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A dramatic monologue is defined as a poem in which a single character is speaking to a person or persons- usually about an important topic. The purpose of most dramatic monologues is to provide the reader with an overall or intimate view of the character’s personality. A great poet can use punctuation and rhythm to make the poem appear as if it were an actual conversation. Robert Browning, known as the father of the dramatic monologue, does this in his poem, “My Last Duchess.'; The Duke of Ferrara, the speaker in “My Last Duchess,'; is portrayed as a jealous, arrogant man who is very controlling over his wife.
The Duke of Ferrara was made jealous by everything the duchess did, no matter how unimportant it was. He was especially jealous of Fra Pandolf, the man who painted the duchess in the poem. A woman should be pleased only by her husband, as was not the case with the duchess and Fra Pandolf. She was “too easily impressed'; by the painter (line 23). Fra Pandolf was not the only man that made the duke jealous. Everyone who passed the duchess received “much the same smile'; as the duke (line 44). The duke expected to be the only man to receive a smile from his wife.
Another aspect of the duke’s character addressed in the poem is his condescending attitude. Two times in the poem the duke needlessly told the names of the artists who created the masterpieces that he owned (lines 3 & 56). He felt superiority over the emissary he was speaking to by dropping these names. The duke addressed the emissary as a “never read stranger'; (line 6). Not only was it patronizing for the duke to call him a stranger, but he called him unintelligent too.
The third character trait of the duke is his controlling behavior. In lines nine and ten he told the emissary that no one “puts by the curtain'; that he had drawn for him but the duke himself. He felt the need to control who ever looked at the painting of the duchess. The main evidence of his dominating behavior is in line 46. The line reads, “…then all smiles stopped together.'; The line is ambiguous, but the most likely interpretation is that the duke had his wife killed. The poem can be interpreted in several different ways, but in all cases the duke is a very controlling man.
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