The Use Of The Dramatic Monologue In The Last Duchess

1901 words - 8 pages

"My Last Duchess"Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess" is a splendid poem achieve within the format of the dramatic monologue, a poetic form in which there is only one speaker. Because there is only one speaker, we the reader must wonder carefully what the Duke is telling us, and we often have to read between the lines in order to keep an objective perspective on the what is happening in the poem. This paper will discuss how the use of the dramatic monologue makes the subject (the Duke) tell a story while, at the same time, unintentionally and ironically revealing unflattering characteristics about himself. Through diction and imagery Browning further reveals the character of the Duke.The style and structure of this poem plays a significant role in the effect of the poem. "My Last Duchess" is written as a dramatic monologue: one speaker relates the entire poem as if to another person present with him. This format suits this poem particularly well because the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara, comes across as being very controlling, especially in conversation. For example, he is jealous that he was not able to "monopolize" his former duchess' smiles for himself (Dupras 14). He also seems to control the actions of the person he is addressing with comments such as "Will't please you rise" (47) and "Nay, we'll go/Together down, sir" and his refusal to "stoop" out of respect to the count (53-54, 43).Browning uses many grammatical techniques, including a simple rhyme scheme, enjambment, and caesura to convey various characteristics and qualities about the Duke and the situation. The rhyme scheme used is AA BB, which is very common to ballads and songs. This pattern is called a heroic verse because of the couplets rhyme in an iambic pentameter format. The icy ways of the Duke is established through the aa bb rhyme scheme. This pattern, although, "imperceptible" is "unfailing" in its contribution to the Duke's character (Burrows 56), because the Duke hardly every speaks and then stops as in normal conversation. The heroic couplet meter used is emblematic of many of the great poets, including Pope, who wrote many of his major production in this format. Yet, according to William Phelps, the rime scheme evident in Pope is scarcely heard at all in "My Last Duchess." Phelps writes that the effect of this scheme is so muffled and concealed that the poem is often mistaken as blank verse. This again contributes to overall character of the Duke and is a "subtle" force behind revelations that he later makes (171).One has only to glance over at the printed page of "My Last Duchess," to realize how few of the lines end in punctuation points. The inability of readers to notice these grammatical errors during recital of the poem is due to the extreme occurrence of enjambments within the poem; that is, sentences and other grammatical units do not conclude at the end of lines. Take for example the following passage from "My last Duchess":Quite Clear to such an one, and...

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