In the three poems, "To His Coy Mistress" - an argumentative yet satirical take on a man's quest for sex by Andrew Marvell, "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Dutchess" - Two dramatic monologues by Robert Browning, the dominating themes running parallel in each are the all powerful concepts of love and death. I have chosen to look at the way in which each poem broaches the theme of death, the context and setting in which it is used and the similarities and differences in the overall approach of the subject.Although, as in all cases, literary techniques such as punctuation, rhyme, rhythm, alliteration and assonance are used to great effect in each poem to portray the subject matter, I have chosen to explore sentiment and expression rather than technical and literal devices. I will look at the following subjects: Mood and imagery, for diverse contrasts in the setting and context of each poem; Feelings such as passion, greed, possessiveness, hate, impatience and love, which is inexorably woven into all of the aforementioned emotions; Social status, which so often in pre-1914 circumstances dictated so much of love and sociably acceptable situations and finally the general way in which each poem approaches death.In "Porphyria's Lover", events begin on a dark, cold, tempestuous night. The mood is dark and sullen, a perfect preface to a tale of murder.
"THE rain set early in to-night,The sullen wind was soon awake,It tore the elm-tops down for spite,And did its worst to vex the lake:"As Porphyria enters, she brings with her a metaphorical sense of warmth and comfort to the cottage;"When glided in Porphyria; straightShe shut the cold out and the storm,And kneel'd and made the cheerless grateBlaze up, and all the cottage warm;"This imagery brings a sense of passion and love, a story you would hardly expect to end in the murder of a woman who brings such warmth. This abstract approach serves to surprise and contradict all the expectations of mutual love, culminating in murder as a spontaneous crime of passion.In contrast to this, the death of the female in "My Last Dutchess" is a cold, bitter act of function. Having 'betrayed' her husband's expectations, he has her brutally murdered. The mood is dark and cold, no remorse is shown from the duke for the death of his wife.
Heartlessly he values her more as a painting than a person;"That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now: Frï¿½ Pandolf's handsWorked busily a day, and there she stands."The imagery that is created by this passage, 'women are like art' begins to unravel the question if how anyone can commit a murder of a spouse without remorse.In "To His Coy Mistress", there is no actual death, which differs from the other poems. Death is used in the second stanza as an argument, and an effective argument by use of bold, quite daunting imagery.
The mood swings violently from the blatant sycophancy of the first stanza and the calm argument of the third;"But at my back I always hearTimes winged chariot hurrying near;And yonder all before us lieDeserts of vast eternity."The imagery of 'time's winged chariot' and 'deserts of vast eternity' reminds the mistress of her own mortality, trying to convince her that the lack of copulation in their relationship is purely wasting their finite amounts of time as conscious beings. The argument continues by trying to intimidate the 'coy mistress';"My echoing song; then worms shall tryThat long preserv'd virginity,And your quaint honour turn to dust,And into ashes all my lust.The grave's a fine and private place,But none I think do there embrace."Course imagery is used to portray the futility of clinging on to virginity. Although crude, it is effective - not in the sense that the coy mistress is finally conquered, as with all of the poems we never hear the female response, but that the imagery serves to portray the obvious in the most dramatic way.
Emotions, powerful and dominating, surface in all three poems. For example, in "Porphyria's Lover" Lust, vanity, passion and love, a mutual love for each party are represented. All these are factors that conclude in the death of Porphyria. The love and lust he has for her, his overwhelming desire to keep her at all costs and the fact that he can't have her;"Too weak, for all her heart's endeavour,To set its struggling passion freeFrom pride, and vainer ties dissever,And give herself to me for ever."Are the reasonings behind the spontaneous actions of Porphyria's lover. Porphyria's own vanity and pride make the fact that she is strangled by her own hair ironic.
This is a last resort action of a man blinded by love.As a stark variation on this reasoning, the murder in "My last Dutchess" Is no act of passion, it is a pre-meditated act of "necessity" in the eyes of the duke. The feeling that emotions are not involved here is an easy mistake to make, but there is, and surprisingly, love and passion are involved. The duke does have a love - his status, his prized heritage, and as a passion to keep it intact at all costs.
Lust, although not directly referred to, would likely to be present, for the Dutchess, as the Duke sees women purely as objects."To His Coy Mistress" does have some obvious similarities to "Porphyria's Lover", such as the presence of lust, and possibly love. Although impatient, the man is still present, trying to convince his mistress, rather than leave her and looking for a substitute, the feeling surrounding the approach of death in this poem are in an effort to convince, showing persistence and some form of devotion. Devotion to the 'coy mistress' or to the prospect of sex - That is open for debate.Social status and its restrictions are present in different forms. In "To his Coy Mistress" the woman is hanging on to her virginity, her honor, living up to the notion of the purity and pride found within this.
In an effort to slay this aspect, the man continues to remind her or her own mortality and that honor is nothing once you are buried.