My Last Duchess. Robert Browning. My Last Duchess - Biography. Robert Browning was born May 7, 1812 and died December 12, 1889. He was a British poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets.
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My Last Duchess Robert Browning
My Last Duchess - Biography • Robert Browning was born May 7, 1812 and died December 12, 1889. • He was a British poet and playwright whose mastery of dramatic verse, especially dramatic monologues, made him one of the foremost Victorian poets. • This poem reflects Browning’s interest in Italian politics of the late middle ages; the Renaissance
My Last Duchess • Read through the poem and highlight any words that you do not understand. • This poem is a dramatic monologue- when else have you come across a dramatic monologue? • What do you think are some of the features of a dramatic monologue? Dramatic Monologues
My Last Duchess • The poem is written in 28 rhymed couplets’ • The poem is preceded by the word Ferrara:, indicating that the speaker is most likely Alfonso II, fifth Duke of Ferrara (1533–1598) who, at the age of 25, married the 14-year-old Lucrezia di Cosimo de' Medici, the daughter of Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Eleonora di Toledo. • Lucrezia was not well educated, and the Medicis' status could be termed "nouveau riche" in comparison with that of the venerable and distinguished Este family. The Duke's remark regarding his gift of a "nine-hundred-years-old name" clearly indicates that he considered his bride beneath him socially. She came, however, with a sizeable dowry.
My Last Duchess • The couple married in 1558, and she died three years later, on April 21, 1561, at age 17. There was a strong suspicion of poisoning. • The Duke then sought the hand of Barbara, eighth daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I and Anna of Bohemia and Hungary and the niece of the Count of Tyrol. The count was in charge of arranging the marriage; the chief of his entourage, Nikolaus Mardruz, a native of Innsbruck, was his courier. Mardruz is presumably the silent listener in the poem. • The other characters named in the poem, painter Frà Pandolf and sculptor Claus of Innsbruck, are fictional.
My Last Duchess • The poem is set during the late Italian Renaissance. The narrator (presumably the Duke of Ferrara) is giving the messenger, (emissary,) of his prospective second wife a tour of the artworks in his home. • He draws a curtain to reveal a painting of a woman, explaining that it is a portrait of his late wife; he invites his guest to sit and look at the painting. As they look at the portrait of the late Duchess, the Duke describes her happy, cheerful and flirtatious nature, which had displeased him.
My Last Duchess • He says, "She had a heart – how shall I say? – too soon made glad..." He goes on to say that his complaint of her was that "'twas not her husband's presence only" that made her happy. Eventually, "I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together." • He now keeps her painting hidden behind a curtain that only he is allowed to draw back. The Duke then resumes an earlier conversation regarding wedding arrangements, and in passing points out another work of art, a bronze statue of Neptune taming a sea-horse.
My Last Duchess The critic Isobel Armstrong sums up the poem like this: "Themad duke...cannot love without so possessing and destroying the identity of his wife that he literally kills her and lives with her dead substitute, a work of art.“ Her reading may be right - but are we sure the duke is mad? Perhaps he is sane but very cruel and ruthless. • Re-read the poem and find an example either of the Duke’s supposed madness or his cruelty/ruthlessness.
My Last Duchess This is an amazingly skilful poem - there is one speaker, yet we learn about four characters: • the duke • the duchess • the visitor (the count's envoy) • the painter, Frà Pandolf • Working within groups of approx 4 people you will be given 1 character to investigate. You will have 10 minutes to present information on what you learn about this character.
My Last Duchess • The Duke speaks to ‘you’. It is not apparent until line 49 that her means the Count’s emissary. When you first read the poem who does ‘you’ seem to be? • What effect does this have on the way in which you engage with the poem? • Line 1 gives a clear impression of direct speech. Identify 3 other phrases that create the impression of someone speaking.
My Last Duchess • Working with a partner decide upon the key moments within this poem. Consider how you may present them. • You may decide to convey this information via a storyboard, dramatic representation e.g. freeze frame, a newspaper or radio report. • You have 20 minutes to come up with an alternative way of explaining ‘My Last Duchess’ and then must present your ideas to the class. Good Luck!