In My Last Duchess
Abstract: Dramatic monologue which is an important poetic form which invented and practiced principally by Robert Browning, Alfred Tennyson, Matthew Arnold in the Victorian Period. Though the technique is evident in many ancient Greek dramas, the dramatic monologue as a poetic form achieved its first era of distinction in the work of Victorian poet Robert Browning. Browning's poems My Last Duchess and Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister, though considered largely inscrutable by Victorian readers, have become models of the form. This article will analyze this form in My Last Duchess. Key words: Dramatic monologue, Robert Browning, My Last Duchess
A dramatic monologue is a piece of spoken verse that offers great insight into the feelings of the speaker. Not to be confused with a soliloquy in a play (which the character speaking speaks to themselves), dramatic monologues suggest an auditor or auditors. They were favoured by many poets in the Victorian period, in which a character in fiction or in history delivers a speech explaining his or her feelings, actions, or motives. The monologue is usually directed toward a silent audience, with the speaker's words influenced by a critical situation. M. H. Abrams notes the following three features of the dramatic monologue as it applies to poetry: 1. A single person, who is patently not the poet, utters the speech that makes up the whole of the poem, in a specific situation at a critical moment […]. 2. This person addresses and interacts with one or more other people; but we know of the auditors' presence, and what they say and do, only from clues in the discourse of the single speaker. 3. The main principle controlling the poet's choice and formulation of what the lyric speaker says is to reveal to the reader, in a way that enhances its interest, the speaker's temperament and character.
2. The Analysis of Dramatic monologue
Published in1842, My Last Duchess is based on the life of Alfonso II, duke of Ferrara in the sixteenth century. The duke's first wife died after three years of marriage. It is set during the late Italian Renaissance. The speaker (presumably the Duke of Ferrara) is giving the emissary of his prospective second wife a tour of the artworks in his home. He draws a curtain to reveal a painting of a woman, explaining that it is a portrait of his late wife; he invites his guest to sit and look at the painting. As they look at the portrait of the late Duchess, the Duke describes her happy, cheerful and flirtatious nature, which had displeased him. In many dramatic monologues of Robert Browning, this poem typically shows the features of the dramatic monologue. Therefore, this article makes an exhaustive analysis of dramatic monologue from three aspects under the circumstance of this poem.
2.1 The theatricality
Robert Browning's dramatic monologues have intense theatricality. Browning himself characterized his poems as "Lyric in expression...Dramatic in principle...,the utterances of so many imaginary persons, not mine.” This theatricality is mainly displayed in three aspects. 2.11 The dramatic speaker
The speaker is the Italian Duke of Ferrara. in the 16th century. The poem reveals him as a proud, possessive, and selfish man and a lover of the arts. He regarded his late wife as a mere object .The whole poem is the speaker's monologue, and through what he said, not only readers can know the characteristics of the speaker, but also can they infer the status of the hearer and the background of the poem. Browning created such a dramatic speaker to show the poem's plots, characters and circumstance. 2.12 The silent hearer
The hearer is the emissary of the Count of Tyrol, he has no speaking role; he simply listens as the Duke of Ferrara tells him about the late Duchess of Ferrara and the fresco of her on the wall. Although the hearer is all the...