Marriage in My Last Duchess and To My Dear and Loving Husband
Marriage is a complementing union between a man and a woman. Marriage requires affection and dedication to one another. In Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess, the Duke of Ferrara is very dominant and expresses jealousy from his wife in his marriage which leads him to murder his wife. Robert Browning was influenced by his father and was provided with a large library of books. In Anne Bradstreet’s To My Dear and Loving Husband, a woman speaks to her husband about their tremendous love they have for each other. The woman mentions how she cannot repay him and even when they die, their love will live on. She goes on being obsessed and surrounds her whole life on their love. Anne Bradstreet lived in the Elizabethan era which allowed her to be highly educated by her father. Thus, in the poem My Last Duchess by Robert Browning and To My Dear and Loving Husband by Anne Bradstreet, both speaker’s attitude towards marriage are immensely different which is seen through symbolism, tone and character.
The Duke of Ferrara’s attitude toward marriage in Browning’s My Last Duchess is very different as the Duke is very dominant over his wife, which is seen through Neptune’s statue and the portrait of his late wife. The Duke expresses his dominance over his wife by him controlling access to his late wife’s portrait under a curtain. As he is showing around an Austrian nobleman whose daughter he would like to marry he says “The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) /And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst” (Robert Browning 10-11). The portrait symbolizes that she is treated like an object. The Duke clearly expresses that his attitude is very dominant because even her portrait is fully controlled by him. The Duke believes that he has full control over his wife as he mentions Neptune taming a sea-horse. The Duke shows the daughters father a statue of Neptune and says “Together down, /sir. Notice Neptune, though, /Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, /Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me (Browning 54-56)! The statue is of Neptune taming a sea-horse. Neptune is the god of the sea. This symbolizes the Duke, and the sea-horse symbolizes the Duchess he would acquire. The Duke views himself as a God, and he wishes to tame his wife and to do whatever he wishes her to do. He also had the sea-horse cast in bronze. The sea-horse in now trapped forever. The seahorse also represents his wife who trapped forever behind the curtains. Thus, The Duke’s dominant and controlling attitude is symbolized through the portrait and Neptune’s statue and the portrait of his late wife.
In Bradstreet’s To My Dear and Loving Husband, the woman’s attitude towards marriage is extremely loving. which is expressed through the symbolism of mines of gold and rivers. She claims that she values their love so ho highly that she says “I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold (Anne Bradstreet 5). The mines of gold symbolize the amount of love she has for her husband. The woman demonstrates her love by saying that she values the feeling of love in connection with another person far more than any amount of material wealth. The woman then after reveals that she is the happiest woman with a tremendous amount of love. She mentions “My love is such that rivers cannot quench” (Bradstreet 7). The river symbolizes her satisfaction in loving her husband just like water for a river can never be enough. She is not fully satisfied because she feels that her love for her husband can ever be enough. In To My Dear and Loving Husband, the river and mines of gold represent that the woman’s attitude towards marriage is all about love which differs from the Duke in My Last Duchess as Neptune’s statue and the portrait represents his dominant attitude towards marriage.
In Browning’s My Last Duchess, the Duke’s jealous attitude toward marriage is demonstrated through the tones in the poem when his wife shows kind actions toward others. The Duke remembers the botherations that had occurred with his wife when she was alive. He stated “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” (Browning 21-24). The tone that the Duke exemplifies is serious jealousy from his wife. The Duke does not like that she blushes at the flirtations of another man. The Duke is bothered by his wife having a heart that is “too soon made glad” and “too easily impressed”. He is annoyed that she likes everything that she looked at. He does not understand that she is just a kind person who likes to smile. This man seems more and more controlling as the poem goes on. It seems that he murders his Duchess because he could not control her feelings. He wants to be the only one to bring her joy and make her smile. The Duke’s attitude is also portrayed, while he continues to talk about his late wife and states to the father that “Just this/Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, /Or there exceed the mark’” (Browning 37-39). The tone that he portrays is very serious jealousy because “disgust” is a very strong word that he uses to describe her smile. This demonstrates his jealous attitude toward his wife in their marriage because he is disgusted by the action she showed towards others. Duke’s jealous attitude is clearly demonstrated through the tone’s in the poem by his wife’s actions.
In Bradstreet’s To My Dear and Loving Husband, the woman’s loving tone is demonstrated throughout her prayers for her husband and faith in the relationship. The woman reiterates her thoughts about how her husband’s love is so deep she can never repay him. After that she says “The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray (Bradstreet 10). She expresses the tone of love as she prays to God that he will reward and bless her husband for the way he has loved her. This shows that her attitude is loving as she includes God and praying for the love she has received. The
woman also shows her loving tone when she says “Then while we live, in love let’s so preserver” (Bradstreet 11). This portrays a loving tone as she claims that they will both persevere to live until the end. She continues to say that she has no doubt and has full faith that they will stay married until one passes from this life to the next life. Using the words “live”, “love”, and “persevere” express her lovable attitude in this poem. The women’s tone of attitude is very lovable in To My Dear and Loving Husband because she has faith and prays for husband unlike the Duke in My Last Duchess because the Duke set a jealous tone toward his marriage from his wife’s actions.
In My Last Duchess, the Duke’s attitude towards marriage differs from To My Dear and Loving Husband through his egotistic character which is shown by him thinking too highly of himself. The Duke talks about how he had given her a “nine-hundred-years-old name” which reveals that his family has been around for many years, thus giving her a prestigious name by marrying her. He states that “She thanked men, /-good! but thanked/Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked/My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name/With anybody’s gift (Browning 31-34). This portrays he is irritated that his wife is not thankful or appreciates his well-respected family. This shows that his character is very egotistic as he thinks much higher of himself than anyone else. The Duke further talks about how his wife smiled at everyone who passed her and says “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 (Browning 43-46). This reveals that he got very envious of how his kind-hearted wife smiles at everyone and he believes only he should deserve that smile. He felt so controlling and worthy that he murdered his own wife which is why all the smiles stopped and seemed much happier with her portrait as now only he can receive that smile. This demonstrates that the Duke’s character is very egotistic as he believes he is higher than everyone else and commands as he wishes. Thus, in the poem My Last Duchess the Duke’s attitude towards marriage differs from To My Dear and Loving Husband through his egotistical character shown through murdering his wife and thinking very highly of himself.
In Bradstreet’s To My Dear and Loving Husband the woman’s attitude toward marriage is very different as her character is appreciative. The woman shows a great amount of appreciation to her husband and lets him know that she is very thankful. “Nor ought but love from thee give recompense” (Bradstreet 7). The woman reveals her appreciation for being the recipient of her husband’s love, by claiming that she could never “recompense” his love. This shows that she feels so loved by her husband and that she does not believe she could ever make him feel as loved as he has made her feel. The woman goes on and truly believes she can never repay him for what he has done. She states that “Thy love is such I can no way repay (Bradstreet 9); She reveals her character as very appreciative in this line as well because she finds value in his love and claims she cannot repay him. The woman in To My Dear and Loving Husband attitude toward marriage differs from the Duke in My Last Duchess because the woman is very appreciative of her marriage and the love in their lives, unlike the Duke whose egotistic characteristic gets in the way of being thankful for his wife.
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