Reverse Imperialism in My Last Duchess

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Professionals divide literature into many different categories, or genres, which seem not to relate to each other. Some crossover hybrids exist, but very few works of literature can actually be compared to others that are not in the same genre. One such comparison would be that of a poem and the detective genre in general. For example, Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess”, a dramatic monologue, would very rarely be compared to Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Purloined Letter.” The writers of Detective Fiction Crime and Compromise, however, have placed Browning’s poem in the manifestation section of their book. A manifestation of detective fiction is something, other than detective fiction, that outwardly or perceptibly indicates a materialization of the detective genre (Gale Cengage Learning). Browning manifests detective fiction by incorporating the theme of reverse imperialism into his poem. Reverse imperialism occurs when a country, which would usually try to control others, is being taken over and controlled by another. Browning understood society’s fear of reverse imperialism, and channeled this as Poe did in his short stories. In “My Last Duchess”, Robert Browning paints a picture with his words, which portrays Duke Ferrara as an imperialistic man that would produce anxiety in society due to their fear of reverse imperialism.

“My Last Duchess” is written in a dramatic monologue style, which allows the readers to see the true temperament of Browning’s character, Duke Ferrara, and how his personality was similar to that of an imposing, imperialistic country. One key point of reverse imperialism, which society would notice in the poem, would be the compulsive nature to collect things as the Duke does. Imperialistic countrie...

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...ests many different themes. One of these themes is reverse imperialism, which may seem to be an odd theme to find in a poem, but Robert Browning truly depicts it with his character Duke Ferrara. The poem, written during the same time period as most of Edgar Allan Poe’s detective stories, manifests many detective themes, and these themes allow it to be compared with multiple other genres of literature. Browning truly accomplished expressing the anxieties and concerns of his society in his monologue poem “My Last Duchess”.

Works Cited

"Glossary of Terms." Gale Cengage Learning. Cengage Learning, n.d. Web. 5 Apr 2011.


Browning, Robert. “My Last Duchess”. Detective Fiction: Crime and Compromise. Eds. Dick Allen and David Chacko. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1974. 44-45. Print.
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