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According to Cuddon dramatic monologue is "a poem in which there is one imaginary speaker addressing an imaginary audience." (Cuddon: 400) That is, a poet creates a character who speaks throughout a poem instead of his/her to a listener or reader directly. However, the term is defined by Abrams as "a type of lyric poem that was perfected by Robert Browning." (Abrams, 1999: 70) and he further states that it has three features:
(1) A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the entire poem in a specific situation at a critical moment: the Duke is negotiating with an emissary for a second wife; the Bishop lies dying; Andrea once more attempts wistfully to believe his wife’s lies. (2) This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors’ presence and what they say and do only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker. (3) The main principle controlling the poet’s choice and organization of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker’s temperament and character.
(Ibid) To sum up what Abrams points out, the whole poem is said by a person who interacts with other people to reveal to the reader both the moodiness and character of this person in a critical moment. On the other hand, Hawlin concludes that "the dramatic monologue, then, is a crystallization of some of these trends. [Aesthetic trends, romantic passion for drama, one scene play, and prose genre of imaginary conversation which influenced Browning.] It is a cross or hybrid of the genres of drama and lyric." (Hawlin: 63) Thus, what makes the dramatic monologue differ from lyric and drama is that it is not poet's voice as in lyrics and it is not long and performed as in drama, yet the context is dramatic, and the tone is lyrical. "Irony is another crucial ingredient in the dramatic monologue as Browning practices it" (Ibid) in which the imaginary speaker projects an image of himself which is different from what the reader infers or deduces. In other words, the
irony lies in the mask that the poet creates to be disguised in. whereas dramatic monologue is seen as a manifestation of the previous trends and modes of literature, interior monologue can be seen also as manifested version of it, yet "some critics use 'stream of consciousness' interchangeably with the term interior monologue." (Abrams, 1999: 299) Both Abrams and Cuddon defined interior monologue within the entry of "stream of consciousness". While Cuddon points out that it is "another phrase" for stream of consciousness, Abrams goes into detail and he assimilates it to stream of consciousness by saying that "in interior monologue the author does not by any chance intervene," and he adds that it "is sometimes described as the exact presentation of the process of consciousness; but because sense perceptions, mental images, feelings, and some aspects of thought itself are nonverbal, it is clear that the author can present these elements only by converting them into some kind of verbal equivalent." (Ibid) One can state that while interior monologue reveals the characters inside, his thoughts, his state of mind, and his psyche as an interrupted flow, dramatic monologue, however, uncovers the characters interactions with the external world, with other characters, and the environment. This does not mean that dramatic monologue does not show the psychology of the character, yet it shows it in relation to others in the text, while interior monologue involves the reader to experience the same mental and psychological state of the speaker. For instance, "My Last Duchess" "explores psychology or psychopathology of an Italian Renaissance duke, who has had his wife murdered." (Hawlin: 66) For Eliot, however, the dramatic monologue is no longer a means for only the depiction of character's psychology, but also invites the readers to share the same trauma. That is, the dramatic monologue's narrator is objective and ironic, yet interior monologue's narrator is subjective and personal. Besides, the interior monologue is the offspring of modernism; it reflects the nature of modern man's
state of mind and psychology; its form is fragmentary and shattering as it is intended to show the state of an alienated man speaking only to himself.
Creativity and Inspiration
"My Last Duchess" is a dramatic monologue in which the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara, "delivers a monologue on a painting of his late wife to an envoy from a prospective duchess."(Bloom: 16) However, "both the speaker of the poem and his "Last Duchess" closely resemble historical figures." (Ibid) The duke is "Alfonso II, the last duke of Ferrara, whose marriage to the teenaged Lucerzia de' Medici ended mysteriously only three years after it began. The duke then negotiated through an agent to marry the niece of the Count of Tyrol." (Ibid) Thus, the poem as a whole is seen as a historical allusion by which Browning wants to reveal and depict, through the duchess painting, the power of art and literature in conveying meanings. That is, the painting is a source of inspiration for the poet to expose the creativity of an art thereby, by implication, introduce and show the power of women's writings in the Victorian period. Hawlin argues that the poem "stages a confrontation in which the dead returns to challenge the living," (Hawlin: 160) but "the dead" is so full of energy and power that "the living" can not conceal his admiration. In this view Browning "links the creative powers of women with the creative powers of the poet…" (Ibid) Besides, the poem depicts the psychology of the duke in relation to his surroundings. The reader almost exclusively depends on the voice of the duke for orientation as he is the only voice of the poem. The duke is arrogant and full of pride, yet he reveals that he killed his wife without paying attention to the aggressiveness of the act and its insinuations. Thus, one can infer that the duke is witless and ignorant. He reveals his conventional characteristics as a man to impose his authority over the duchess and thereby undermine the sublimity and creativity of duchess's figure.
