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Bethany Rossiter 14/09/11
How does Robert Browning portray the Duke and Duchess in `My last Duchess'?
In this poem the duke and duchess are portrayed in many different ways.
Firstly, the duke appears to be jealous of his wife, the duchess throughout most
the play. For example, `Twas not her husband's presence only, called that spot of
joy into the duchess' cheek'. I feel that this is said in quite a jealous and almost
sarcastic tone of voice. Browning did this to make the reader get the impression
that the duke is jealous of his wife. Also describing the duchess' as a `spot of joy'
creates an image of a happy woman and this helps the reader to see why the duke
is jealous of the duchess.
Furthermore, Browning also portrays the duke a very protective way, he also likes
to be in control. For example, `herself be lessoned so'. This means that she doesn't
want to be corrected in her actions by him. The duke wants her to behave in a
better way, he likes to be in control of his wife and is angry that she doesn't obey
or listen to him.
Also, the duke comes across as a rather possessed and sinister man. For example, `I
gave commands; then all smiles stopped together'. This line describes the moment
the duke admits that he has ordered the assassination of his own wife. The tone
which Browning uses comes across as rather sinister and evil; this makes the
reader think that the duke is a sinister man. The dukes anger at his wife's
disobedience and independence drives him mad with anger, so he kills her, in other
words he was possessed.
Browning also describes the duchess as an outgoing woman for her status. For
example, `She had a heart-how shall I say?-too soon made glad, too easily
impressed'. This shows that she would fall for anyone and is easily impressed with
the smallest of things. Browning wrote this line in a disapproving tone, showing to
the reader that the duke did not approve of this behaviour. I get the impression
from this that the duchess is lonely, isn't allowed to enjoy herself in the way she
wants to and enjoys looking for pleasure; she is trying to compensate for what she
is missing out on because of her status.
Finally, the duchess is portrayed as being unfaithful to the duke. For example, `she
thanked men,-good! But thanked somehow- I know not how'. This is written in a
hesitant tone, as there a lot of pauses in this sentence, almost as if the duke is
trying to find the right words to say. He is accusing her of having affairs with
other men, being unfaithful to him. We don't know if this is true because the duke
is clearly angry with her and may be trying to get her into some kind of trouble.
Browning is trying to get us to side with the duke and believe that the duchess is
in the wrong.
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Bethany Rossiter 14/09/11
In conclusion, Browning portrays the duke as sinister, possessed, protective, in
control and jealous. He describes the duchess as misunderstood, disloyal and a
more outgoing woman for her status than she would usually be.…read more