How Are Relationships Presented In Shakespeare’s “Romeo And Juliet” In Act 1 Scene 5 And Two Of Robert Browning’s Dramatic Monologues?

1599 words - 7 pages

“My Last Duchess” is a dramatic monologue by Robert Browning. The speaker in “My Last Duchess” is the Duke of Ferrara an Italian city state. Similarly “Romeo and Juliet” is set in an Italian city (Verona). Violent societies are the background to both which are set during the 16th century during the Renaissance period. The Duke’s relationship with his “last Duchess” is typical of the time as he is shown to be in a position of great power in a patriarchal society. In contrast, Romeo and Juliet flout the conventions of the time where arranged marriages were the traditional way Juliet’s father had already arranged one for her. “The Laboratory”, another of Browning’s dramatic monologues shows a ...view middle of the document...

The opening of “My Last Duchess” immediately shows a retrospective view on the Duke’s previous relationship whereas in “Romeo and Juliet” the relationship is set in the present tense and is only beginning. “I call/ That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands/ Worked busily a day, and there she stands.” The Duke uses the word “now” to confirm that he did not care about her when she was alive. The Duke highlights his wealth by boasting about a fictional famous painter and does not allow the reader to forget this by repeating the name twice. The use of “she” and “its” suggests that the painting and duchess are of the same value to the Duke, this is revealed when the duchess does not even warrant a name. The Duke continues his controlling behaviour by using rhyming couplets; enjambment is needed to follow the poem indicating his need for authority and status like the Capulets. Aware of his power the Duke is able to intimidate others. When the Duke says “the curtain I have drawn for you” he is speaking directly to the painting. Though he sounds courteous he is simply pleased that he can finally control his wives actions and who is able to see her. We are shown that like Romeo the Duke is obsessed with beauty because that is the only thing he has kept of the duchess. On the other hand, “The Laboratory” shows a woman in control. However, similarly like the Duke she is a cold hearted murderer, “But brush this dust off me, lest horror it brings.” The reader is shown a confident woman who is sure of herself and likes being in charge. “My Last Duchess” like the “Laboratory” only has one sole speaker. The dominant rhythm that is shown makes them both characters sound mad whilst showing the nature of the different relationships that both suspect adultery from their partners.

In Act one scene five Romeo starts a sonnet which was a popular style of love song at the time. It is only shared between the two of them privately their patriarchal society is reflected in the way Romeo starts and finishes the sonnet. Juliet is quick to respond to his flattery and swiftly continues the verbal dance by extending Romeos metaphor. The audience as it could have been shocked as it borders on blasphemous. “Good pilgrim… For saints have hands…” Here Juliet allows herself to be humbled as she hints that he is unworthy of him by using metaphorical language. The picture of Romeo worshiping Juliet’s shrine shows us that this relationship is not like the Dukes; he is not as controlling as the Duke and illustrates their love as pure. The use of religious imagery could also show the audience that this is a holy and spiritual love. Differently, at the end of “My Last Duchess” the imagery emphasises the Dukes controlling nature in the relationship. He is presented as cold when he mentions another expensive art object he owns: “Notice Neptune, though, /Taming a sea horse, thought a rarity /Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!” The phrase “cast in bronze” suggests the Duke...

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