My Last Duchess by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue spoken by the Duke Ferrari. It highlights the jealous and sadistic nature of his character and the weirdness that surrounds his late wife’s demise. A dramatic monologue is a kind of poem whereby a single fictional or historical character other than the poet is made to speak to a silent audience, in this case, only the main character is allowed to talk. The purpose of the monologue is to not to disclose the poet’s own ideas but the thoughts of the lead character in the poem. (Christopher Baldick 1) .In the process, personality of the main character is revealed by the poet.
In "My Last Duchess," the duke is speaking to a aristocrat of a wealthy count. Before the commencement of the poem, the aristocrat has been led through the Duke's palace most likely through an art gallery filled with paintings and sculptures. The aristocrat has seen a curtain, which hides a wall painting, thus the duke decides to show his visitor a very special portrait of his late wife. The aristocrat is awed by the smile of the woman in the painting, he asks what produced such an expression, and that is when the dramatic monologue commences:
As it is common in many other dramatic monologues, “My Last Duchess” offers a peek of the Duke of Ferrara personality. The first line alone reveals that he has a deep passion for art. In the first three lines, “That's my last duchess painted on the wall/ Looking as if she were alive I call /That piece a wonder.”(1-3). The portrait of the late Duchess of Ferrara is a wall painting, which is a type of work painted directly on a plaster wall in watercolors. By calling that piece, a wonder emphasizes that he has many other paintings in his possession but gives the impression that the painting of the Duchess is the one painting that he values the most.
The language used by the speaker exhibits someone speaking with pride over a possession, which in this case is a piece of artwork that is custom-made. He emphasizes the fact that Fr Pandolf, seemingly a revered and talented portrait artist, mainly due to the speaker’s enthusiasm to mention his name, painted it. However, he betrays some aspects of his character by the manner in which the Duke gaily skims over the subject of the portrait, his "last duchess.” It implies to the reader that though, he has lost a spouse, he does not seem aggrieved by the said loss. He speaks in a inconsiderate, dismissive manner such that, within his first line of speech, reveals him to be useless and very materialistic, and undisturbed with the loss of his previous duchess.
While describing the duchess, the Duke further reveals his scrofulous character by unconsciously contrasting it against her more admirable nature. Qualities in the duchess that the duke perceives as improper are, in fact, aspects of her character that humanize her and make her more compassionate to the reader. For example, the duke was flabbergasted at the duchess outlook on life, her...