My Last Duchess Dramatizes English Literature Essay

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My Last Duchess dramatizes the internal conflict of the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara. He is conflicted with the faults of his last wife, and the desire for change in the upcoming marriage to his new fiancee. Ultimately, the struggle deals with power and jealousy. Characters, tone, images are three main topics in appreciating and analyzing each poem.

Body

I. Character is the first topic in the poem which Browning utilized the main character's power to manipulate the image of the Duchess into one of an inadequate wife and the power of duck.

a. In the beginning of the poem, the Duke asserts his power by characterizing the emissary as a stranger "Strangers like you that pictured countenance. The depth and passion of its earnest glance" (Browning 7-8).

b. As the Duke continues, he begins describing the Duchess' imperfection, "she had a heart-how shall I say?-too soon made glad, too easily impressed" (Browning 21).

c. As he continues to speak, he paints himself as a victim to the Duchess' faults by saying, "even had you skill 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'" (Browning 35).

II. The second topic is tone in the poem. The use of rhyme keeps the lengthy poem from being monotonous and flat.

a. The poem's relaxed flow is established early on in the poem, "I call that piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day, and there she stands," (Browning 2-3).

b. The informal sense throughout Browning's poem is furthered by the use of colloquial vocabulary. "How such a glance came there; so, not the first. Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not"(Browning 12-13).

c. Even though the Duke holds more power than the man he is speaking to, he uses everyday speech to make it seem as if they were equal men. "Will 't please you sit and look at her? I said" (Browning 5).

III. The third topic is image in the poem. Browning incorporated multiple images to express the Duchess' assumed imperfections. "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," (Browning 26).

The Critical Analysis of "My Last Duchess"

English poetry is a treasure in the world literature. In the history of human civilization, many English poets sprung up in different time period. Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a prestigious poet which represent Victorian era most. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning was born in this era and she is loved by many readers. In her early youth she distinguished herself by her devotion to poetry, literature, and classical studies. "My Last Duchess" dramatizes the internal conflict of the speaker, the Duke of Ferrara. He is conflicted with the faults of his last wife, and the desire for change in the upcoming marriage to his new fiancee. Ultimately, the struggle deals with power and jealousy. The Duke speaks to an emissary of his new fiancee about his previous wife, explaining her faults and weaknesses. In her poem, "My Last Duchess" Robert Browning establishes the character of its speaker indirectly but distinctly through conversation alone. Without relying on additional description of his person, the reader can draw conclusions not only as to the nature of the speaker, but also of all the other characters in the piece. There is no doubt that this poem has deeper meanings behind the conversation between the Dutch and emissary. Characters, tone, image are three main topics in appreciating and analyzing each poem.

Character is the first topic in the poem which Browning utilized the main character's power to manipulate the image of the Duchess into one of an inadequate wife. In the beginning of the poem, the Duke asserts his power by characterizing the emissary as a stranger, "Strangers like you that pictured countenance. The depth and passion of its earnest glance" (Browning 7-8). This subtle statement establishes the lower rank of the listener and the higher rank of the Duke. As the Duke continues, he begins describing the Duchess' imperfection, "she had a heart-how shall I say?-too soon made glad, too easily impressed" (Browning 21). The Duke took an admirable quality and turned it into a flaw. As he continues to speak, he paints himself as a victim to the Duchess' faults by saying, "even had you skill 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'" (Browning 35). This shows the Duke's intelligence; he attempts to portray himself as a "plain-spoken" man, when clearly he is well-spoken. He manipulates his words to teach the emissary what are undesirable qualities in a wife while still seeming a good and wholesome man. As Napierkowski said, "Throughout the dramatic monologue the Duke reveals his pride, his vanity and his need for control. His arrogance and jealousy stem from his aristocratic ancestry and we, the audience, see him as a shallow human being unable to ever show true love to his Duchesses" (Napierkowski 167). In conclusion, it is clever that Browning describe the Duck indirectly.

The second topic is tone in the poem. The use of rhyme keeps the lengthy poem from being monotonous and flat. The poem's relaxed flow is established early on in the poem, "I call that piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf's hands worked busily a day, and there she stands," (Browning 2-3). The Duke's tones is enhanced by the rhyme used, keeping the reader and the emissary interested in his speaking. The informal sense throughout Browning's poem is furthered by the use of colloquial vocabulary. "How such a glance came there; so, not the first. Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, 't was not"(Browning 12-13). Even though the Duke holds more power than the man he is speaking to, he uses everyday speech to make it seem as if they were equal men. "Will 't please you sit and look at her? I said" (Browning 5). The main character in the poem once again manipulates the listener by creating a comfortable setting through careful word choice. As Sheen explained "When the elements of rhyme and diction are combined the poem which is understood as a conversational monologue describing a woman and her faults, in hopes of expressing the expectations of an upcoming marriage" (Sheen 9). Browning created the rhyming couplets throughout the fifty-six line poem, maintaining a conversational essence.

The third topic is image in the poem. Browning incorporated multiple images to express the Duchess' assumed imperfections. "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," (Browning 26). This description emphasizes the Duke's interpretation of the Duchess' actions, which in his eyes were seen as problems. At the climax of the dramatic poem, the duke reveals that he has killed his previous wife, the duchess painted on the wall. "Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt, whene'er I passed her, but who passed without much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands; then all smiles stopped together," (Browning 43). Browning hints that murder is the cause of the Duchess' death. The Dukes raging jealousy of the Duchess' equal treatment of all men in all ranks may have pushed him to murder. The images and rhyming throughout the poem draw attention to the conflict the Duke of Ferrara is experiencing.

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