“My Last Duchess” -Robert Browning

Robert Browning frames his poem “My Last Duchess” with the phrase “as if [she were] alive” (2 & 47). Browning does this to emphasize that she is no longer living, and its speaker seems to have a twinge of disbelief. The narrator then examines his last duchess’ countenance in a painting, using that to springboard into talking about her faults. In the painting she is blushing, and the speaker, her husband, objects at her “heart … too soon made glad, too easily impressed” (22-23). This begins to reveal the husbands jealousy at his wife treating him too much like other people. The narrator appears to feel that a husband should be treated with more reverence, and a wife’s blushes should be reserved for a husband alone. He goes so far as to say that she seemed to “[rank] my gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name with anybody’s gift” (33-34). This shows again that his wife is too carefree to hold something like a name in such high esteem. Personally, it wouldn’t bother me at all, but apparently for him it was just another offense of his wife not devoting herself to him entirely.

Once the Duke establishes that he had these problems with his wife, he appears torn deciding whether or not to “stoop” something he has chosen never to do (43). The climax of her offenses to the Duke seems to come because he noticed “who passed without much the same smile?” as the Duke received (45). As the narrator describes it, “this grew” meaning perhaps the offense seemed more and more grave to him until he could no longer stand it (45). Finally he “gave commands; then all smiles stopped togehter” (45-46). This can be interpreted as the Duke having his wife executed or killed. Especially as the framing of the poem with her lack of life occurs directly after this statement

-B

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One Response to ““My Last Duchess” -Robert Browning”

  1. apenglishihhs Says:

    Superb understanding of the Duke. Nice use of ASR.

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