Robert Browning – My Last Duchess. Ok… what’s it all about?. Discuss briefly in your groups what you think the poem is about. “My Last Duchess”. Speaker: a renaissance nobleman – a Duke who is showing of a portrait off his late wife.
Ok… what’s it all about? • Discuss briefly in your groups what you think the poem is about.
“My Last Duchess” Speaker: a renaissance nobleman – a Duke who is showing of a portrait off his late wife. Showing off your art collection was basically the equivalent of rap stars today displaying their bling.
What happens? • He tells us about her personality which was a sunny (foolish?) one – easily pleased by everything. • She was very flirtatious… • He explains the orders that he eventually decided to give… • He reveals that the picture is normally hidden behind a curtain.
Section 1Lines 1-4 That's my last duchess painted on the wall,Looking as if she were alive. I callThat piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's handsWorked busily a day, and there she stands. • Notice that he doesn’t call her by name – why?
Section 2Lines 5-9 Will't please you sit and look at her? I said"Frà Pandolf" by design, for never readStrangers like you that pictured countenance,The depth and passion of its earnest glance,But to myself they turned ( • Why is he name dropping the painter’s title?
Section 3Lines 9-13 (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. • Why does the Duke keep her portrait behind a curtain? Why is her look so strange?
Section 4Lines 13-21 Sir, 'twas notHer husband's presence only, called that spotOf joy into the Duchess' cheek: perhapsFrà 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 stuffWas courtesy, she thought, and cause enoughFor calling up that spot of joy. • Why doesn’t the woman look totally joyful – why is there ‘just a spot’ of joy?
Section 5Lines 21-31 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, 'twas all one! My favor at her breast,The dropping of the daylight in the West,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. • How is she described? Summarize what the Duke is saying in this passage.
Section 6Lines 31-35 She thanked men good! but thankedSomehow I know not how as if she rankedMy gift of a nine-hundred-years-old nameWith anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blameThis sort of trifling? • Why does he mention his “nine-hundred-years-old” name?
Section 6Lines 35-43 Even had you skillIn speech which I have not to make your willQuite 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 letHerself be lessoned so, nor plainly setHer wits to yours, forsooth, and make excuse,E'en then would be some stooping; and I chooseNever to stoop. • Summarize what the speaker is saying.
Section 7Lines 43-47 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. • What did the Duke do? • What happened to her?
Section 8Lines 47-56 Will't please you rise? We'll meetThe company below, then. I repeat,The Count your master's known munificenceIs ample warrant that no just pretenseOf 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! • What’s happening here? How does this end?
The Dramatic Monologue • A speaker (clearly not the poet) tells a story. • There is a an audience, or other person listening – we don’t know who. • The form is designed to reveal psychological truths or insights into the speaker.
Further discussion • The Duke keeps a portrait of his wife. What do you think this symbolizes based on the themes of the poem? • What does the end of the poem suggest about the attitudes of the time? • What does Browning suggest is the same as his wife? • Did the Duke have her killed or not? • Why was he so bothered about his name?
Use different colors to locate the following in the poem…. • The lines that characterize the Duchess. • The lines that characterize the Duke’s pride of birth and status. • The lines that characterize the Duke as cruel. • The lines that characterize the Duke as a connoisseur of art. • The lines that characterize the Duke as shrewd. • The lines that display the Duke’s diplomatic skills.
“Porphyria’s Lover” • Read and annotate this poem. • How is this poem similar to “My Last Duchess”? Write a paragraph comparing and contrasting both poems.