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Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Essay on Critical Analysis of My Last Duchess - A Literary Analysis
A dramatic monologue refers to a kind of poem in which a single fictional or historical character other than the poet is made to speak to a silent audience. In dramatic monologues only the main character is allowed to speak. The objective of the monologue is to reveal not the poet’s own thoughts but the mind of the lead character of the poem. (Christopher Baldick 1) In the process, the poet reveals to the audience the main character’s personality. Moreover, in a dramatic monologue the main focus is the personal information not the topic which the speaker happens to be talking about.
My Last Duchess
The two poems to be discussed in this essay are typical examples of a dramatic monologue. The setting of “My Last Duchess”, a poem by Robert Browning, is the palace of Duke of Ferrara during the 16th Century. Ferrara is in the northern Italy. The Duke of Ferrara in “My Last Duchess” resembles a historical character who was Alfonso II, the fifth and last duke. Meanwhile the deceased duchess in his poem refers to Lucrezia de Medici, the daughter of a Duke of Florence and Grand Duke of Tuscany.
As is common in many other dramatic monologues, “My Last Duchess” offers a glimpse of the personality of the Duke of Ferrara. The first line alone reveals that he is an art lover. In the first three lines, “That's my last duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder.” The portrait of the late Duchess of Ferrara is a fresco, which is a type of work painted in watercolors directly on a plaster wall. His statement about calling that piece a wonder emphasizes that he has in his possession many other paintings. It gives the impression that the painting of the Duchess is the one painting that is more valuable than the other.
The second character trait of the Duke of Ferrara as shown in this poem is that he is a jealous husband. The following lines are relevant, to wit: “She had A heart - how shall I say? - too soon made glad, Too easily impressed: she liked whate'er She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.” (lines 21 to 30) In this line, the Duke of Ferrara shows that he is a jealous husband who demanded no less than the complete attention of his wife. He gets annoyed with his wife every time he sees her pleased with things other than him. He did not want her to be happy with other things but only with him. The Duke wanted his wife to make him happy. He wanted his wife to focus her complete attention on him every time they are together. He hated it when his wife is distracted by other things when they are together.
The Duke of Ferrara’s jealousy was even highlighted when he intimated that the Duchess had an affair with other men. The following lines are relevant, “Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt, Whene'er I passed her; but who passed without Much the same smile?” By this the Duke of Ferrara implied that the Duchess smiled at men. He meant that the Duchess flirted with other man. He even suggested here that the Duchess did more than flirt with some man. He did not however elaborate how he came to know of this fact or whether he has proof of his allegation.
The third character trait of the Duke of Ferrara as shown in this poem is that he is an autocratic and cruel ruler. The following lines are relevant, “This grew; I gave commands; I gave Then all smiles stopped together.” In this line, the Duke of Ferrara nonchalantly reveals that he may have been responsible for the death of the Duchess. He stated without any hint of remorse or pity that when the flirtation did not stop, the Duke of Ferrara did something to her so that the flirtation will stop. This reveals the cruel side of the Duke of Ferrara that he can cause the immediate execution of any person in his kingdom without showing any kind of emotion. He has the power to give the orders and his orders will be obeyed.
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