My Last Duchess Rhyme, Form and Meter

  • Created by: Megan96
  • Created on: 04-11-13 21:34

Browning himself described this poem as a "dramatic lyric" – at least,Dramatic Lyrics was the title he gave to the book of poems in which "My Last Duchess" first appeared. The "dramatic" part of the poem is obvious: it has fictional characters who act out a scene.

The "lyric" part is less clear. "My Last Duchess" doesn’t read like a typical lyric poem. Its rhymed iambic pentameter lines, like its dramatic setup, remind us of Shakespeare’s plays and other Elizabethan drama. But it is about the inner thoughts of an individual speaker, instead of a dialogue between more than one person. That makes it more like the Romantic lyrics that came before it in the early part of the nineteenth century – stuff by Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley that are all about the mind of the individual. So, really, Browning’s title Dramatic Lyricssays it all. "My Last Duchess" is what would happen if Shakespeare’sMacbeth married Wordsworth’s "Tintern Abbey" and they had a baby. It’s a hybrid of a play and a poem – a "dramatic lyric."

As for meter, "My Last Duchess" uses the rhythm called "iambic pentameter." Why does this matter? Well, for one thing, some people like to claim that iambic pentameter is the




A useful analysis of the structure and form of the poem which provides ways of addressing some of the aspects of narrative. To enhance the use of this resource links could be made to the use and choice of language in the poem.