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My Last Duchess

Updated April 22, 2020

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My Last Duchess essay

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My Last Duchess My Last Duchess By Robert Browning In Robert Brownings monologue poem My Last Duchess, the author employs many literary techniques to convey the overriding jealous, controlling demeanor of the persona, the Duke. The poem, through the Dukes careful words, illustrates that appearances can indeed be deceiving. In the first line Browning immediately withdraws the persona from the poem, saying directly to the envoy, and thus the reader theres my last Duchess painted on the wall (1). Only four lines later, we are politely invited to admire the painting: Willt please you sit and look at her? (5). By jumping right into the Dukes comments to the envoy regarding his last wifes portrait Browning effectively draws the reader in, as we are enthralled by the Dukes courteous demeanor.

Fr Pandolf by design the Duke says, trying to impress his audience. Browning invented the name of the artist, and thus the Dukes efforts to impress are foiled, since the name is unfamiliar. One explanation for Brownings reasons behind the invented name could be to illustrate that the Duke had been duped. He may have hired the artist under the pretense she was well known. This is the first major hint towards Brownings underlying themethe Duke may appear to be of haute couture, but we are beginning to suspect we have been deceived. Later, after having eloquently spoken, the Duke comments, Even had you skill / In speechwhich I have not (35-36).

The false modesty corresponds with his forged politeness a few lines before. Then, after much discussion of how certain things his Duchess did disgusts (38) him, and how she would miss / Or exceed the mark (38-39), the Duke collects himself, and brings us back into his control by adjusting his almost constant faade. Willt please you rise? (47) he asks, in the same breath complimenting masters known munificence (49). The circle is complete and we once again almost believe his superficial mask to be true. Through the diction of the Duke, Browning is able to show how easily one can be blinded by an allusion.

The Duke shows obvious jealousy and resentment towards his belated wife. She was too easily impressed (23) and she thanked men,good! But thankedas if she ranked / My gift of a nine-hundred-year-old name / With anybodys gift (31-33). The Duke was simply jealous of the Duchess love of life; he wished that she would smile only for him. Finally, filled with envious rage, he gave commands; / Then all smiles stopped together (45-46).

By this, Browning gives the initial impression that the Duchess is now under the control of the Duke, like Neptune/ Taming the sea-horse (54-55). Even if one has caught on to the Dukes falseness through observance of his diction, superficial understanding of the poem stops with the belief that the Duke finally has his prizedrawn behind a curtain for only him, and a few choice people to view on the wall. However, Browning drives the theme that appearances can be deceiving even deeper. The Duke places a curtain around the painting to shield the eyes of the acrylic face from wandering. After all, there is more to the world than a view of the Duke.

Fr Pandolf (6) attempted to convince the Duke that the only thing that could be wrong with the Duchesss portrait is the impossibility to reproduce the faint / Half-flush that dies along her throat (17-18), or that Her mantle laps / Over my ladys wrist too much (17). But what the Duke is haunted by is now a flaw in artistry, but his wifes enduring, yet unendearing, gaze. He himself admits, that she looks as if she were alive (2) in the portrait he must shield from the world, as well as from himself. The portrait stands (4), unsupported, mimicking how the Duchess stood, independently, in life. Much like the bronze god in the statue of Neptune/ Taming the sea-horse (54-55), the Duke is frozen forever, trapped by his inability to ever completely control the Duchess.

One may think that the Duke has won and conquered all by finally having her smiles stopped together (45-56), but much like the image of himself he tries so hard to convey, the Dukes battle being over is far from reality. The end of the poem is a tragic one, as the cycle continues on. The envoy understands by the end of the Dukes speech what he wants for his next wife, an object (53) something he can truly control. The Duke knows the envoy will get him what he wants, as well as an ampledowry (50-51).

This leaves the ending of the poem somewhat up to the reader. Browning indeed convinces us that we are easily deceived by appearance, however, whether the Duke will be successful in his next venture is for us to decide. Poetry and Poets.

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My Last Duchess. (2019, Sep 27). Retrieved from