"My Last Duchess" Analysis

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Murder... mystery... intrigue... All describe Robert Browning's poem, "My Last Duchess." From the speakers's indirect allusions to the death of his wife the reader might easily think that the speaker committed a vengeful crime out of jealousy. His flowery speech confuses and disguises any possible motives, however, and the mystery is left unsolved. Based on the poem's style, structure, and historical references, it becomes evident that even if the speaker did not directly kill his wife, he certainly had something to hide.

The style and structure of this poem play a significant role in the effect of the poem. As is typical of Browning's poems, "My Last Duchess" is written as a dramatic monologue: one speaker relates the entire poem as if to another person present with him. This format suits this poem particularly well because the speaker, taken to be the Duke of Ferrara, comes across as being very controlling, especially in conversation. For example, he seems jealous that he was not able to monopolize his former duchess' smiles for himself. He also seems to direct the actions of the person he is addressing with comments such as "Will't please you rise?" (line 47) and "Nay, we'll go / Together down, sir" (lines 53-54).

Browning uses many techniques, including a simple rhyme scheme, enjambment, and caesura to convey various characteristics and qualities about the speaker and the situation. Browning uses an AA BB rhyme scheme, which is very common to ballads and songs. It also enhances the irony of the speaker's later comment that he does not have "skill / In speech" (lines 35-36). The enjambed lines indicate the control that the speaker is exerting on the conversation and give the feeling that the speaker is rushing through parts of the poem
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