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Analysis of My Last Duchess by Robert Browning.

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Introduction

Analysis of My Last Duchess by Robert Browning Murder...mystery...intrigue. All describe Robert Browning's poem, 'My Last Duchess'. From the speaker's indirect allusions to the death of his wife the reader might easily think that the speaker committed a vengeful crime out of jealousy. His flowery speech confuses and disguises any possible motives, however, and the mystery is left unsolved. The poem is a great example of dramatic dialogue, a poetic form used to narrate and dramatize. It consists entirely of the words of a single speaker who reveals in his speech his own nature and the dramatic situation in which he finds himself. This format suits this poem particularly well because the speaker, taken to be the Duke of Ferrara, comes across as being very controlling, especially in conversation. For example, he seems jealous that he was not able to monopolize his former duchess' smile for himself. He also seems to direct the actions of the person he is addressing with comments such as "Will't please you rise?" The title of the poem evidently refers to a wall painting that Ferrara reveals to someone yet unidentified in the first fourteen words of the poem. ...read more.

Middle

The Duke, of course, is casting himself in a favorable light and is presenting his best side. He wants to make it look as if his wife was cheating on him and was unfaithful to him. He is very controlling, and could not control her and her smiles. This smile was what the Duke likes the most about the painting of the Duchess--he feels that the painter accurately captured the smile and the vivacity of the Duchess. Now that the Duke owns this painting and has placed it behind a curtain, he can at last control who is graced with her smile. I feel that Ferrara betrays his obsessions by nervous mannerisms. He repeats words associated with the Duchess: the phrases `as if ... alive", `there she stands', `Will't please you', and `called/calling ... that spot of joy', `look,' variously inflected, `glance' `thanked' `gift', `stoop', `smile', and `pass'. These words define his speech but also his mind, circling back to the same topic again and again. He takes pride in saying, "I repeat". He also obsesses about his height, relative to others. He stands because the Duchess stands on the wall, and he requires his listener to sit, to rise, and to walk downstairs with him side-by-side. ...read more.

Conclusion

Always knowing his place, the envoy must study his host's revelations (or insinuations) tacitly. The painting is the focus of the poem. I feel that in all likelihood, the Duke will not succeed in marrying the Count of Tyrol's daughter because the envoy/messenger will warn his master about the dangerous possessiveness of the prospective son-in-law. I think that another positive aspect of the poem was the fact that Browning allows the reader to asses the Duke for themselves. I as the reader could see that such powerful Renaissance rulers were ruthless and greedy. I also saw how jealousy and possessiveness can destroy things that we love the most. I think that framing his former wife is a way for the Duke to prevent the count's daughter from misinterpreting him. His absolute rule will allow him to prescribe her behavior, but he depends on the count's representative to convey his indelicate hints about propriety better than he could verbally respond to the last duchess's miscues. I feel that in the poem there is pain, jealousy, rejection and happiness. The majority of the spectrum of emotions associated with love and marriage is contained by this piece. Jonathan Anderson ...read more.

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