Individual in society: Poetry of Robert Browning and two selected texts.

Essay by microstuffedHigh School, 11th gradeB+, May 2007

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The Victorian period of English culture was a time of radical changes within society, as the concept of the individual began to develop, and dominant ways of thinking challenged. The social structure began to undergo changes, as women began to gain greater influence in a patriarchal society. The individual pursuit of happiness gradually began to overcome the desire to act is a moral fashion. These shifts in the social paradigm and subversions of social expectations are evidenced in Robert Browning’s Last Duchess and The Bishop Orders his Tomb at St. Praxed’s Church, English Laws for Women in the Nineteenth Century by Caroline Norton and Oscar Wilde’s A Picture of Dorian Gray.

The role of women within the Victorian era constituted a submissive and oppressed one. The attitude of the patriarchal society of women is demonstrated and satirized in Browning’s My Last Duchess. The dominant position of the Duke is made apparent through his commanding tone “will’t you sit and look” as the Duchess as shown merely in the role of an object “I call that piece a wonder”.

Through the Duke’s conversational tone “(since none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I)” Browning expresses his complete dominance. The use of iambic pentameter reinforces the Duke’s control over the situation. This dominant relationship is typical of the position women experienced during the Victorian era. Short punctuated sentences reflect the petty nature of the Duke’s grievance “Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er she looked on,” reinforcing the persecution of women. As the Duchess attempts to subvert the position her society places her in, and seek individual satisfaction “her looks went everywhere” she is punished by society “then all smiles stopped together.” Through the Duke’s naïve tone, Browning employs this character as a symbol, in order to represent...