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Robert Browning's Poem, "My Last Duchess"

1527 words - 6 pages

Analysis of Robert Browning's My Last DuchessRobert Browning's poem, My Last Duchess is a poem that represents and holds true to many of the Pre-Raphaelite ideals. It is comprised of rhyming pentameter lines. The lines do not make use of end-stops but rather they use enjambment (which is that sentences do not necessarily conclude at the end of the lines). This results in the rhymes not creating a sense of closure when the end of the lines come, but to a certain extent keep a subtle driving force behind the Duke's compulsive revelations. The Duke is quite a performer. In his speech he mimics other's voices, creates hypothetical situations, and uses the force of his own personality to make horrifying information seem merely colorful, even laughable.The poem is based loosely on historical events which involve, Alfonso, the Duke of Ferrara, who lived in the 16th century. This is an important part of the poem because it is during the time of the Italian Renaissance, which to Browning as well as the Pre-Raphaelites, held a particular fascination for them. This period of time represented to them the flowering of the aesthetic and the human, alongside, or in some cases in the place of, the religious and the moral. It is in this temporal setting that Browning is allowed to explore sex, violence, and aesthetics as all entangled, complicating and confusing each other. An example of this is Browning's use of such lush language which contradict the fact that the Duchess was actually punished for her natural sexuality. The Duke's ranting and ravings try to suggest that the "supposed" transgressions of the Duchess are only in his mind.Many Victorians saw sin everywhere around them and a lot of the Pre-Raphaelite work deals with sin, especially the sin of un-virtuous woman. The painting of the Duchess that the Duke describes sounds very similar to paintings by Pre-Raphaelites' like, William Holman Hunt's The Lady of Shalott. The Victorians, specifically the Pre-Raphaelites were obsessed with the idea of the fallen woman and that is what the Duke is describing in Browning's poem.The Duke is the speaker of this poem and it is his and only his words and thoughts that we read. This type of poem is called a dramatic monologue and it is a classic example of one. It's categorized as a dramatic monologue because it consists entirely of the words of the Duke (a single speaker). The speaker of this poem is clearly distinct from the poet and an audience is suggested (the representative of his soon to be new wife) but never actually appears in the poem. The revelation of the Duke's character is the poem's primary aim. The Duke tells the audience in his monologue his own nature and the dramatic situation in which he currently finds himself in.We are introduced to the Duke as he is showing the Duchess' portrait to a servant or envoy of his future father-in-law. The Duke shows this painting only to select strangers purposely to appeal to his ego and to flaunt his "prize" (the...

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