Oscar Wilde, The Picture Of Dorian Gray And Robert Browning's The Last Duchess

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Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Robert Browning's The Last Duchess

The Picture of Dorian Gray, written by Oscar Wilde, begins with an introduction of witty sayings discussing the question of if art has any use; and if it does, what are its implications. Likewise, "My Last Duchess", written by Oscar Wilde's Victorian contemporary Robert Browning, also delves into these provocative questions. Both The Picture of Dorian Gray and "My Last Duchess" explore the question of whether art has a moral element or whether it is only a purely meaningless application of the artist.

In the introduction Oscar Wilde states "there is no such thing as a moral or immoral book". Not only does Wilde use this statement to defend his book but he is also suggesting that books have no moral connotations. That, in fact, they should only be taken at face value. In the book Lord Henry often times parallels what Wilde himself believed. Lord Henry tells Dorian late in the novel regarding the book he gave Dorian that "Art has no influence upon action… it is superbly sterile".

The idea of art for art's sake exemplifies how many Romantics viewed art. During the late nineteenth century there was shift from art being viewed as purposeful and meaningful to being viewed aesthetically. Likewise the Duke in "My Last Duchess" only sees art as art as art and nothing more. This is evident by how the Duke views the painting of his wife that he killed. He sees it only as another piece of art.

In the poem it seems as though this painting is just part of a large gallery that the duke is showing to a guest. Returning to the novel, Dorian Gray's portrait is able to embody his age and sins. In the book Dorian switches qualities with the painting. Instead of Dorian growing old, it is the picture that grows old. The poem and the novel are very similar in the fact that they both share the same view of art.

The theme of art not having any moral value is evident in both The Picture of Dorian Gray and "My Last Duchess". In the novel this is established through the introduction and the words of Lord Henry. In the poem, it is shown through the actions of the Duke. During the Romantic period, many people began to embrace and view art only as that, art.

“My Last Duchess” is a poem which is in the form of dramatic monologue where the poet adopting a persona is telling the story from a personal point of view. There is also a second character in the poem who adopts the role as the listener and through whom we learn a lot about the real character of the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara.

The Duke's desire for control is made evident by the structure of the poem, through his appreciation of art, and his response to the incidences that led to the death of his wife. The frequent use of ...
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