would have lacked the most essential part of being a true Romanticist!