The Poem “My Last Duchess,” is one of the best known of Robert Browning’s many dramatic monologues, and because it is a dramatic monologue, it may seem a bit difficult to understand at first. To develop deeply into this Monologue, readers must pay close attention to what is said, as well as to what is unsaid. This poem consists of multiple characters who center on a specific topic to make the story very authentic and attention-grabbing. The effectiveness from this piece comes into play when the author uses the dramatic dialogue to sustain the readers’ suspense, which makes this poem all the more interesting.
To begin with, in this dramatic monologue, there are many characters who play important roles. The Duke, however, portrays in the biggest role and is the only speaker throughout the entire piece of writing. This means that while he is explaining his version of the events, all other opinions from the other characters are excluded. In the beginning of the poem, the painting of the Dukes former wife is introduced. Although it is never stated that the Duke murdered his wife, the dialogue of the poem insinuates it. The phrase, “That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,/looking as if she were alive,” leave readers with the suspicion that the Duchess is no longer alive. In lines (27-28), “The bough of cherries some officious fool/Broke in the orchard for her” it sounds as if other men continuously bought the Duchess gifts and the Duke started to become furious because he had implanted in his mind that men were memorized by her.
Then, reader’s interpretations of the poem began to change when,they learn that the wife wasn’t so innocent: “All and each would draw for her alike the approving speech,/Or blush at least” (29-31). These thoughts accumulated the Duke until he finally decided to have her killed. From the readers’ perspective, the Duke is revealed to be a man who is possessive, proud, selfish, and an individual who loves and enjoys art but he is also the most captivating element of the poem because objectively, it’s easy to identify the Duke as a monster, since he had the duchess murdered for fairly innocuous crimes. Yet, he is thrillingly appealing, both in his use of dialect and his welcoming approach. The Dukes actions and words showed that he liked to be the one who was in control. He was fluctuated with jealousy and although he never accused the Duchess of cheating, he insinuated it because he was under the impression that other men were impressed by her. He speaks about his late wife as if she were an object who existed only to please him and do as he commanded. The portrait of her only interested him because it only reveals how beautiful she was when she was alive and excludes the qualities within her that annoyed him.
In addition to the characters within this monologue, this poem is structured as a long speech, pretending to be a conversation. With a total of 56 lines, almost all of them are written in iambic pentameters. For instance, the phrase “Must never hope to reproduce the faint” (line 18), contains a beat that consists of 10 syllables that are both stressed and unstressed. Organized in rhyming couplets, the rhyme scheme is ‘AABBCC’. For example, the Duke chooses when the curtain that is covering his wife’s portrait is open or closed, saying “none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I”. The rhyming of words ‘by’ and ‘I’ reflects his powerful control over his wife because even after her death, it’s his decision when it comes to who can look at her. Browning’s use of rhyme, and rhythm brings out the disgraceful personality of the Duke himself. The entire poem has a precisely controlled theatrical flair, from the revealing of the painting, to the way he slowly unravels details of the devastation, to him expecting that the listener in the room is paying attention to his story, and to when he transferred back to the issue of the upcoming marriage. The author uses repetition most common when the subject of marriage is brought to attention. From the title, the word “last” hints towards the theory that there are or were several others.
Furthermore, the language used in this piece of work is astonishing as it allows the poet to evoke strong emotions in the reader. The setting of the poem happens to be not only in a palace but in a private room, where the Duchess’s portrait is being held. The tone shows an excessive arrogance and power over others. The climax of the poem arrives when the Duke admits that he killed his wife. He killed her because he was jealous that she didn’t look at him or anything he had bought her as something special. She looked at him, the same way she looked at everyone else, and it filled him with anger. Some themes within this poem are pride and wealth because the Duke is seen an objectionable character to some readers and also seems to be displeasing and arrogant, but one of the main themes is the conflict that takes place between the Duke and the Duchess. Irony takes a major role in this poem when the talk of imperfections and failings of the Duchess surface. Readers discover that the young woman’s “flaws” were aspects like compassion, warm-heartedness, pleasure in simple gratifications, and consideration to those who served her. The monologue is concluded when the Duke points out the statue of Neptune who appears to be Taming a sea-horse. This explains how the Duke wants his next wife to be like a trained horse.
In conclusion, “My Last Duchess”, is a poem that engages conversation which was indeed, Robert Browning’s scheme all along. It creates many possible scenarios and contradictions. The Duke executing his scheming, lustful, lying wife, would make him look like a revengeful perpetrator but the Duke murdering his loving, kind-hearted wife that could do anything but please her attention-wanting husband would of course portray him as nothing less than a monster. This fantastic monologue persuades readers into picking which character they desire to be untrustworthy. The Duke, although wrongfully killing his wife, felt as if he were an outcast because he couldn’t get a special reaction out of his wife, especially after giving her such. Even at the end, it’s visible that he still loves her because he is left with nothing put the portrait of her, in which he keeps out of harms way.