In Pre-1914 poetry, the Victorian era had differing attitudes to the act of murder, in general. It appeared that death was arguably embraced with the use of rituals. Unlike most people in modern society, Victorians do not fear death however at the same time they commemorate the persons’ death for a period of time that one may call ‘over-extended’.
This is because of their strong religious convictions regarding the Bible – that being the resurrection of the body and immortality of the soul etc. eople of that particular era are reminisced on as being prudish and incredibly God-fearing.But on the other hand, they relished reading about scandals and the deeper sides of human nature i. e. crime, detective, murder.
These book topics were coincidentally, in concurrence with the happenings of the time in Victorian society. Although, it would seem that Victorians were highly moral and that ethical issues didn’t arise; many people look back on the Victorian era as the ‘Golden Age of Poisoning’ – mainly, because of the easy availability of toxic substances such as arsenic.Because of these effortless ways of accessing deadly liquidised substances, it made poison a preferred option for non-evidential murders in the 19th Century. One of the more famous cases of poisoning transpired shortly after the Victorian Era, involving Dr.
Harvey Crippen. It seemed that poisonings/killings were over the opposite sex, but this will be investigated further in the essay. In the Dr. Crippen scenario, the situation involved living with the mistress. It could be assumed, that in modern society, this would’ve been caught more quickly; possibly on first suspicions.
During the end of the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, public anxiety led Parliament to ratify laws which required doctors to restricted poisons as well as register deaths. This reduced the attraction of poison becoming a weapon of murder. All murder poems that are going to be compared in this essay are dramatic monologues apart from Isabella and the Pot of Basil which are type of poems in which a character in a story delivers a speech explaining his or her feelings, actions, or motives.
The monologue is usually directed towards a silent audience and it is usually about a very critical or dramatic moment in the character’s life. Dramatic monologues were suited for the style and tone of these poems because it gives the reader a more interesting, direct and personal perspective on the story. This poetic technique provides a deeper, more emotional understanding because dramatic monologues allow the reader to experience the murder for itself, and give a ‘voice’ to the murderer. Moreover, the reader can recognise madness and trauma that murderers go through and see the impact that it has over the murderer or others.Murder in the Victorian Era took place for several reasons, some that people of this society wouldn’t be able to comprehend or identify the validity in the murder. However, poison wasn’t suspected as much because of the availability and simply because women used arsenic as a cosmetic chemical for skin enhancing/lightening purposes. In the majority of these poems, the poems are associated with class division – either similar or different. If the murderer is of a higher class killing someone of a lesser status/class, it is done swiftly and without mark of the murder i.
e.Isabella and the Pot of Basil. If the murderer is of a higher class executing someone of similar class, then the murderer is enthusiastic and full with adrenaline as the person may have more similarities with the murderer i. e. The Laboratory. They may find this exciting, as killing someone of similar class may be challenging – it is more like killing a peer. Conversely, if the murderer and the victim are both of the lower class, the reasons are more just (compared to the others): occupational reasons (war) i. e.
The Man He Killed and revenge over stolen property and enemy i. e. The Poison Tree.On the other hand, if the murderer is of a lower class and is to kill a person with a higher status and succeeds, an ego boost is rewarded as well as happiness and a selfish attitude i. e. Porphyria’s Lover.
It could be said that in the poem The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy, there’s a lack of motive or that the motive is unidentified. Within this poem, it seems as if the speaker is addressing us informally in a conversational tone and trying to justify the reason for him killing this man ‘because – / Because he was my foe’ the use of the dash denotes that the man was trying to conjure up a valid answer.It seems that he is convincing himself because he hasn’t experienced such an encounter before.
In the third stanza, the soldier contradicts himself with lines like ‘my foe of course he was’ and ‘although’. The word ‘although’ reveals that the soldier was feeling uncertainty and that there was no reasoning behind him murdering; but simply following orders. The lack of motive is also shown as he doesn’t show any patriotic qualities, as a soldier would. Hardy exposes that possibly the soldier only joined because he was unemployed and there was no other option.
