Duke of FerraraCharacterization and Depiction My L Essay

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Duke of FerraraCharacterization and Depiction My Last Duchess





Sarah Conrad
English 2413
14 February 2000
The Duke of Ferrara: Characterization and Depiction
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word "officious" during the 19th century as
"eager to please; attentive, obliging." In the dramatic monologue, My Last Duchess by
Robert Browning, this word describes a servant that is volunteering his service
unnecessarily to the Duke of Ferrara’s wife. Although the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara,
is speaking of this servant in a negative manner, he wishes his wife to be officious
towards him; the Duke of Ferrara wishes to have total control. So, the Duke is both
discouraging and discouraging officiousness, depending on whom it is directed. The Duke
of Ferrara emphasizes his need for power and control over his wife, and demonstrates
obvious signs of being a "control freak," whether it be purposefully or inadvertently,
through the style of the dialogue, composition of the dialogue, and the treatment of the
messenger that emphasizes the role of the listener.

The poem gains the reader’s interest from the very beginning with this line: "That is my
last Duchess painted on the wall, looking as if she were alive" (ll. 1-2). The element
that creates the interest is the use of the phrase "as if." The introductory lines are a
fancy way to say that the woman in the portrait is dead, but the tone is mysterious and
creates curiosity, which encourages the reader to continue. The poem also flows smoothly
from one line to the next, making the Duke appear to be an exceptionally fluent and
articulate speaker. This describes the character of the Duke because he is obsessed with
being in control. The Duke reveals his manipulative characteristics through the poem.

The dialogue is composed of several terms and phrases that describe the Duke’s
personality, and his views about officiousness. For example, "E’en then would be some
stooping; and I choose never to stoop" (ll. 42-43). This short locution shows the
pomposity and stubbornness of the Duke of Ferrara. He is obviously overly confident, and
he believes his Duchess should worship his every move. The Duchess did not treat the Duke
with the officiousness that he wished, and, consequently, he "gave commands; then all
smiles stopped together," meaning that he ordered her to be killed (ll. 45-46). This
action is justified in the Duke’s mind because he could not control her actions, and now
his Duchess painted in a portrait covered with a curtain, which is only drawn by the Duke.
Therefore, the control which was absent in their mortal relationship is now presented by
the Duke when he draws the curtain revealing the Duchess.

The listener in the poem plays an important role. The messenger is meeting with the Duke
Continues for 2 more pages >>




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