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Robert Browning wrote the well-known dramatic monologue “My Last Duchess.” It implies that the speaker murdered his wife and will do the same to the next one shortly. The Duke and Duchess Ferarra provided the poet with ideas for this poem. The Duchess passed away in eerie circumstances. At fourteen, she got married, and by seventeen, she was gone. Browning draws on these troubling circumstances to create a poem that explores the powerful Duke of Ferarra’s desire to dominate his wife in every facet of her life, including her emotions.
About the poet
Robert Browning was an English poet and playwright whose dramatic monologues put him high among Victorian poets. He was noted for irony, characterization, dark humor, social commentary, historical settings, and challenging vocabulary and syntax.
The central theme of “My Last Duchess” is power, namely the political and social authority that the speaker (the Duke) wields and his endeavor to manage his marriage in the same manner that he rules his territories.
That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands. Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said
The speaker refers to “his final duchess” in the poem’s opening lines. It conveys the impression that the speaker is a Duke and is speaking to an unidentified or unresponsive audience. The Duke gestures toward the wall-mounted picture of his deceased Duchess. The speaker claims that the Duchess appears to be standing alive in front of him since the painting of her is so exquisite. The Duke lauds the artwork and describes it as a masterpiece. He also provides information on the painter or artist who created this amazing work of marvel for the unidentified listener. He claims that Fra Pandolf put a lot of effort into it and needed a full day to finish it and give it a realistic feel. When the Duke exclaims, “There she stands,” it suggests that the Duchess’s entire body is depicted in the picture rather than just a close-up, giving the impression that she is alive and standing in front of the Duke. The Duke then urges the audience to take a seat and concentrate on the artwork’s beauty. He invites him to study and appreciate the painting’s artwork.
“Fra Pandolf” by design, for never read Strangers like you that pictured countenance, The depth and passion of its earnest glance, But to myself they turned (since none puts by The curtain I have drawn for you, but I) And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, How such a glance came there; so, not the first Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
The Duke explains to the audience that he purposefully revealed the painter’s identity because everyone who views this painting is curious about the artist. People or outsiders who view this picture may wonder how the artist managed to capture the Duchess’s expressions as being so genuine-looking while still conveying such depth and passion. The Duke also informs the audience that only he is authorized to pull back the curtain covering the picture. It implies that only Duke can view this painting or, if he chooses, can display it to anyone else. Additionally, it suggests that the picture is kept in the Duke’s gallery, which is only accessible with his permission. He adds that he is not the only person who is astonished to view this exquisite work of art. Anyone who looks at it turns to the Duke as if they want to ask him how the Duchess’ painting looks so lifelike, but they never dare to do so. The Duke responds to everyone before they ask since he can read their faces and anticipates their questions.
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint Must never hope to reproduce the faint Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough For calling up that spot of joy. She had
The Duke addresses his silent listener once more, this time addressing him as “Sir.” He analyses the Duchess’s facial expressions in the artwork and informs the audience that the flush and smile on her cheeks were not caused by the presence of her spouse. The Duke’s presence made the Duchess unhappy. The Duke appears envious of this since he always desired for her to have these joyous emotions on her face solely for her spouse, giving the impression that something else was the cause of the Duchess’ happiness. The Duke begins speculating on the cause of the Duchess’ delight or blushing in the following words. He speculates that she may have grinned as a result of Fra Pandolf complimenting her beauty, telling her that the shawl or mantle was concealing too much of her wrist, or telling her that he would never be able to capture the beauty of her fading half-blush on her throat in a painting. The Duke criticizes his Duchess, claiming that she believed that simple acts of kindness or courteous remarks like these were sufficient to satisfy her. It demonstrates that the Duke didn’t want her to smile or blush when everyone offered her insignificant compliments. He only cared that she was content when her husband was around or complimenting her.
A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad, Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
The Duke goes on to describe his late Duchess’ character to the audience. The Duchess, according to him, had a kind heart that was readily made joyful at any time. Everything the Duchess looked at was to her liking and acclaim. In other words, it was quite simple for everyone to win her over or wow her in any way. The Duke is attacking the Duchess in these words, not complimenting her. Although the Duchess appears to be very friendly and down to earth in the lines above, she is not the type of person the Duke desired for his bride.
