My Last Duchess analysis:

Context:
1. Written in 1842.

2. Poet married, moved to Italy, had a son,
-Robert. Father and son moved to London when Elizabeth died in 1861.

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3. The characters mentioned in this poem are based on real life, historical figures.
– The narrator is Duke Alfonso II who ruled a place in northern Italy called Ferrara between 1559 and 1597, who is negotiating a second marriage.

4. In the 16th century, arranged marriage for trade, wealth or peace were common.

5. The Duchess was his first wife, Lucrezia de’ Medici who died aged 17, only two years after he married her. Lucrezia died in suspicious circumstances and might have been poisoned.

What is the poem about?
The poem is set in 1564, three years after the death of the Duchess. An emissary (messenger or representative) has been sent to see the Duke from the Count of Tyrol. The Count is the father of the Duke’s next wife (he married three times in all). The Duke shows the emissary a picture of his late wife and remarks on her character, suggesting that she was unfaithful to him – and hinting that he might have killed her because of it.

During his speech, the Duke makes himself look arrogant, insensitive and selfish.

Form:
1. MONOLOGUE; This is a dramatic monologue in order for the Duke to paint an inaccurate picture of himself as a noble, loving husband who had no choice but to murder his disobedient wife, yet his true controlling/jealous nature is revealed.

2. The poem is written in iambic pentameter (the rhythm of each line is ‘de-dum’, five times)

3. rhyming couplets.—-Impact lost due to use of enjambment

Structure:
1. CONVO; This is one long speech, pretending to be a conversation.

2. SPEECH ; It is divided up into rhyming couplets but to mimic unrehearsed speech there are lots of twists and turns within the lines, shown by a variety of punctuation (colons and lots of dashes as well as the usual commas and full stops).

For example “”She thanked men good! but thanked/Somehow – I know not how””.

Sound
Although it is written in rhyming couplets – the sense of rhyme is partly lost because there is so much enjambment.

Language:
1. MURDER ; ” I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together”-implying he killed her.

2. GOD; “Notice Neptune, though, Taming a sea-horse”=
– Wife= unruly seahorse, and Duke as Neptune trying to tame her, yet man can’t tame nature—–which is why he he desires to be god like

3. COLOUR ;
– The Duchess gets “cherries”. The red colour of the fruit is related to anger and serves as a forewarning that blood will be spilt.
– This redness is contrasted to the “white mule.” This contrast suggests her blood was innocent-she does not deserve to be accused of adultery.
– Whilst the Duke’s anger suggests he sees only what he wishes to see and not the reality.

4. LACK ; There is a lack of literary devices.

5. SARCASM :
– ” her looks went everywhere” …
– ” i choose never to stoop”–>
– Very vague – suggesting more is meant than has been said.
– He could not lower his standards or allow her disrespectful actions so he had to stop it….”all smiles stopped together”

6. NAMES ;
– “Fra Pandolf” and
– “Claus of innsbruck”
to show how he is so popular he knows well-known artists. He refers to his upcoming wife as “his fair daughter’s self” which is belittling.

Imagery:
1. POSSESSION ;
– Many words relate to his love of possessions – including his former wife “”My last Duchess””.

2. IMAGERY ; This is not a poem full of wonderful imagery and it would reflect a capable, intelligent and sensitive soul if it was;this certainly does not describe the Duke.

3. “since none puts by The curtain i have drawn for you, but I” =
– need to hide Duchess behind curtain shows controlling desire to restrict view of others.
– The Duke seems satisifed with finally be able to control who views the Duchess, whose beauty can be longer be ruined by her actions.
– Yet she appears “as if she were alive”: so she continues to affect the Duke even after her death.

Themes and ideas:
1. WEALTH ; Being upper class and having good morals don’t necessarily go together:
– people of great wealth think themselves to be morally superior to others – the Duke shows that isn’t the case.

2. MONEY ; Money and possessions aren’t everything: he might have a wonderful house, statues… but his paranoia about his late wife comes across and reflects his insecurity.
– In reality ; Duke I married three times and didn’t produce an heir = money can’t buy you everything.

3. PERSONALITY ; Browning shows that commenting on a certain subject can reveal more about the person making the comments than the subject itself.
– The Duke spends a lot of time criticising his late wife
– but the reader finishes the poem feeling sorry for her and disliking the Duke a great deal.

Comparison: Ozymandias:
1. All the poems have one clear, distinct voice.
2. Each poem is built around a character who has some distinctly unpleasant qualities.

3. All of the poems are about power in some sense. Ozymandias was incredibly powerful in his time but is now merely a remnant of the past; the Duke is powerful in the society of his time and perhaps demonstrated his personal power by killing his wife; the River God exerts his power through drowning people.

4. None of the characters actually exists in the real sense. Ozymandias is ancient history; the Duke himself and even his title died out centuries ago; the River God is a mythical creation.

5. The characters in each poem clearly display a dark side to their nature.

Quotes:
1. “”My last Duchess””
2. “Will’t please you look at her? I said/’Fra Panfolf’ by design, for never read/Strangers like you that pictured countenance””.
3. “”She thanked men good! but thanked/Somehow – I know not how””.
4. ” I gave commands; Then all smiles stopped together
5. “since none puts by The curtain i have drawn for you, but I”
6. “Even had you skill/In speech – (which I have not)”
7. ” her looks went everywhere” … ” i choose never to stoop”
8. “cherries” and “white mule”
9. “Notice Neptune, thoguh, Taming a sea-horse” and “rarity”