Comparing Essay: Poems the Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church With My Last Duchess

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1818 Words
Date:  2021-06-08

Wordsworth asserts Poetry is the most philosophic of all writing......its object is the truth, not individual and local, but general and universal to describe his view on poetry. The possible meaning of the statement is that the elements present in the thoughts of a poet are found in every aspect of the environment (Trott, 2010). The reader of poetry is therefore expected to be enlightened in terms of thought and affection to understand the message being presented by the poet. John Stuart Mill asserts Poetry is feeling confessing itself to itself in moments of solitude to imply that poetry entails the expression of feelings by which a poet demonstrates what he or she is intrinsically experiencing (Jackson, 2008). Both Wordsworth and Mill approach the concept of poetry as being driven by innate factors that are influenced by the environments of the poet. By comparing and contrasting the poems The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church" with "My Last Duchess", poems by Robert Browning, it becomes easier to comprehend the analogies on what poetry entails presented by John Stuart Mill and Woodworth.

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The fictional poem The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church" by Robert Browning involves a bishop who is in deathbed providing instructions on the tomb that would be his resting place when he dies. It is important to note that despite the poem being fictional, the Saint Praxed's Church is a location in Rome which serves as a dedication to a Roman virgin who was a martyr. The bishop orders his nephews on the design and the materials to be used in building the tomb with his drive being to do better than Gandolf who was his predecessor. He views Gandolfs resting place as of low standards and unfit. The poem presents the possibility that one of his nephews might be his son by which he mentions a mistress who is no longer alive. He suggests several themes for his tomb but later makes the conclusion that his orders are worthless with the view that he will not be able to see them come to pass and hence possibly his womb will be similarly disappointing to the one provided to Gandolf. Therefore, the irony exhibited is that despite the material possessions articulated by the bishop, he will not live to ensure that the actual materials were used for his tomb (Sharma, 2016).

The poem My Last Duchess presents a monolog that bases itself on historical events concerning the Duke of Ferrara, Alfonso who reigned in the sixteenth century. The speaker of the poem is the Duke who informs the reader that he is conversing with an emissary who has paid him a visit to make negotiations of his marriage to a daughter from a high-class family. The Duke had recently become a widower. During his walk with the emissary in the palace, they come across the portrait of his late wife who was still very young and beautiful. The Duke then begins to contemplate about the sessions when the portraits were being made and then about his late duchess. The reflections include the behavior of the duchess who is depicted as immoral and unfaithful to her husband whereby she engaged in flirtations with every person. He explains that she did not appreciate his promise of the gift of having her name remembered for nine hundred years. As the monolog progresses, it becomes evident that the Duke caused the death of the Duchess after her flirtatious behavior exceeded whereby he reveals issuing out the command. He states: [he] gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together, (Sharma, 2016). After the revelation, the Duke continues the discussion regarding his next marriage to the young girl from the rich family. The Duke then takes notice of another portrait in his assortment and points it for the emissary to view it as soon as they depart from the Duchess portrait. From a general perspective, the whole piece reveals the character of the Duke by which he demands marital respect. If the respect is not shown, then consequences are formidable (Sharma, 2016).

One method of comparing and contrasting the poems is through the form (Petch, 2008). The form of the former poem is a blank speech which is perceived to be the initial blank verse dramatic monolog in literature that was published in 1845 in the group of Dramatic Romances and Lyrics. The blank verse is presented in unrhymed lines that are in iambic pentameter. Most dramatists during the Renaissance used blank verse by which it was perceived to imitate the natural speech present in the English language (Petch, 2008). The speech is disorganized in the sense that it lacks aesthetics possibly to indicate the groaning of a dying man. The speech also tends to be repetitive and unstructured. He also employs several lengthy vowel sounds in the poem to show his death. A good example is a phrase: 'dying by degree.' He also uses several ellipses, ., in the poem; with good examples being 'sons mine...ah God' and 'Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!' (Cervo, 2003).

The form of My Last Duchess is different from the former as it contains rhymed line in pentameter. Instead of using end stops, they lines employ enjambment by which units used in grammar are not used when the sentences end (Lescrauwaet, 2009). The rhymes act like impetus in revealing information about the Dukes previous actions and character. The poem also depicts the Duke as an excellent performer, through the styles employed in the monolog. The Duke imitates the voices of other people and develops hypothetical scenarios for the reader to comprehend his view. He also makes horrific situations appear colorful such that he draws the reader to understand his reasons for ordering the death of his wife. However, the similarity in the form in both poems is that they both use dramatic monolog where the speakers present their experiences and feelings. The speaker and the poet are different by which the formers speaker is a bishop while the latter is a Duke with the poet being Robert Browning. Both poems also indicate the presence of audiences but are not mentioned in the poems (Lescrauwaet, 2009).

