My Last Duchess

1685 Words7 Pages
Robert Browning is remembered for his mastery at capturing the essence and power of the dramatic monologue. Through symbolism, structure and technique, Browning creates the model of the ideal dramatic monologue in the poem, "My Last Duchess." "My Last Duchess" was published in 1845. "Ferrara" is the subtitle of the poem and assists in disclosing the design of the poem, a portrayal of Alfonso II, the fifth Duke of Ferrara. The historical life of Alfonso II fits intricately with the events and happenings within the poem. Alfonso II married Lucrezia de’ Medici who is the daughter of the Duke of Florence. The Duke’s family has a long credited name and wealth that had been around for ages. The affluence and power of the duchess’s family had been newly acquired, and when comparing the two families, the Duke’s was much more significant, at least in his eyes. The Duchess of Alfonso II died of poisoning in 1561. Three short years later the Duke arranged to marry Barbara, a niece of the Count of Tyrol. The speaker of the dramatic monologue is an egotistical and pompous Duke. He speaks to an envoy of the Count throughout the monologue. At the beginning of the poem, he slowly draws back the curtain and reveals a portrait. This portrait, he asserts, is his "last Duchess…looking as if she were alive" (lines1-2). The Duke continues by addressing the look upon her face and the many reasons for her blushing cheeks. Continuing the description, he depicts the duchess’s ways, including her virtues of innocence and unspoiled beauty. Examples are given by the Duke of how easily she is impressed by nature and the simple pleasures of life. He claims he is disgusted by her ability to see natural beauty as an equal delectation with his name and matrimony. Then very subtly he tells the envoy how he gave orders to have "all smiles stopped together" (line 46). The envoy is completely aware of the truth about the ordered killings and the Duke’s greedy reasoning for marrying the niece of the Count. The contemptuous way of the Duke is made perfectly clear to the envoy, and the envoy begins to leave. The delegate is completely aware of the truth about the ordered killings and the Duke’s greedy reasoning for marrying the niece of the Count. The Duke elaborates his reasoning for marrying the duchess, by declaring it is only for the dowry.
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