Introduction to Literature
June 4, 2012
The Duke and the Duchess
Murder, mystery and intrigue can all be used to describe Robert Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess." From the speakers' indirect allusions to the death of his wife the reader could easily think that the speaker committed a vengeful crime out of jealousy. His elaborate speech confuses and disguises any possible motives, and the mystery is left unsolved. Even if he did not kill his wife, he certainly has something to hide. Based on the poem's historical references, style and structure, the Duke's controlling and jealous nature becomes evident.
The most noticeable of the speaker’s traits is the tone with which he speaks to the hypothetical character. It becomes apparent that the speaker is someone of considerable wealth and means as he describes to his companion a piece of artwork and how it came into his possession. “That’s my last duchess painted on the wall, Looking as if she were alive. I call That piece a wonder, now: Fra Pandolf’s hands Worked busily a day, and there she stands” (Clungston, 2010). The language used by the speaker implies someone speaking with pride over a possession, in this case a piece of artwork. He emphasizes the fact that it was painted by Fra Pandolf, a revered and talented artist, based on the speaker’s eagerness to drop his name. However, the way the Duke skims over the subject of the portrait shows some aspects of his character. It implies to the reader not only that he has lost a spouse but also that he is not particularly upset by this loss. He seems to be vain and materialistic, and unconcerned with the loss of his previous Duchess.
In describing the Duchess, the Duke further reveals his scrofulous character by contrasting it against her more admirable nature. Traits in the Duchess that the Duke perceives as unbecoming are, in fact, aspects of her character that make her human and render her more... [continues]
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