The poems can also be distinguished through the speakers or rather the characters (Lescrauwaet, 2009). Both the Duke and the Bishop appear to be influential people in terms of power and wealth. The bishop orders his nephews to come up with exquisite designs and use expensive materials to build his tomb while the Duke takes his emissary around his palace and shows him his collection of portraits and hence illustrating wealth. The fact that both characters gave orders indicate that they were men of power whereby their orders were obeyed. However, the difference between the two characters entails moral values (Lescrauwaet, 2009). The Duke seems to highly withhold the aspect of faithfulness in marriage such that he becomes overwhelmed with the Duchess immoral acts and orders her execution. However, the bishop mentions having a mistress who died w a while ago and his nephews are viewed to be his sons and hence not having firm moral when compared to the Duke. Also, while the Duke is making an arrangement of his next marriage which can be perceived to be a beginning of another life, the bishop is making an arrangement of his death or rather where he will be buried. In other words, one is marking the beginning of a new life while the other is illustrating the end of a life. It is important to note that both poems were written during the Renaissance period; a period marked by changes in classical art in addition to the literature. Robert Browning and other artists used this period to flourish their art such that they made major strides in literature (Lescrauwaet, 2009)..

As mentioned earlier, both Wordsworth and Mill approach the concept of poetry as being driven by innate factors that are influenced by the environments of the poet. In The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's, the speaker appears to be driven by pride by which he wants to have a better resting place when compared to Gandolfs, his predecessor. Regardless of his holy depiction, the speaker has taken part in several sins that include stealing property from the church and burying them in addition to siring children out of wedlock. He refers to his children as his nephews. He also appears to be more apprehensive when it comes to material wealth instead of his eternal gift in heaven when he dies. The poem begins with pride and joy as the speaker focuses on how he will outwit Gandolf. However, it ends with remorse as the bishop realizes that he may not live to see that his wishes have been considered and that he may also be buried in a tomb that was similar to Gandolfs. Therefore, the poem can be viewed as being driven with the aspect of pride, arrogance, and remorse. In "My Last Duchess", the speaker appears to show disgust of immoral acts especially after experiencing an unfaithful marriage with the Duchess. His wifes actions makes him order her execution as per his revelation to his emissary. It may be perceived that it was an indirect way of showing the emissary his stand on morals such that if his next young wife behaved like the late Duchess, the consequence was clear. The Duke appears to view sin as present in his surroundings and hence taking caution on any unacceptable behavior. The poem allows a reader to reflect on the Dukes decision to execute his wife rather than forgiving her. Therefore, the poem can be viewed as being driven with the aspect of disgust regarding sin and the essence of loyalty.

In synopsis, by comparing and contrasting the poems The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church" with "My Last Duchess," poems by Robert Browning, it becomes easier to comprehend the analogies on what poetry entails presented by John Stuart Mill and Woodworth. Poetry can be perceived to be an artistic art used by poets to express certain emotions and thoughts on issues present in their environments. The form and the nature of character of the speakers in the poems exhibit certain similarities and differences that assist in demonstrating expression in poems.


Cervo, N. A. (2003). Browning's the Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church. The Explicator, 61(4), 204-206.

Jackson, V. (2008). Who Reads Poetry?. PMLA, 123(1), 181-187.

Lescrauwaet, T. (2009). The Speaker in and Analyses of Robert Brownings Dramatic Monologues My Last Duchess, Fra Lippo Lippi, Porphyrias Lover, The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxeds Church, A Toccata of Galuppis and Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came (Doctoral dissertation, Ghent University).

Petch, S. (2008). Character and Voice in the Poetry of Browning. Sydney: Sydney Studies in English, 10.

Sharma, R. (2016). Robert Browning's Poetry- An Analytical Approach (1st ed.). New York: Lulu.

Trott, N. (2010). Wordsworths career prospects:peculiar languageand public epigraphs. Classical Literary Careers and their Reception, 275.

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Comparing Essay: Poems the Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church With My Last Duchess. (2021, Jun 08). Retrieved from

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