Andrea Del Sarto and My Last Duchess
It is interesting how to poems from the same author can present the same themes in such different ways. We will be comparing, Browning’s “Andrea Del Sarto” and “My Last Duchess”. There are two topics that have important roles in both poems; these are art and the role of woman. Browning shows us women in very different roles in these two poems. He also presents art in both poems from different points of view.
In “My Last Duchess” women’s role is of a free person; the king treats his duchess as a possession and when he thinks he can’t control her he simply kills her. We see that the duchess is kind of a free spirit and that she gets killed just because she is independent from the duke, which made him jealous and made him think she was cheating on him. On “Andrea Del Sarto” we have a complete different attitude from man towards woman. Lucrezia is the one in control of the situation and Andrea seems to accept whatever she decides.
In this poem man takes the traditional role of woman in the sense that man is usually the one that gives the orders but in this poem man does whatever his wife tells. We also see that Andrea is the one who has to put up with his wife’s infidelity and not the other way around like the situation is usually portrayed. We can see this in the following quote: Love, does that please you? Ah, but what does he, The Cousin! what does he to please you more? I am grown peaceful as old age to-night.
I regret little, I would change still less. (Browning, “Andrea Del Sarto”) In both poems the female character is liberal and this bothers the male figures the most fundamental difference is the way man reacts to this attitude. We can see that Andrea is really tolerating also in the past quote. In contrast we can see how the Duke treated the Duchess like a possession: “Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive. Will’t please you rise?
We’ll meet” (Browning, “My Last Duchess”) Where the phrase “I gave commands” means he ordered to kill her. In both poems we can see that the art theme is also present. In “My Last Duchess” art is seen from a spectator but in “Andrea Del Sarto” the painter is the one talking about art. In “Andrea Del Sarto” we can see a deeper and more profound look at art, Andrea talks about the inspiration and detail while in “My last Duchess” art is only mentioned lightly it focuses more on the person in the painting than the act of painting.
In conclusion the role of female is somewhat similar in both stories the main difference is the reaction of male figures towards that role. Art plays an important role in both stories in “My Last Duchess” the duchess is killed and portrayed as art through a painting but in “Andrea Del Sarto” it is art that keeps Lucrezia alive.