My Last Duchess Summary
“My Last Duchess” is narrated by the duke of Ferrara to an envoy (representative) of another nobleman, whose daughter the duke is soon to marry. These details are revealed throughout the poem, but understanding them from the opening helps for instance the irony that Browning employs.
At the poem’s opening, the duke has just pulled back a curtain to divulge to the envoy a portrait of his previous duchess. The portrait was painted by Fra Pandolf, a monk and painter whom the duke believes captured the singularity of the duchess’s glance. However, the duke insists to the envoy that his former wife’s deep, passionate glance wasn’t reserved solely for her husband. As he puts it, she was “too easily impressed” into sharing her affable nature.
His tone grows harsh as he recollects how both humans and nature could impress her, which insulted him since she didn’t give special prefer to the “gift” of his “nine-hundred-years-old” surname and lineage. Refusing to design to “lesson” her on her unacceptable love of everything, he instead “gave commands” to possess her killed.
The duke then ends his story and asks the envoy to rise and accompany him back to the count, the daddy of the duke’s impending bride and therefore the envoy’s employer. He mentions that he expects a high dowry, though he’s happy enough with the daughter herself. He insists that the envoy walks with him “together” – a lapse of the standard social expectation, where the upper ranked person would walk separately – and on their descent he points out a bronze bust of the god Neptune in his collection.
My Last Duchess Analysis
” My Last Duchess,” published in 1842, is arguably Browning’s most famous dramatic monologue, with good reason. It engages the reader on a variety of levels – historical, psychological, ironic, theatrical, and more.
The most engaging element of the poem is perhaps the speaker himself, the duke. Objectively, it is easy to spot him as a monster, since he had his wife murdered for what comes across as fairly innocuous crimes. And yet he’s impressively charming, both in his use of language and his affable address. The ironic disconnect that colors most of Browning’s monologues is especially strong here. A remarkably amoral man nevertheless features a lovely sense of beauty and of the way to engage his listener.
In fact, the duke’s excessive demand for control ultimately comes across as his most defining characteristic. the apparent manifestation of this is often the murder of his wife. Her crime is barely presented as sexual; albeit he does admit that other men could draw her “blush,” he also mentions several natural phenomena that inspired her favor. And yet he was driven to murder by her refusal to save lots of her happy glances solely for him. This demand for control is additionally reflected in his relationship with the envoy. the whole poem features a precisely controlled theatrical flair, from the revealing of the curtain that’s implied to precede the opening, to the way he slowly reveals the small print of his tale, to his assuming of the envoy’s interest within the tale (“strangers like you….would inquire from me , if they durst, How such a look came there”), to his final shift in subject back to the difficulty of the approaching marriage. He pretends to denigrate his speaking ability – “even had you skill in speech – (which I even have not),” later revealing that he believes the other to be true, even at one point explicitly acknowledging how controlled his story is when he admits he “said ‘Fra Pandolf’ by design” to peak the envoy’s interest. The envoy is his audience very much like we are Browning’s, and therefore the duke exerts an identical control over his story that Browning uses in crafting the ironic disconnect.
In terms of meter, Browning represents the duke’s incessant control of the story by employing a regular meter but also enjambment (where the phrases don’t end at the close of a line). The enjambment works against the otherwise orderly meter to remind us that the duke will control his world, including the rhyme scheme of his monologue.
To some extent, the duke’s amorality is often understood in terms of aristocracy. The poem was originally published with a companion poem under the title “Italy and France,” and both attempted to explore the ironies of aristocratic honor. during this poem, loosely inspired by real events set in Renaissance Italy, the duke reveals himself not only as a model of culture but also as a monster of morality. His inability to ascertain his moral ugliness might be attributed to having been ruined by worship of a “nine-hundred-years-old name.” he’s so entitled that when his wife upset him by too loosely bestowing her prefer to others, he refused to talk to her about it. Such a move is out of the question – “who’d patronize blame this type of trifling?” He won’t “stoop” to such ordinary domestic tasks as compromise or discussion. Instead, when she transgresses his sense of entitlement, he gives commands and she or he is dead.
Another element of the aristocratic life that Browning approaches within the poem is that of repetition. The duke’s life seems to be made from repeated gestures. the foremost obvious is his marriage – the utilization of the word “last” within the title implies that there are several others, perhaps with curtain-covered paintings along an equivalent hallway where this one stands. within the same way that the age of his name gives it credence, so does he seem fit with a lifetime of repeated gestures, one among which he’s able to make again with the count’s daughter.
And indeed, the question of cash is revealed at the top during a way that colors the whole poem. The duke almost employs his own sense of irony when he brings up a “dowry” to the envoy. This final stanza suggests that his story of murder is supposed to offer proactive warning to the lady he’s soon to marry, but to offer it through a backdoor channel, through the envoy who would pass it along to the count who might then pass it to the girl. After all, the duke has no interest in lecture her himself, as we’ve learned! His irony goes even further when he reminds the envoy that he truly wants only the lady herself, whilst he’s clearly stressing the importance of an outsized dowry tinged with a threat of his vindictive side.
But the lens of aristocracy undercuts the wonderful psychological nature of the poem, which is overall more concerned with human contradictions than with social or economic criticism. the primary contradiction to think about is how charming the duke actually is. it might be tempting to suggest Browning wants to color him as a weasel, but knowing the poet’s love of language, it’s clear that he wants us to admire a personality who can manipulate language so masterfully. Further, the duke shows a stimulating complication in his attitudes on class when he suggests to the envoy that they “go Together down,” an action not expected in such a hierarchical society. By no means can we justify the thought that the duke is willing to transcend class, but at an equivalent time he does allow a transgression of the very hierarchy that had previously led him to possess his wife murdered instead of discuss his problems together with her .
Also at play psychologically is that the human ability to rationalize our hang-ups. The duke seems controlled by certain forces: his own aristocratic bearing; his relationship to women; and lastly, this particular duchess who confounded him. One can argue that the duke, who was crazy together with his “last duchess,” is himself controlled by his social expectations, which his inability in touch perceived insult to his aristocratic name makes him a victim of an equivalent social forces that he represents. Likewise, what he expects of his wives, particularly of this woman whose portrait continues to supply him with fodder for performance, suggests a deeper psychology than one meant solely for criticism.
The last item to means within the duke’s language is his use of euphemism. The way he explains that he had the duchess killed – “I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together” – shows a facility for avoiding the reality through choice of language. What this might suggest is that the duchess was actually guilty of greater transgression than he claims, that rather than flirtation, she may need physically or sexually betrayed him. there is definitely no explicit evidence of this, but at an equivalent time, it’s plausible that a person as arrogant because the duke, especially one so equipped with the facility of euphemism, would avoid spelling out his disgrace to a lowly envoy and instead would speak around the issue.
Finally, one also can understand this poem as an article on art. The duke remains enamored with the lady he has had killed, though his affection now rests on a representation of her. In other words, he has chosen to like the perfect image of her instead of the truth , almost like how the narrator of “Porphyria’s Lover” chose a static, dead love than one destined to vary within the throes of life. In some ways , this is often the artist’s dilemma, which Browning explores altogether of his work. As a poet, he attempts to capture contradiction and movement, psychological complexity that can’t be pinned down into one object, and yet within the end all he can create maybe a collection of static lines. The duke attempts to be an artist in his life, turning a walk down the hallway into a performance, but he’s always hampered by the very fact that the perfect that inspires his performance cannot change.
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