The characteristic attitude of romanticism that I chose to relate to two of our readings is the display of favoring emotion over reason. “Ulysses” and “My Last Duchess” are the readings I chose to relate to these characteristics because they are somewhat related in a sense that they are both told from the perspective of a powerful man, yet they are both very different given the topic in which they are discussing. In the following paragraphs I will show how the two share the characteristic of emotion over reason.
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“Ulysses” is being told from a well traveled, experienced king’s perspective describing his life now, how it was and how it should be. His emotions about the life he once knew and loved are making him miserable in his current situation of staying within the kingdom to rule as a king does. He lived the life of a nomad, traveling the world experiencing all it had to offer, and he explains that that is what has made him who he is today, “Much have I seen and known; cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments, myself not least, but honour’d of them all; and drunk delight of battle with my peers, far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met”. Reason tells us it is necessary for a king to remain in his kingdom and rule his people, but his emotions towards his past life have made him resent the life of a king. His love for travel shows that passion gives you purpose. He refers to his son Telemachus, “To whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,- Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil This labour, by slow prudence to make mild A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees Subdue them to the useful and the good. Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere Of common duties, decent not to fail In offices of tenderness, and pay Meet adoration to my household gods, When I am gone. He works his work, I mine”. You can tell that even though his son will be a good king, worships the gods, and performs his duties to the best of his abilities, but his father’s emotions will not allow him to see him as a well rounded king because he has not experienced the same things.
“My Last Duchess” is a little different in terms of subject matter, but the emotions of the king still cause him to act outside of reason. In this reading a Duke is showing someone around his palace or castle, and they stop briefly at a painting of his late wife. He has been recently widowed and is in the process trying to marry another woman from another powerful family who is much younger than his previous Duchess. While he is examining the picture and speaking of his late Duchess, it becomes clear that he had her killed because of her flagrant behavior. The most apparent emotions that overcame him appeared to be jealousy, anger, and envy. When speaking of her behavior he said, “She had a heart-how shall I say?-too soon made glad,
too easily impressed; she liked whate’er she looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, she dropping of the daylight in the west,
the bough of cherries some officious fool broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
she rode with round the terrace-all and each would draw from her alike the approving speech,
or blush, at least. She thanked men,-good! But thanked somehow-I know not how-as if she ranked my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name.” What I gather from this, is that he was jealous of the way she spoke to others, the way she looked at others, and the way she responded to others. It also seems that he was accusing her of cheating on him when he mentioned her offering “thanks” in ways that he did not know. He thought that simply because he made her his wife, she should have only responded to him in the way she responded to others, even thought it could have just been her acting out of kindness. The jealousy, anger, and envy he felt grew to the point that it eventually led to her murder as it is implied in him saying, “I gave commands; and all smiles stopped together”. The thing that is troubling about the murder in this reading is not only the display of emotion over reason, but the lack of emotion when concerning the murder. He has truly objectified and dehumanized her in his own mind to the point that upon her being happy and possibly flirtatious with other men, he could have her killed and replaced without blinking an eye.
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In conclusion, I believe I have explained how these two stories have an obvious illustration of the display of emotion over reason. “Ulysses” devalued the everyday life of a king because he was so emotionally attached to the life he once had and could not reason to believe that the life of a king could ever be as fulfilling as the life of a wonderer. In “My Last Duchess” the Duke allowed his emotions to completely take over his actions and, without reason or investigation, had his wife murdered because of suspected actions. To this day, we still have many instances that we allow our emotions to overcome reason, so I found this presence in literature from so long ago to be a very interesting in providing evidence that human nature has not changed all that much throughout the years.
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