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My Last Duchess

Robert Browning

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Added by: z-z
The Duke, in an attempt to convince an unnamed "sir" of his legitimate grievances concerning his previous duchess instead blatantly potrays his own habit of treating women as possesions. His actions are exemplified in the details surrounding his jealous guarding of even her portait.
Added by: helen
i think that mainly the duke is afraid of life. afraid of things that seem too alive. He seems to dislike the way in which his wife blushes etc because it is beyond his control. he wants power and recognition but not for himself. he seems to hide behind his 'things' his possesions seeing them as symbols of his wealth, power and importance. They are also things that are controlled by him. The bronze could be controlled ans, now, so could the duchess. he could open and close the curtain, making himself able to choose who she could look at. He dislikes her flirting with other men because he wants her to be perfect, an idealised picture of a submissive wife whom he can control. in reality though this seems impossibleand he realises that the only way to truly perfect her is to kill her. (perfect coming FROM the latin meaning to finish off which is another way of saying to kill). The poem seems to be primarily a struggle for ultimalte power. in the beginning the duchess has all the power for she does not 'need' him at the end he has power over her - turning her INTO one of his objects. one of the themes of this poem is the corruption of the human heart. just like adam and eve and the idea of original sin people are always corrupted somehow. in each case there is an outside party (fra pandolf?). the duke comes across as inadequate stating that he is useless with words however i dont think this is true. there is little to back me up other than the fact that he manages to lead the monologue and even in sections where he appears to be rambling there is heavy punctuation which shows definite thought. the fact that he says he 'chooses' never to stoop also implies a sense of power or control. the bronze at the end shows someone killing something that they had created and then dislikes (neptune created all underwater creatures) could this be reflecting the way the duke feels about the duchess?
Added by: Lil Red
Here's an interesting little tidbit that may shed some light -- FROM "Baroness Elsa" by Irene Gammel --You know that Melchior Lechter guy who painted Orpheus? (1896) Well, guess who was the model? The Baroness! and I quote..."While Elsa was taken with the artistic dimensions of Lechter's erotic game and obligingly transformed herself INTO the Duchess of Ferrara (also alluding to the woman as artwork motif in Robert Browning's well-known poem "My Last Duchess"), Lechter's churchly sex ritual left her cold. She did not love him "as he felt himself loving [her]" and with characteristic directness "told him so."

Talk about perfect.
Added by: Leona
I think you're all right. Great poets, like Browning (or at least Browning himself), most likely put more than one meaning INTO this poem.

One, could be to SHOW how the Renaissance was a period where sexuality should have not been shared with anyone or shown to anyone outside of the relationship. My Last Duchess, shows the great measures the Duke went through to keep, what seemed to him, the Duchess FROM flirting with "inferior" men.

It could also simply SHOW the amount of control that men during the Renaissance thrived for. The Duke was extremeley tomented by the idea that (lines 35-40)the Duchess did too little or too much and didn't follow HIS mark. So, by killing her and HAVING a portrait made of her he would finally control who would see her.

You can also see his obsession with control by the statue of Poseidon taming the seahorses(in this case the Duchess).

There is so much more to this poem too...
Duke's defense
Added by: Kevin
I am in total agreement that the Duke is a completely jealous, insecure, dillusional, and disturbed individual. However, in his defense, despite his complete object-like relationship he seems to have had with his wife, he does possess a vast detailed knowledge of exactly what makes his wife smile. So, in a sense, his jealousy has made him take close notice, and, if you will, interest in his wife, which, to a certain extent, is his way of showing devotion. Therefore, one could come to the conclusion that actual love was the protaganist behind everything the Duke says and does, even the eventual murder of his last wife.
Added by: Carrie
The Duke may be obsessed with power, but the Duchess still has control over him, even from within the confines of the painting. In showing the painting to the emissary, he relives both the affection he had for her and the blows she dealt to his pride. The rythm builds until he reminds himself again that she is not really alive.
Added by: ~*me*~
This poem written by Browning, is a dramatic monologue. The speaker is the Duke who is talking to the Count's assistant about his "last Duchess". He is about to married to the Count's daughter.

One of the charateristics of a dramatic monologue is that it is very subjective in that we are only seeing the Duchess through the Duke's eyes.

The reader should, hopefully, concur that the Duke is very power hungry and controlling. The first time the reader witnesses this is when he is talking about the curtain around the painting. "Since none puts by/ the curtain I have drawn for you, but I". This shows that he is proud of the fact that he now has complete control over who she smiles at.

Also, the Duke didn't like the fact that she smiled at everyone the same way she smiled at him. This eventually lead to her execution by the Duke, "I gave commands; then all smiles stopped"

I, also, think that the Duke was paranoid that she would have an affair. This is shown when he explains to the assistant that the painter was a monk. He expresses this because it proves that the expression on her face was from the Duke and not brought upon by the painter.

At the end, when the Duke talks about Neptune and the sea horse, this, also, shows his controling personality. Art in one's home, normally, reflects your personality. This particular piece shows Neptune taming, or controling, the sea horse. I also shows superiority.

I think that this poem, basically, describes how love can turn into hate, or a perverted form of love.

Added by: Ana
wow, everyone makes good points. but i just wanted to mention that at that time (renaissance italy), it was accepted that Duchesses were not friendly to those of lower social status, perhaps wouldn't even talk to them ... so in the context of that time, the duke had every right to be very pissed with his wife's behaviour, because she would go around being friendly to everyone and accept gifts from "officious fools".
Added by: kingly
So let me get this straight, he killed her? Well that maybe but neither of them was innocent. Heidi you have a nice point. Jennifer you have a nice point about the irony thing also.
I don't know about all the rest of the people here who are hating on the duke. When you marry someone you kinda have to be there for them, right. She didn't smile for him, she didn't like him, nor did she pretent to. As you know most of these royal marriages are really business, a contract. The Duke took it as more than that though, he was trying to be a good husband. I don't get the idea that he was doing anything to displease her. What I did pick up is that she made some officious fool broke her cherry in the orchard. I think he was suppose to be teaching her how to ride a horse but instead she was riding a mule. She also did alot of riding with some other characters around the terrace. "She thanked men, --good! but thanked, Somehow--I know not how..." What was the duke suppose to do the only way out of the contract was her death or disappearance, which ever comes first.
Added by: zainab
the poet has emphasised on the shrewed n pathetic behavioural set of male who think women to be nothing but a puppet in their hands they have a feeling of superiority which makes them feel that god has created women only to work n manage their households.

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