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My Last Dutchess By Robert Browning

1276 words - 6 pages

My Last Dutchess by Robert Browning

Robert Browning, one of the most influential and imaginative poets in our history, engulfs readers in a wave of dramatic language, and colorful character representation in the extremely popular poem: “My Last Duchess”, which stands as one of Browning’s most famous literary pieces. In many ways the tone Browning wishes to convey provides a dark background in which many impressions and interpretations of the Duke and his former Duchess can be assessed. “And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst, how such a glance came there; so, not the first are you to turn and ask thus” (Kennedy 16). As well, Browning has ingeniously chosen vivid and ...view middle of the document...

There she stands as if alive” (Kennedy 16). Having the Duke hint at the Duchesses demise with his last remarks, he intently returns to the business at hand: the arrangement of his marriage to a new young girl. In a way the Duke is nonchalantly brushing off the fate of the Duchess, as if she were just an intricate piece of artwork in his gallery. Have you note, as the Duke walks past the portrait, he is eager to point out many other valuable pieces of artwork, as if to say that solely he owns each piece of artwork, including the portrait of his last Duchess. “Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though. Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity, which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me” (Kennedy 17)!
By creating a dark and mysterious character, such as the Duke, Browning envelopes his audience in a picturesque landscape, masking the horrific qualities the Duke possesses. With some further research, this specific historical background was set during the Italian Renaissance, inspiring and fascinating Browning in his creation. The Italian Renaissance represented “the flowering of the aesthetic and the human”
(Watson 133). Offering this setting to imply the complications and intrigue with human sexuality and male domination during the Renaissance time period. Concluding, nevertheless, that the Duke continuously punished his former Duchess for expressing her natural sexuality: “Such stuff was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough for calling up that spot of joy” (Kennedy 16). Hence, the reason there can be seen a “faint half-flush that dies along her throat” (Kennedy 16), giving the exact evidence of abuse committed by the Duke. It is assumed with the violence in the middle lines of the poem that the Duchess, nevertheless, falls victim to the Duke’s desire to extinguish her life. “Just this or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, or there exceed the mark – and is she let herself be lessoned…” (Kennedy 16).
“The Renaissance was a time when morally dissolute men like the Duke exercised absolute power” (Watson 135), explaining why Browning chose the dark concept of male domination and control in “My Last Duchess”. I find that attention needs to be placed as well upon the life-like portrait of the former Duchess, representing the Dukes abusive ways. The portrait is said to be a successful description of the beautiful Duchess because it captures her elegant passion and natural beauty- evident in line eight: “The depth and passion of its earnest glance, but to myself they turned (since none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I)” (Kennedy 16). Most men who gazed at her madly adored her and by having...

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