My Last Duchess2 Essay

This essay has a total of 826 words and 4 pages.

My Last Duchess2



My Last Duchess
By Robert Browning

In Robert Browning’s 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 “there’s my last Duchess painted on the wall”
(1). Only four lines later, we are politely invited to admire the painting: “Will’t
please you sit and look at her?” (5). By jumping right into the Duke’s comments to the
envoy regarding his “last” wife’s portrait Browning effectively draws the reader in, as we
are enthralled by the Duke’s courteous demeanor.

“‘Frà Pandolf’ by design” the Duke says, trying to impress his audience. Browning
invented the name of the artist, and thus the Duke’s efforts to impress are foiled, since
the name is unfamiliar. One explanation for Browning’s 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 Browning’s
underlying theme—the 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
speech—which 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 façade. “Will’t please you rise?” (47) he asks, in the same breath complimenting
“master’s 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 thanked…as if she ranked / My gift
of a nine-hundred-year-old name / With anybody’s 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
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