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My Last Duchess By Robert Browning Analysis

3172 words - 13 pages

My Last Duchess by Robert Browning is a poem that takes place during the Renaissance, in which the reader can conclude that the speaker punishes his last wife for asserting her natural sexuality, due to the fact of the Duke’s evident jealousy and his controlling possessive nature. Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess is one of the most famous dramatic monologues; his use of the soliloquy is essential because it reveals the speaker’s characteristic traits in a way that the reader learns tremendously about the main character in matter of minutes. The duchess’s demise could have been prevented, had the Duke communicated his suspicions with his wife. The duchess’s innocence and naivety was unfavorable to her because she was unaware that her actions caused the Duke to jump to his conclusions.
The speaker of the poem, Alfonso II d’Este, is the Duke of Ferrara in the sixteenth century. At this point, the Duke has been recently widowed and he is entertaining an emissary. This emissary is the Count of Tyrol, and he has come to negotiate the Duke’s marriage to his daughter. Alfonso shows the Count of Tyrol his lovely palace, in which he has many portraits and works of art in his corridor. However, he specifically tells the Count to pay close attention to a portrait of a young lovely lady, who happens to be his last wife, the duchess of a prominent family in Florence. He begins a dramatic monologue, telling the Count of his wife’s deplorable behavior. He tells him that her eyes used to wander, and how she would smile and flirt with other men. He tells the Count that she did not appreciate “the gift of a nine-hundred-year old name.” As the poem progresses, the reader can conclude that the Duke caused the duchess’s early demise. We know this because in line 45, “[he] gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together.” According to The Classic Hundred Poems: All-Time Favorites, “The Duke stops before a portrait of his last duchess, and as he talks about her we learn little by little that, because of her innocent manners and unwitting failure to be subservient to him alone, he has come to hate her and finally has gotten rid of her” (Harmon 173-73). How come Harmon uses the words “innocent” and her “unwitting failure to be subservient”? Harmon is implying that the duchess had no real harmful intentions; she was unaware and oblivious that she was disobeying the Duke. Had he communicated his suspicions with her, maybe he would have changed his controlling, possessive mentality, and allow the duchess to live. There are plenty of hints in the poem that the duchess possessed innocent qualities, in which this paper will later explore. Harmon believes that the Duke had something to do with the duchess’s demise, because of her disobedience. In the end of the poem, the Duke returns to the business at hand: arranging another marriage, this time to the daughter of the Count of Tyrol. As the Duke and the emissary walk away from the painting, the Duke...

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