Unlike Browning, T. S. Eliot in the interior monologue invites the reader "not simply to observe, but to participate in the poet's creation, from the inside as it were, by reenacting subjectively the world of the persona." (Cooper: 49) In other words, while Browning depicts the creativity of the duchess character whereby he exposes the power of art as related to women, T. S. Eliot portrays the ability and vision of the poet through which involves the reader in this creative act. For Eliot, "the dramatic monologue is no longer a vehicle for the exposure of an interesting personality, but an invitation to the reader to experience the dismantling of personality." (Cooper: 49) the "interesting personality" in "My Last Duchess" is the character who is attractive and creative in a way that the duke envies those who see or look at her. The attractive look of the duchess not only resides in her appearance, but also exists in the art that presents her. Yet, "the dismantling of personality" in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is depicted through the persona, J. Alfred Prufrock, who represents every individual in the modern time. That is, while Browning shows the wholesome and sensible side of Renaissance art and Victorian period, Eliot shows the seamy and sordid side of modern time. However, both of the poems are inspired by the Renaissance art and literature, yet the inspirations brought about two different views and perspectives: one is highly steady and stable as in "My Last Duchess"; the other is drastically erratic and unstable as in "The Love Song".
The Forms and the Meanings
"My Last Duchess" is as a dramatic monologue as it consists of the words of the persona, the duke of Ferrara, who reveals his own nature by addressing visitors who come to negotiate about his marriage to the Count's daughter. The psychology of the duke is revealed through his words on the last duchess painting on the wall. The duke murdered his last wife because "she ranked" his "gifts of a nine hundred-years-old name with anybody's gift." (ll. 32-34) That is, out of envy, he murdered his wife. Thus, the duke uncovers his brutality and his psychopathic nature. Yet, he is not shrewd or clever enough to hide this criminal act to the visitors because he is so arrogant and proud that he forgot to eschew what is not to be said. Although he admires the painting and praises it as a piece of Renaissance art, he disrupts his wife's beauty as he thought she is indiscriminate toward other men. That is to say, he wants to corrupt the very nature of his wife. The speaker, unlike Prufrock, is in full satisfaction with his self and has a feeling of superiority over others especially his wife. Therefore, he is decisive and determinate and his decisiveness is due to his class (aristocracy). However, this meaning reflected in the form of the poem which is written in heroic couplet, a traditional rhyme scheme. In other words, both the meaning and the form of the poem are traditional and orderly and this order is reflected in the poem. Though the speaker lacks sympathy, yet the whole scene lacks pathos, too. In "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", the persona is nervous, neurotic, and uncertain. He is in a social event with some fashionable ladies and he repeatedly delays asking questions that he wants to, instead he asks himself a series of questions by which he reveals his thought. Yet, his mind, like his
words, is fragmented and nothing meaningful is produced. In this way the poem reflects the modern man's experience in a new world, full of doubt and uncertainty. T. S. Eliot uses free verse to convey what the flow of thoughts of the character conveys in response to the external world. That is, what stimulates the character to jump from one thought to another and what makes the narrative timeless, spaceless, and not chronological is the disorder of the outside world which reflects inside in the mind of the character. This is also true to the form of the poem which contains both end and internal rhyme unlike what is seen in "My Last Duchess". While Prufrock suffers from alienation and estrangement from the world outside, yet the duke struggles to enhance the already established moral values. That is why the duke is decisive, whereas Prufrock is not and hesitant. Browning's focus is on the society. The character's journey is outward. That is why at the end, the duke says: "Nay, we'll go/ Together down, sir." (ll. 53-54) Yet Prufrock "… lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown." (ll. 127-130) The character's journey in "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock " is inward; the reader sees only what is inside the character's mind. According to Cooper "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" "engages the reader's inner life by involving us in Prufrock's agonies, so that they become our own in the course of the poem." (Cooper: 51) Thus, T. S. Eliot puts together a group of "possible identities", like Lazarus, Hamlet, and Michelangelo in order
