Comparing My Last Duchess By Philis Wheatley And Robert Browning

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This is most famously shown by Alexander Pope, whose An Essay on Criticism was controversially in couplets. J. Paul Hunter has suggested that some found in Pope’s verse form ‘a confirmation of his wicked, narrow and manipulating ways.’ However, I feel that this is a narrow view and would that stress his use of form was fruitful. By adopting this high traditional style, Pope added an authoritative philosophical credibility to his work and lasting power to his argument considering his aim to combine other writer’s views for a definitive guide for criticism. However, this effect is not limited to Pope’s poetry, and we must consider how three other poets use flexibilities within the couplet rhyme scheme to present arguments with increased ease …show more content…
Browning’s My Last Duchess can be seen to almost resemble blank verse with incidental couplets. Thus the couplet has a very different effect to the calming pastoral or measured argument previously mentioned. There is a dramatic quality in the long sentences, exaggerated punctuation and unsettling rhetorical questions such as ‘Will’t please you rise?’ This combined with such a rigid rhyme scheme adds a sinister quality to what Browning called ‘dramatic lyric’ . When naturalistic dialogue is combined with extremely tight rhyme, this unnerves readers and the result is closer to conversational unease. Conversely, Wheatley does not let rhyme become intrusive to her naturalistic monologue. Thus she includes sight rhymes punctuating the strict couplet scheme to remain conversational. These appear most significantly in the first two lines. The rhyming of ‘intent’ and ‘paint’ at the opening could denote Wheatley’s realistic reaction of astonishment at the painting, a concrete rhyme scheme not yet formed subconsciously. Thus whilst Browning keeps tight rhymes paramount and produces an unnerving narrative voice, Wheatley sacrifices tight form for conversational ease. Fundamentally, strict couplets mean work will not be as naturalistic as other freer forms. Instead, heroic couplets give a subject a higher and almost stately significance, thus both artworks are given more a higher value. In Wheatley’s poem the regality of the couplet form links to the ethereal and epic language. Mentions of ‘deathless glories’, ‘immortal fame’ and ‘blissful wonders of the skies’ perhaps link to epic works of Homer or Virgil, also written in iambic pentameter. Overall, use of heroic couplets to portray inner thoughts or arguments is common but controversial. Whilst they

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