Line 25- 31
Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast, The dropping of the daylight in the West, The bough of cherries some officious fool Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule She rode with round the terrace—all and each Would draw from her alike the approving speech, Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked
The Duke refers to his listener as “Sir” once more and continues to explain his Duchess’ actions in these lines. He explains to him that she treated everyone equally and that everything made her happy. She used to smile and thank him when he brought her jewelry, brooches, or other items she could wear on her chest, but she also found joy in seemingly insignificant things like watching the sunset in the west, receiving a branch of cherries from an errant fool in the orchard, or riding the white mule around the terrace. He also claims that she gave each of these things the same praise or blushed consistently. It demonstrates how, despite the Duke’s expectations, the Duchess treated everything equally. It is now obvious that the Duke expected his Duchess to give him extra attention, but she treated him equally and always reacted to him in the same way that she formerly reacted to any other regular person or item.
Line 32- 35
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill
She used to praise men, the Duke continues. The Duke concedes that it’s polite to express gratitude when someone gives you a gift or does you a favor. Although he had no issue with the Duchess saying thank you to everyone, he didn’t like how she went about it. She received the honor and the nine hundred-year-old family name from the Duke. By appointing her as his Duchess, he gave her a position she had never enjoyed before marrying the Duke, but she didn’t even consider this gift from him to be more significant than any other small favor performed for her by an ordinary person. Who would be so low as to question her about her odd behavior or to argue with her about it, the Duke then asks his audience. The Duke is aware that the response is “none.” The fact that the Duke never informed the Duchess about her behavior also implies that there was a communication breakdown in their relationship.
Line 36- 43
In speech—which I have not—to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse— - E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
The Duke now describes the barriers that prevented him from protesting to his Duchess about her behavior. He believes she would offer defenses or put up a fight, demonstrating her reluctance to adapt for him. He claims that even though he lacks the necessary communication skills if he had tried to talk to her and told her about “the behaviour that disgusted him or where she did little or too much for him,” there is a chance that she might have tried to change herself and become what he desired. Nevertheless, the Duke claims he would never have even attempted to speak to her. The Duke didn’t want to speak to her because he believed that doing so would be equal to stooping and explaining what was wrong. Being a Duke, he feels that explaining anything to anyone, including his own Duchess, is an insult. Without uttering a word, he wanted his wife to know what he wanted even though he didn’t want to bend.
Line 44- 47
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The duke acknowledges to the listener that his Duchess was always cordial toward him. When she saw him or when he went by her, she always smiled and treated him kindly. The Duke then inquires once more, “Who passed her without giving the same smile?” Her grin for the Duke was unremarkable in any way. The Duke continues by informing the audience that “this grew.” He discusses how she acts and how sweet she is to everyone. He informs him that she continued to be kind and love everyone with greater intensity. The Duke acknowledges that he was unable to take it anymore and that he so issued orders against his own Duchess, which caused all of her smiles to cease. It suggests that he issued the orders to kill her so she wouldn’t be able to grin anymore. The Duke finally comes to a close, pointing once again at the lovely portrait and saying, “Now there she is, and it appears like she is alive.” The Duke then gently requests the listener to stand up.
Line 48- 53
The company below, then. I repeat, The Count your master’s known munificence Is ample warrant that no just pretense Of mine for dowry will be disallowed; Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
To go and meet the other visitors who are downstairs, Duke invites him to get up and accompany him. The duke then begins to discuss the listener’s “Count” master. It conveys the impression that the unspoken listener is the Count’s servant. The servant is told that the duke expects him to provide the dowry for her daughter in the amount he requests because everyone is aware of the generosity of his master. It implies that the duke is currently being remarried to the Count’s daughter and that he discusses dowries with the servant. Here, Duke’s greed is also demonstrated. Additionally, he says to the servant that, given the Count’s generosity, he is not concerned about the dowry but, as he indicated earlier in their conversation, the Count’s daughter’s fairness will be his top focus.
Line 54- 56
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!
The duke concludes his conversation, and they begin to descend. As they proceed, the Duke directs the servant’s attention to yet another stunning work of art in his gallery. He gestures in the direction of a statue of the god Neptune, who is portrayed riding a sea horse. The artist who created it is also mentioned by the duke to the servant. He reveals to him that this statue was created out of bronze specifically for him by Claus of Innsbruck.