Robert Browning, one of the most influential and imaginative poets in our history, engulfs readers in a wave of dramatic language, and colorful character representation in the extremely popular poem: “My Last Duchess”, which stands as one of Browning’s most famous literary pieces. In many ways the tone Browning wishes to convey provides a dark background in which many impressions and interpretations of the Duke and his former Duchess can be assessed. “And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, how such a glance came there; so, not the first are you to turn and ask thus” (Kennedy 16). As well, Browning has ingeniously chosen vivid and extraordinary instances through out the poem to hint at obscure character qualities and mysterious moments, that make it seem like the reader is eavesdropping on the personal conversation between the Duke and the nobleman belonging to his new fiancé’s family.
Browning, in the first lines of the dramatic poem, uses immense narration to call attention to many facts and details about the Duke’s presence and life, almost acting like an introduction on things to come. For instance, the first five lines of “My Last Duchess” provide the reader with the Duke’s title (Ferrara), historical reference/setting (Italy), as well as his aristocratic class and environment. With the Duke the main speaker, it is only assumed that he is the only person telling the story of his power and favorable last duchess, showing off her life-like portrait as a trophy. “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, looking as if she were alive…will’t please you sit and look at her?” (Kennedy 15-16). It is noticed that Browning has used the past tense in this monologue to describe the ...
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...ess” was the true personality of the Duke and revelation of his violent crime that is recognized. The true intentions of the Duke and his visitor are now found out, unmistakably repeating the abusive cycle once more with the Duke’s marriage to a new young girl. There will be the presence of a new Duchess within the Duke’s aristocratic palace, possibly awaiting the same fate as the former Duchess had once before. “Well meet the company below, then. I repeat, the Count your master’s known munificence is ample warrant that no just pretense of mine for dowry will be disallowed; though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed at starting, is my object” (Kennedy 17).
Kennedy, X.I., and Dana Gioia. An Introduction to Poetry. New York:
Watson, J.R., ed. ‘Men and Women’ and Other Poems. London: MacMillan, 1974.
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