‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue in which
the Duke of Ferrara is discussing the matter of a dowry with an
emissary sent by a Count. The use of dramatic monologue allows the
poet to subtly reveal the personality of the persona to the reader.
The language used by the speaker allows the poet to evoke strong
emotions in the reader.
The reader is given an early insight into the personality of the Duke
in the very first line of the monologue:
‘That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall’
This early impression portrays the Duke as a very sophisticated man
with a wealth of knowledge in art. This impression is continued when
he mentions the very artist who painted the Duchess, ‘Fra Pandolf’.
However, even at this early stage there are some hints that the Duke
may not be all that he claims to be- the use of the word ‘My’ is very
possessive, perhaps suggesting that the duke sees the Duchess as no
more than an object. Furthermore the use of the word ‘Last’ implies
that there have been many Duchesses and that the eponymous individual
is just the most recent, suggesting that the Duke may be dishonest.
This aspect of the persona’s character is confirmed later in the
monologue, when the Duke says:
‘She liked whate’er she looked on
And her looks went everywhere’
Here the Duke is challenging the morality of the Duchess, clearly
suggesting that she has been unfaithful to him, showing his jealousy.
This jealousy is aimed principally at Fra Pandolf, who he thinks is
trying to seduce his fiancée. This seems quite absurd to the reader as
Fra Pandolf is a religious man and so this suggests that the Duke is a
deeply insecure and extremely jealous persona. Of course this
... middle of paper ...
Then all smiles stopped together’
The use of the word ‘commands’ here yet again shows the possessive
nature of the Duke and the alliteration in the phrase ‘smiles stopped’
emphasises it, which makes the awfulness of the Duke’s actions clear
to the reader. Even the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’, something
which is used repeatedly towards the end of the poem, emphasises the
superficiality of the Duke and this leaves the reader feeling nothing
less than hatred for him.
In his dramatic monologue ‘My Last Duchess’, Robert Browning
successfully uses language, particularly word choice to gradually
reveal the character of the Duke of Ferrara. The reader starts off
being slightly unsure about the Duke but this quickly turns to hatred
as he describes the murder of the Duchess. This revelation of
character make the poem exciting and very enjoyable to read.
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