‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning is a dramatic monologue in which
the Duke of Ferrara is discussing the matter of a dowry with an
emissary sent by a Count. The use of dramatic monologue allows the
poet to subtly reveal the personality of the persona to the reader.
The language used by the speaker allows the poet to evoke strong
emotions in the reader.
The reader is given an early insight into the personality of the Duke
in the very first line of the monologue:
‘That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall’
This early impression portrays the Duke as a very sophisticated man
with a wealth of knowledge in art. This impression is continued when
he mentions the very artist who painted the Duchess, ‘Fra Pandolf’.
However, even at this early stage there are some hints that the Duke
may not be all that he claims to be- the use of the word ‘My’ is very
possessive, perhaps suggesting that the duke sees the Duchess as no
more than an object. Furthermore the use of the word ‘Last’ implies
that there have been many Duchesses and that the eponymous individual
is just the most recent, suggesting that the Duke may be dishonest.
This aspect of the persona’s character is confirmed later in the
monologue, when the Duke says:
‘She liked whate’er she looked on
And her looks went everywhere’
Here the Duke is challenging the morality of the Duchess, clearly
suggesting that she has been unfaithful to him, showing his jealousy.
This jealousy is aimed principally at Fra Pandolf, who he thinks is
trying to seduce his fiancée. This seems quite absurd to the reader as
Fra Pandolf is a religious man and so this suggests that the Duke is a
deeply insecure and extremely jealous persona. Of course this
insecurity eventually turns to murder, at which point the Duke shows
one of his most deplorable characteristics:
‘Will’t please you rise?’
This simple, polite sentence emphasises the casual manner in which the
speaker moves on from the arranged murder of his fiancée. This manner
is not only continued, but emphasised further still when the Duke
reverts to the subject of money, discussing the situation with the
‘dowry’. This shows how superficial and indeed shameful a person the
This shameful personality is brought out further still by the poet’s
use of rhyme and rhythm, the very heart of the poem. The poet’s use of
style represents the Duke himself- the poem has many example of rhyme,
for example ‘Paint’ and ‘Faint’ and, ‘Durst and ‘First’- this would
suggest that the persona was articulate. However, this is shown to be
nothing more than a façade in the way in which the lines of the poem
run together, showing that the poet is not as skilled in language as
he would like to make out:
The Duke here is seen to be struggling to express himself, showing his
lack of skill in language and emphasising that he has tried...