My Last Duchess 2

Robert Browning
My Last Duchess
Context of the poem
Set in the 16th Century Italian
Renaissance in Ferrara.
The persona is based on the Duke of
Ferrara, Alfonso II
The object is an envoy sent by the
Count of Tyrol to negotiate the Duke’s
next marriage to his daughter
Browning first published poem under the title
"I. Italy" in 1842 in Dramatic Lyrics, a
collection of sixteen Browning poems.
Browning changed the title of the poem to
"My Last Duchess" before republishing it in
1849 in another collection, Dramatic
Romances and Lyrics.
Remember this fact. When you read the poem later
think about the significance of the change in title.
What difference would this make?
Ferrara, Italy
The Duke
Fra Pandolf
Structure and form
The poem is a dramatic monologue in which the character of
the Duke is revealed
28 rhymed couplets of iambic pentameter – creating a
controlled, regular beat in the poem
The lines are using enjambment to create a driving force in the
poem (through the lack of end-stopped lines), reflecting the
Duke’s forceful personality.
The enjambment also creates the natural tempo of a
The Duke interrupts the flow of his speech using questions and
parenthetical comments showing his true nature and
motivations breaking through the surface of his everyday
Structure and Language
The elevated language is the Duke showing off his
educated side: “that pictured countenance” (face) and,
“your master’s known munificence” (generosity).
These are two examples of his over-wordy speech
Structurally, the fact that there are no stanza breaks and
that the Count speaks uninterrupted for 56 lines points
to a man who likes the sound of his own voice and is
full of his own importance.
The poem begins and ends with references to art and
culture, emphasising the Duke’s civilised exterior.
The destructive nature of jealousy
The objectification of women
Art and culture used to create social
Excessive pride
and arrogance
– so much so
that the
with reality is
The Duke’s flaw, his arrogance, links to the way that he
sees his treatment of the Duchess as justified.
It also accounts for his apparent lack of judgement when
speaking to the envoy.
The Duke’s language conveys his hubris throughout the
The Duke’s sense of hubris comes from his aristocratic
background, and is also shown in his choice of art and
cultured items. The bronze statue shows his fantasy of
mastering the natural world. The Duke clearly sees
himself in the statue of Neptune.
The destructive nature of
The Duke’s jealousy
causes the reader to
become caught up in the
psychological nature of the
The actions of the
Duchess are never overtly
evidence of infidelity, her
guilt is confirmed in his
The Duke only allows
himself to draw the curtain
over the painting –
showing his possessive
and controlling nature.
The objectification of women
The last Duchess and the possible next
Duchess are traded for money and social
standing in the poem.
The image of Neptune and the sea horse
emphasises the way the Duke has objectified
the Duchess by “taming” her and the power he
has over her is conveyed by the statue.
The painting is the final objectification of the
Duchess – she literally becomes an objet d’art
and the Duke has full control over her.
Art and culture used to create
social standing
The Duke’s art collection marks him out as a
Renaissance (meaning the rebirth of art,
history, literature and science)
The Duke’s cultured exterior and his
aristocratic title masks his criminality.
Art and culture of this type exclusive to the
educated elite who controlled it in much the
same way that the Duke controls the painting
of the duchess. In this way, the Duchess can
be seen to represent art and culture itself.
Group 1 – Anna, James, Shonie and Caroline
(Objectification of women)
Group 2 – Dionne, Nicole, Lauren and Keith
Group 3 – Melanie, Sophie F, Lauren and Josh
(The destructive nature of jealousy)
Group 4 – Sophie M, Lisa, Danielle and
Siobhan (Art and culture used to create social
“Nay, we’ll go/Together down, Sir!”
As an aristocrat, the Duke could insist on
walking ahead of the emissary, yet he
makes this superficial egalitarian gesture.
However the language reveals the Duke’s
controlling nature as, despite the facade of
politeness and etiquette -“Sir”, he is
issuing commands to the emissary through
the use of the imperative: “we’ll go” thereby
emphasising his underlying domineering
Remember to fully explain what is said
Relate it to the theme
Explain how it is done (use of
Essay Question
16. Choose a poem in which the tone
is sinister or seductive or cynical.
Show how the poem creates this tone
and discuss its relative importance in
your appreciation of the poem.

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