Was out of work’ and ‘No other reason why’ shows that the soldier’s intention wasn’t to kill but purely to have an occupation. Because of this, there was no motive for the soldier to do it besides submission. Another poem is ‘Porphyria’s Lover’ where there is a lack of motive for murder. Throughout the poem, Robert Browning shows that there may’ve been a serious psychological problem with the murderer as he constantly refers back to Porphyria wishing the murder upon herself and being happy about the occurrence of her death ‘glad it has its utmost will’.This shows that may not have been a lack of motive, but simply a major flaw with Porphyria’s lover. Although Porphyria’s lover seems in awe of Porphyria in the setting of the poem – the reader can infer this with the contrast of weather when Porphyria wasn’t in his presence ‘I listened with heart fit to break’ and ‘the sullen wind was soon awake’ compared to the reaction of Porphyria’s arrival ‘glided in Porphyria’.
This line can be seen as controversial or confuse the reader as compared to his admiration at the beginning of the poem.Throughout the poem Porphyria is referred to (by her lover) as ‘its’ – the words can symbolise asexuality/object-like. It could be said that Porphyria’s lover’s motive was jealousy – due to the differentiation of statuses and the ties she has with her family. Furthermore, an interpretation of ‘When no voice replied’ could denote that he was getting impatient of waiting for her to cut her social ties, and just wants her completely to himself, compared to secret rendezvous that the lover seems accustomed to. Because of this, the lovers’ last resort was killing her.In a modern society, one may say that such motives like jealousy of one’s family and pure desire/control is not acceptable, and a person with that type of mindset must be put into a mental institution – and therefore a lack of motive is shown. A few motives for murder that seemed to occur frequently in pre-1914 were jealousy, anger, revenge and arrogance.
As aforementioned, Browning showed that Porphyria’s Lover had tendencies of jealousy and possibly revenge (to get back at the family). However, these motives can be linked to a lack of motive as jealousy and revenge could be seen as artificial and insufficient motives to the reader.On the other hand, one may say there are no correct motives for murder, as murder is immoral as a whole.
A poem that exemplifies two of these motives is the poem: The Laboratory. One could say that Browning intertwines two of these motives: jealousy of the mistress and vengeance against her husband. In the second stanza, Browning displays the harsh realisation of the situation with repetition of ‘know’, ‘they’, and ‘laugh’.
Browning shows the paranoia of adultery through this murderer – she presumes that she is been made a mockery out of and therefore needs to “remove” the woman.Browning uses punctuation such as a colon in the stanza two emphasises the break/pause in the woman’s train of thought. Browning shows that the woman is proud of herself through lines such as ‘You may kiss me, old man, on my mouth if you will! ‘ She is mocking him and rewarding her sexuality throughout the poem. This demonstrates that the murder is through revenge and jealousy, and her intention is to show her husband the importance of her love through this punishment/her actions ‘than go where men wait me and dance at the King’s. Furthermore, Browning shows that one of the underlying causes may’ve been jealousy.
This is proven in stanza 8 where Browning writes ‘That’s why she ensnared him’, the woman is jealous because this woman is with her husband, possibly making ridicule out of her.This line depicts that the mistress has trapped her husband against his will and seized him like an animal. The murderer is oblivious to her husband’s unfaithfulness because she believes that the woman has ‘ensnared’ her husband, so that he was defenceless.
Jealousy has overshadowed the murderer; this is shown in stanza 9 ‘Could I keep them…. he would fall’, this suggests the depth of hatred thrown towards the mistress, which is a symptom of jealousy because the mistress has what the woman thought belonged to her.
