In this essay I will be discussing how themes of love and hate are shown in Julius Caesar and three Robert Browning poems. They are; Soliloquy Of The Spanish Cloister, The Laboratory Ancien Regime and Porphyria’s lover.
Robert Browning uses personification and rhetorical questions to show hate and how unrequited love is destructive in the poem, Soliloquy Of The Spanish Cloister.
‘If hate killed men…would not mine kill you!’
In this poem, a monk is describing his feelings towards Brother Lawrence and how he ,ironically, hates him. By personifying the word hate it makes the speaker’s feelings very clear, that he hates Brother Lawrence. As well as this, the personification gives the speakers’ hate more importance and significance as it is strong enough to kill a man, a very strong and hateful action especially by a monk.
‘What’s the Latin name for “parsley”? What’s the Greek name for Swine’s Snout?’
The first rhetorical question is a statement that is said from Brother Lawrence, I get this from the speech marks. The second rhetorical question is satirical as the speaker is trying to imitate Brother Lawrence. This shown by the use of ‘Swine Snout’. The connotations of swine are dirty, vile animals and the snout is where a pig sweats the most which would elevate Brother Lawrence’s dirtiness as oppose to calling him a swine. It also shows how sly the speaker is as he says these things about Brother Lawrence discretely and indirectly, in turn, this would be very destructive for the speaker as he continually shows hate which links back to my point that unrequited love is destructive.
This could be linked to Act 1 scene 2 of Julius Caesar in which Shakespeare uses Cassius’ speech to Brutus as a platform to show Cassius’ hate towards Caesar. Shakespeare uses figurative language to show this.
‘…this God did shake, his coward lips did from their colour fly’
This quotation shows Cassius’ hate towards Caesar as he is directly mocking him and lowering his status as a ‘God’. Cassius calls his lips, and in turn him, a coward; as well as this he talks about how Caesar shook during his fever which is un-God-like and certainly doesn’t make Caesar untouchable. On the other hand, I think that Caesar and Cassius were once very close at one point. I believe this because Cassius and Caesar swimming together alone and how Cassius saved Caesar’s life which would mean Caesar is in great debt to Cassius. However Caesar has not shown any respect (or love) back to Cassius and this would further support my point that unrequited love is destructive. I do understand that Cassius is trying to convince Brutus that Caesar is a villain to Rome and that ,at times, he has been a deceptive and sly character (e.g. Cassius taking bribes) however there is no indication that this story is made up by Cassius and therefore I believe it is true.
Another one of Robert Browning’s poem, The Laboratory, is very similar to this scene and characters can almost be substituted into the story. Cassius could be replaced by the speaker, Caesar could be replaced by the ex-boyfriend and Brutus can be either the new girlfriend or the audience. This love triangle is the basis of love and hate in both pieces.The reason why I am torn by Brutus’ role is because of Cassius’ characteristics. Cassius has been very misleading during the play and his motives are unclear. As the reader I am unsure whether, he wants his own glory and is jealous of Brutus’ popularity and status or whether he is just despises Caesar and his solo purpose in the play to advancing the conventions of a tragedy and therefore Caesar’s downfall. Because I believe Brutus and Antony are the two most significant characters in the play this makes Cassius a secondary character, one that would advance the plot, so I would believe in the second interpretation. Therefore making Brutus would be playing a direct part in the play and would the new girlfriend.
As a result the poem and the scene are very similar however Robert Browning uses different devices to convey this emotion. Two ways he does this through alliteration in which personification is also show and the rhythm of harsh verbs.
‘Brand, burn up, bite into its grace’
This quote is when the speaker is describing the poison and commanding it what to do. The connotation of each of those verbs are to scar, destroy or to tear away. By reading a few stanzas previously I know that ‘its’ as well as the ‘her’ from the first line in the second stanza is the new lover. The grace is metaphor to the new lover’s beauty. So by translating the sentence completely it reads: Scar, destroy, tear into her beauty. This makes its very clear that the speaker is personifying the poison as she is giving the poison the ability to scar, destroy and tear. However more importantly, the poet has chosen to use alliteration as alliteration give the poem more rhythm and flow. The rough constants slow the speed of the poem right went it needs to be swift for the final powerful line. This is why I think Robert Browning has used this language device.
I would now like to explore the time gap between Shakespeare (1600s) and Robert Browning (1800s). Also, how the representations of love and hate changes with time.
I will first analysis Shakespeare who uses figurative language and symbolism to represent Brutus’ love and hate for Caesar.
‘And therefore think him as a serpent’s egg…And kill him in the shell’
By Brutus saying Caesar is a ‘serpent’s egg’ he is calling Caesar an animal. More importantly the connotations of a ‘serpent’ are sly, vile creatures. I believe that Shakespeare would have got this interpretation from the bible as religion in his time was taken very seriously and everyone knew the bible. The ‘serpent’ would be a direct link to the story Adam and Eve. Within Adam and Eve, Eve is tempted by the serpent several times to eat the apple that she was told by God not to. Generally, throughout the whole bible serpents/snakes are known as deceptive back-stabbing creatures which I feel would have heavily influenced Shakespeare’s writing. As well as religion and monarchs would have swayed his writing as shown clearly in Macbeth as the king of Scotland was strong and noble which is what King James the first would have liked. However this play is written retrospectively and shows no signs of monarchy of the time period Shakespeare was living in.
The connotation of an ‘egg’ is potential to grow and by Brutus describing Caesar as an egg, Brutus is saying he has not fulfilled his potential and can be spoiled before doing so. To ‘kill’ something is a very violent and hateful action and to ‘kill him in the shell’ is brutal as if Brutus was to literally kill something in its shell he would be killing an infant. Therefore, this is the turning point for Brutus in the play as his love for Caesar turns to hate. Later Brutus said ‘not that I love Caesar less, but I love Rome more’ showing that Caesar is a threat to Rome and must be an enemy.
In Robert Browning’s poem Porphyria’s lover, the theme unconventional love and hate are shown through the plot of the narrative.
Throughout the poem Porphyria is shown to be gorgeous and graceful and even the speaker said she was ‘Perfectly pure and good’. At first it might seem strange that she is to be murdered. However, on a second reading, she is revealed to be tied to modern day society and traditions. The speaker then kills her to set her free from her exceptions. It is a hateful act but is done out of love as now her ‘one wish would be heard’ and she can stay with him forever. The two lovers have a type of love which is unconventional to their time period.
I find the last line very interesting as it shows the two different time periods the authors live in
‘And yet God has not said a word!’
By this quote I can infer that the speaker, and in turn Robert Browning, were in shock that he had committed a sin by killing someone. This style of ending a story would have been heavily influenced the time period Robert Browning was living in. During the 1800s there was continuous questioning of religion and God’s existence and by 1859 Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was first published.
This would prove that the perception of religion has changed as Robert Browning would have felt angered by God decision to tease his character and deprive them of their one wish as opposed to Shakespearean times in which people were in submission to God. However the presentation of love and hate have stayed the same throughout these time periods as love and hate are very similar emotions with very contrasting actions as a result. They are both the extreme highs of passion but unlike a pendulum in which these emotions are on completely different ends, these emotions are next to each other. Many a time love is hidden in hate and vice versa. These two authors have used many different language devices to show these emotions but the interpretation of these two emotions have changed due to the perception of people who lived at the time to see them.