Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess

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Robert Browning’s “My Last Duchess,” written in 1842, is an intriguing poem that reveals an unexpected interpretation when closely analyzed. The poem is based upon actual incidents that occurred in the life of Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara. The first wife of Ferrara, Lucrezia, mysteriously died in 1561 with many speculations afterwards that it was supposedly Ferrara who murdered her. The poem takes place in media res of the Duke consulting and arranging his second marriage. A portrait of the former Duchess is pointed out, and the Duke begins to recall her personality and behavior. The genre is a dramatic monologue. Browning uses various techniques and ways to make the reader scrutinize what the speaker is saying in order to discover the true intention and meaning of the poet. The Duke is a manipulative character, in which his dramatic monologue attempts to convince himself that he is not at fault for the murder of his wife.

Predominately the poem is written in rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. The rhyming couplets form a strict structure with: “the regular use of enjambed lines throughout the poem may suggest an inability to control over either his wife or his own tongue, yet his disruptive caesurae create a rhetorical violence that allows him to reassert his sovereignty and command” (Gardener 170). The Duke attempts to manipulate the envoy into seeing the Duke as the victim. The Duke fails as he comes off trying too hard to be normal, and seems guilty. Nevertheless, he does try to control “his own tongue” to make his side of the story more plausible. The “disruptive caesurae” highlights how the Duke must control what he is saying and manipulate his words. He has the tendency to use the word “I” throughout the...

... middle of paper ... of his wife. A clear indication that precaution should be taken when encountering the Duke, or else the consequences will be grave.

Works Cited

Adler, Joshua. "Structure and Meaning in Browning's ‘My Last Duchess’" Victorian Poetry. West Virginia University Press 15.3 (1977): 219-27 JSTOR. Web.

Gardner, Kevin J. "Was The Duke Of Ferrara Impotent?" Anq: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews. 23.3 (2010): 166-71. Academic Search Complete. Web.

Jerman, B. R. "Browning's Witless Duke." PMLA. Modern Language Association 72.3 (1957): 488-93. JSTOR. Web.

Monteiro, George. "Browning's ‘My Last Duchess’" Victorian Poetry. West Virginia University Press 1.3 (1963): 234-37. JSTOR. Web.

Pipes, B. N., Jr. "The Portrait of ‘My Last Duchess’" Victorian Studies. Indiana University Press 3.4 (1960): 381-86. JSTOR. Web.

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes robert browning's "my last duchess," written in 1842. the poem is based upon actual incidents that occurred in the life of alfonso ii, duke of ferrara.
  • Analyzes how the duke's choice of words shifts the tone of the poem from a positive to negative.
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