My Last Duchess. Robert Browning (1845). What is it about?. A Duke is talking to a visitor about a portrait of his dead wife. He says she used to smile and have a laugh with everyone, and this annoyed him .We suspect her death may have been a bit suspicious.
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My Last Duchess Robert Browning (1845)
What is it about? A Duke is talking to a visitor about a portrait of his dead wife. He says she used to smile and have a laugh with everyone, and this annoyed him .We suspect her death may have been a bit suspicious. It’s based on a true story. At the end of the poem the Duke is trying to arrange to buy himself a new wife. Written in 1564, so the language is old. http://www.shmoop.com/my-last-duchess/
Why Should I Care? The themes in play here are way more interesting than the basic setup. Jealousy, murder, manipulation, a sinister atmosphere, and the inner thoughts of a psychopath – it’s practically The Silence of the Lambs in poem form. The Duke’s overreaction to the Duchess’s friendly nature pretty much makes him a textbook example of a controlling, abusive husband who demands absolute subservience from his wife. The only difference is that he’s crazy enough to think that even ordering her not to be nice to people is beneath him. In his mind, killing her is the only way to deal with the fact that she smiled at the sunset.
The Duke is very possessive Dramatic monologue An imaginary artist, name dropping: everything has monetary value My Last Duchess That's my last Duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's handsWorked busily a day, and there she stands.Will 't please you to sit and look at her? I said"Fra Pandolf" by design, for never readStrangers like you that pictured countenance,The depth and passion of its earnest glance,But to my self they turned (since none puts byThe 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 firstAre you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was notHer husband's presence only, called that spotOf joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhaps He controls who looks at the painting. He couldn’t control who looked at his wife when she was alive.
She was a modest person who got embarrassed by compliments The Duke’s jealousy; he starts to reveal more than he planned His only pride is in his wealthy family name Contrast: genuine romance or a posh title, he expects her to value the latter more Fra Pandolf chanced to say, "Her mantle lapsOver my lady's wrist too much," or "PaintMust never hope to reproduce the faintHalf-flush that dies along her throat:" such stuffWas courtesy, she thought, and cause enoughFor calling up that spot of joy. She hadA heart--how shall I say?--too soon made glad,Too easily impressed: she liked whate'erShe looked on, and her looks went everywhere.Sir, 't was all one! My favor at her breast,The bough of cherries some officious foolBroke in the orchard for her, the white muleShe rode with round the terrace--all and eachWould draw from her alike the approving speech,Or blush, at least. She thanked men,--good! but thankedSomehow,--I know not how--as if she rankedMy gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name The dashes show the Dukes frustration, suggests he’s struggling to say the words Her only crime was enjoying life and not respecting his rank/title
He accidentally reveals more of his weaknesses What kind of man expects his wife to be rude like this? He is getting jealous over her being kind Makes monologue feel like conversation ‘the mark’ suggests he has a benchmark against which to measure her With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blameThis sort of trifling? Even had you skillIn speech--(which I have not)--to make your willQuite clear to such an one, and say, "Just thisOr that in you disgusts me; here you miss,Or there exceed the mark"--and if she letHerself be lessoned so, nor plainly setHer wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,--E'en then would be some stooping; and I chooseNever to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,Whene'er I passed her; but who passed withoutMuch the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;Then all smiles stopped together. There she standsAs if alive. Will 't please you rise? We'll meetThe company below, then. I repeat, HE KILLED HER? Duchess was sweet to But, he says, it’s not like that was special. She smiles at everyone.
Money for marrying his daughter The Count your master's known munificenceIs ample warrant that no just pretenceOf mine for dowry will be disallowed;Though his fair daughter's self, as I avowedAt starting, is my object. Nay, we'll goTogether down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me! Robert Browning (1812-1889) final word ‘me’ draws attention once again to his total self-obsession The Duke doesn’t realise how much of himself he has given away in his criticism of his former wife young woman's "faults" were qualities like compassion, modesty, humility, delight in simple pleasures, and courtesy to those who served her.
POWER AND OBJECTIFICATION: The Duke felt the need to have poet and control over the Duchess. He see’s her as something to be admired just like his paintings. FORM: The poem is a dramatic monologue. At first it seems as though the Duke is speaking directly to you, making what he says seem more powerful. There is enjambment and caesura to make the poem sound more like natural speech. FEELINGS AND ATTITUDES: Pride- The Duke is very proud of his possessions and status. Jealousy- He couldn’t stand the way the Duchess treated everyone nicely, not just him. Power- The Duke enjoys the control he has over the paintings (lines 9-10). He didn’t have power over the Duchess when she was alive. STRUCTURE: The combination of things the Duke mentions, his wife’s behaviour, proud family history and his reactions make it seem like he is jumping from one subject to another and give the impression that he is an unstable character. LINKS: Les Grand Seigneurs (husband controls wife), Medusa (husband has emotional power over wife), River God (both characters have unpleasant qualities and kill), Ozymandias (history), key theme across lots of poems = POWER
Did you know? • The poem is written in iambic pentameter. This means that there are five feet in each line. Each foot contains two syllables. - • Traditionally, iambic pentameter is written in the following pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables. • Iambic pentameter often follows the natural rhythm of speech, a little like a heartbeat. If we apply this to pattern to Browning’s opening line, it would be as follows. That’s my last duchess painted on the wall Try reading it aloud a few times, sticking closely to the pattern of unstressed and stressed syllables as marked above. Does the above rhythm sound natural? Does it seem to capture the meaning of the words in the line?