Murder was also the resolution for people pre-1914 who had over-controlling traits, where obsession was an end result. In a bout of worry/fear they may think that they’ll lose possession of a person dear to them; this causes them to murder as an anti-prevention tactic – so they have ultimate control. A prime example of this is ‘My Last Duchess’.Browning even shows the Duke’s dominative spirit through the title by using a possessive personal pronoun, ‘My’. Browning even shows disturbing pride. ‘Will’t please you sit and look at her? ‘ The fact that the Duke is advertising his picture, completely disregarding that it used to be his partner shows two attitudes towards her death: firstly, his lack of care as he treats her as an object but secondly, his demand for control as although she is dead, he still feels compelled to have control over her and own her – ‘since none puts by/ The curtain drawn for you, but I’ displays ownership.
The narrator makes it appear that he is completely obsessed by her, and the littlest of movement is exaggerated ‘ ’twas not/ Her husband’s presence only, called that spot/ Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek’, this is imagery of blushing; to a sane reader, this could be showing traits of modesty, politeness or shyness. However, to the Duke it is seen as flirtatious, it proves his obsessive mindset. Browning helps the readers to see this quality of the Duke by showing it between the contrast of words: ‘passion’ and ‘earnest’.These choices of words imply that it possibly is just the Duke that views passion, but other observers see complete seriousness.
It could be said that his obsession with his Last Duchess has allowed him to view her in this way. Another poem that displays possessive qualities which eventually lead to murder is Isabella and the Pot of Basil. Although this poem’s attitudes to murder is slightly different, as the protagonist in this poem is one of the surviving victims, and not a murderer or the person killed.
There are two occurrences where control is demonstrated: Isabella’s reluctance to bother with everyday activities and the fact that she shows no interest to proceed with survival, let alone happiness ‘For seldom felt she any hunger-pain’ as well as ‘A very nothing would have power to wean/ Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay’. The fact that Isabella didn’t feel any hunger-pain which is a basic necessity enables the reader to show what little she does.Moreover, ‘fair youth’ and ‘pleasures gay’ could be associated with seeking youthful pleasures whereas, in this context it appears that she is no longer interested in activities that are stereotypically, endured at Isabella’s age – that is she aging faster. These two lines help to show that Isabella’s energy is being contributed to the death, and not focusing on the wellbeing of herself. This is an obsessive quality. The other occurrence is the brothers’ interest in Isabella’s relationships’ which led to an obsession and murder.
From casual inklings ‘And, furthermore, her brethren wonder’d much’ to an unnecessary act ‘Yet they contriv’d to steal the Basil-pot, / And to examine it in secret place’ which could’ve been resolved with communication with Isabella. Lastly, their suspicion-now-obsession of Isabella’s activities led to shame ‘The guerdon of their murder they had got’ and ‘Away they went, / With blood upon their heads, to banishment’. Isabella’s journey of depression and obsession leads to her miserable death ‘And so she died forlorn/Imploring for her Basil to the last’.Control is normally stemmed from insecurity or lack of stability mentally.
This is shown in this extract, ‘prize was all for Isabella’ which denotes an unusual contrast where she is calling something dead “a prize”. This could make the reader question her wellbeing. The victim, Isabella is showing that murder can harm survivors but also that it is a time to mourn for an extended period of time. Possibly, the poet was trying to exemplify how some or many Victorians dealt with death and used Isabella as an example, as her behaviour by some could not be labelled as normal.
An example being ‘With tears, as chilly as a dripping well’ from the contrast between ‘tears’ and the tears being ‘chilly’, the reader could question her sanity, and view her as matter-of-fact and cold towards the situation – by removing her emotions making the tears cold. It could be assumed that Isabella was only crying because of the principle and the expectation for her to cry (as a surviving victim and as part of the Victorian society) – this can also symbolise obsession as she is still fixating herself upon it instead of continuing with life.However, her tears could be ‘chilly’ because she is numb to this death – his death could’ve left her feeling desensitized to other situations. This could be shown through her lack of eating ‘For seldom felt she any hunger pain’. Another interpretation could be that she’s broken by this death so natural occurrences i. e.
crying are different. This is shown when the poet says her tears are ‘chilly’ which is not normal.