Study of “My Last Duchess” by ROBERT BROWNING

My Last Duchess is a Literary Heritage poem by Robert Browning that is centred on a portrait of the Duke’s (narrator’s) “last Duchess”. It begins with a tour of the Duke’s house where he then proudly points out the portrait of his duchess in the line “that’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”.  The Duchess appears, from the poem, to be a friendly, relatable person who gave out a faint, jolly expression to everyone in the form of a smile. This smile, however, agitated the narrator as he believed this was suspicious, treated him like any commoner and was the sign of an affair, and that he “gave commands” in order to stop the "smiles".

The poem then concluded with the reveal that the visitor is in fact the servant of a local Count, who has plans to marry his daughter. He then reveals he known the Count has great “munificence” and that “no just pretence of mined for dowry will be disallowed, showing the truth is that the Duke is financially motivated and passes this off as normal behaviour. The final three lines suggest that to portrait is nothing but a piece of artwork and the Duke continues the tour of his manor house with the guest.

The narrator is keen to emphasize in this poem that he has control and dominance. The poet Robert Browning successfully achieves this step in 4 ways, which are the use of form and structure, inclusion of power and de-personification (objectification), continual references to status and self-image, and finally dramatic irony where lots of his sentences seem innocent but really demonstrate his significance.

The first method of using form and structure emphasizes an irregular shift in the format. Initially, the dramatic monologue appears to be talking to the reader primarily, but when he issues commands to the visitor it is clear this is not the case. Iambic pentameter, caesura and enjambment contribute to the poem appearing to be like natural speech, whereas rhyming couplets increase the level of education it appears that the narrator has.  On the structure end of the poem, we can see that a combination of the Dukes behaviour, family history and how he reacts to certain…


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