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Interpretation of “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browing

Uploaded by fiwer on Mar 29, 2005

In “My Last Duchess” by Robert Browning, the reader is introduced to the dramatic monologue. A dramatic monologue is a speech in the speaker unknowingly reveals his personality.

In this poem, the audience listens to a monologue of the Duke of Ferrara (who is soon getting married) in which he sees the portrait of his deceased Duchess and brings up her faults to an unknown envoy only know as “sir!” (l.54). Through the Duke’s ramblings, it is learned that he is a self-centered, materialistic, proud and chauvinistic man. He has a high rank in nobility (assumed because he was married to a “Duchess” (l.1) who is only allowed to marry other nobility) and an old well-respected name (l.33, “My gift of a nine hundred years old name”). Thus, he tries to portray himself as powerful and sophisticated. But his underlying motives are revealed and he is seen jealous and possessive.



The Duke was formerly married and this marriage ended tragically. His last Duchess had a wandering eye and a smile for everyone (l.24, “her looks were everywhere”). These actions tremendously infuriated the Duke because he perhaps believes that her “looks” should be reserved for him. He expresses this discontentment in line 44 where he states that “She smiled, no doubt, whene’er I passed her; but who passed without much the same smile?”. With this said an assumption can be made that the Duke of Ferrara enjoys the spotlight and is enraged when this attention is not focused solely on him. He feels that he should be the only one in his Duchess’s life to be able to invoke joy or any sort of emotion from her. But instead this is not the case and she “Would draw from her alike the approving speech, / Or blush at least…” (l.29), meaning she showed emotions such as delight in simple pleasures and common courtesy others.

With all these innocent little flirtations the deceased Duchess must have given, a rage would have been built within the Duke and then overflowed. And yet he could not talk to her about his feelings, “…Even had you skill in speech – (which I have not)…” (l.35). And even if he was able, he probably would not choose to because this would damage his ego even more. Throughout the poem the issue of the Duke’s attempts to dominate and control the late Duchess (with obedience—described as being...

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Uploaded by:   fiwer

Date:   03/29/2005

Category:   Poetry

Length:   3 pages (689 words)

Views:   2544

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