for the Prufrock to "urge us to test these choices of roles" in a state of nervousness. (Ibid) Here Prufrock's problem is seen as both psychological and philosophical and then his personality reflects the diversity of the choices which have roots in both literary works and popular culture. In Cooper's words the poem is "a collage" of different things like a "shattering glass" i.e. it is fragmentary both in content and form. Hence, this fragmentary is the identity of a modern man. Unlike T. S. Eliot's poem, the duke in "My Last Duchess" is in the process of building up and rising. The events are ordered chronologically; the rhyme is regular, and the character is straightforward. He is certain and decisive. Though he is criminal and reveals to be so, he never hesitates to make decisions. Thus, the duke's problem is largely social; he wants to persuade the visitors that he is fit to marry the Count's daughter, although he mistakenly out of his pride uncovers his true nature to the visitors. Prufrock, on the other hand, is an example of a man who is alienated from society and has lost his pride and contentment. He is so hesitant that he can not express himself and does what he intends to do. Thus, he lives in a time that is difficult for him to decide. Prufrock says: There will be time, there will be time To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; ……………………………………………. Time for you and for me, And time yet for a hundred indecisions; (ll. 26-27; 31-32) These lines suggest that Prufrock is not content with himself and he considers himself inferior. He is in a moment of sufferance, yet has no ability to challenge the status quo. His endurance is imposed on him and he bears his current
situation feebly. That is, although he lacks courage to express himself, he endures this moment of hesitation out of his cowardice. According to Sigg, the conflict in "The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is between the "central self" and the "social self". (Sigg: 94) the central self wants to ignore society as he is sick of it, yet the social self wants to enjoy society since he is bound to it. The problem is that Prufrock "can neither ignore society nor enjoy it: All he can do is fear it." (Sigg: 93) Thus, he, unlike the duke, suffers from his dual personality, his true self is in no man's land moving to and fro, but he never finds a place to rest in. "The poem's circularity; repetition of key images, phrases, and sounds; anaphora; irregular rhymes that lazily resound, like a pendulum; its leisurely, iambic irony: These techniques define Prufrock as a prematurely aged specimen." (ibid) that is he is suffering or in struggle between his two selves: one is too young and inexperienced, and the other is old and experienced. Yet he can not change anything. "Prufrock cannot change because his two selves set up ambushes for one another." (ibid) The duke, moreover, is quite contrary to Prufrock. Not only has he power to balance his self, but also has the ability to project it outwardly. …Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me! (ll.54-56) The final lines conjure up an image of a powerful god taking control over the sea-horse which implies the relationship between the duke and his wife and anticipates the same sort of relationship between him and his future wife. That is, the duke is not only capable of possessing power, but also is able to use that power to control whatever is outside him.
Dramatic monologue as it is used by Robert Browning in "My Last Duchess" is seen as a crystallization of previous trends in literature and the interior monologue as it is used in "The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a variation of a dramatic monologue. Both of the poems are inspired by Renaissance art and literature, yet two different views are produced. In the latter, the uncertainty of a modern man is depicted, whereas in the former the stability of a conventional man is revealed. The self-satisfactory of the character in the first one is due to his social status. However, the form is precisely chosen to match the content in order to convey meanings. Both of the poems deal with or involve in a social event which is about to happen. In the first one, the speaker bravely and without doubt expresses himself and even imposes power over the future wife. Yet in the second, the speaker does not have enough courage to talk about it. Thus, the speaker in the first one is powerful; his energy is directed outward but the speaker in the second is fearful; his energy is directed inward and becomes a source for his hesitation. Prufrock wants change, but he does not have enough courage to do so. The duke wants to enhance the established codes. These two characters are exactly the opposite of each other since they belong to two different ages.
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