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My Last Dutches

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Written in 1842 by Robert Browning, "My Last Duchess" is the dramatic monologue of the duke of Ferrara who is negotiating his second marriage through an agent of the count of Tyrol on the grand staircase of the ducal palace at Ferrara in northern Italy. Executing the elements of a dramatic monologue, the duke reveals his situation and much more than he intends to the both the agent and the reader. Using iambic pentameter AABB couplets Robert Browning reveals the horrifying story of the murder of the duke's previous wife through the duke's conversation with the agent. As the duke attempts to paint an inaccurate picture of himself to the agent, desiring to appear as a nobel, but abused and caring, loving husband who had no choice but to murder his prideful, disrespectful wife, the duke's true controlling, manipulative, jealous nature is revealed. The duke's desire for control is made evident by the structure of the poem, through his appreciation of art, and his response to the trivial incidences that led to the death of his wife. The frequent use of caesura throughout the poem emphasize the duke's control over the conversation. The duke's appreciation of art reveals the control he has over the artists that produce his works of art; the portrait of his last duchess and the statue of Neptune. Although the duke was unable to control the duchess when she was alive, after her death he is in complete control of her. The duke says "none puts by the curtain I have drawn for you, but I," revealing that now he is able to control both the duchess's countenance and who views the portrait by a curtain covering the portrait (10). The duke's loss of control is also depicted through the rhythm of the poem. The run over lines in the poem, or enjambment in the poem, reveal the duke's nervous uneasiness over his wife's murder. For example, near the end of the poem, the duke loses control. The reader can only imagine the horrified agent rising to go down the staircase, the duke's...

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